The South Sudan ethnic group called the Mandari are not to be confused with the Mundari ethnic group of Bangladesh, Nepal and East India. While the Mundari is an AustroAsiatic family, the Mandari is a Nilotic family found  on the banks of the River Nile. Those found on the west bank of the Nile, north of Juba have had less contact with the outside world and are viewed as being more traditional.

The Mandari speak kutuk na Mundari, a language similar to other Nilotic languages like kutuk na Kutuk, kutuk na Kakwa, kutuk na Pojulu among others. Like most Nilotic ethnic groups, the Mandari also referred to as Mundari, are cattle herders. Cattle serve as food, a form of currency and a mark of status. The Mundari value their cattle more than anything else and are said to sleep close to their most prized cow. They also plant sorghum, maize, groundnuts, simsim and as well catch fish. They keep sheep and goats too.

Mundari tribesmen move a bull at a South Sudan cattle camp. The bull’s horns are purposely trained in a distinctly bent position for heard identification purposes. Photo: US Army Africa/Flickr

Read: Mundari Tribe: South Sudan

The urine from cows stops infections on the head and also colours the hair orange due to the presence of ammonia. They also burn cow dung and apply the ashes on the skin which serves as a natural antiseptic, mosquito repellent and provides protection for the skin from the scorching sun. The cows are also washed in ash to protect them from insects and are treated like members of the family. The cows go on grazing and return in the evening on their own.

A Mundari tribesman mimics the position of horns. Select cattle have their horns trained in this distinct tribal position. Photo: US Army Africa/Flickr

The Mundaris are divided into chiefdoms. A chiefdom is made up of a number of hamlets and each hamlet is under a family head. Big villages have their water supplies and grazing land.

Generosity is a major virtue emphasized by the Mundari. The children are brought up to share whatever they have and give out what they aren’t using.

Most of the customs part of the Mundari cultural tradition is transmitted orally in songs, poems, and dance which often carries messages of generosity and reflects the core values of the Mundari.

The Mundaris have characteristic V shaped scarification marks on their foreheads. The scarification is a rite of passage into adulthood. Armed with AK47s, they protect their livestock and engage in cattle raids with other tribes.

Mundari lady. Photo: ngari.norway/Flickr