Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Southern Sudan: A Shaky Place

In the photo below, passage to manhood is literally incised on Majiek Gai Chan's face. Because Sudan's civil wars have claimed so many men, scarification is now performed on boys in the Nuer tribe as young as 12, instead of the traditional 15 to 18.  View the rest of the  images by George Steinmetz for National Geographic.


  1. i aam an anthropologist in the making. I would like to come to Sudan and study the Nuer. I am fascinated by their cultural realms, practices, norms,values, traits, rituals, customs, spatial relations, and the lenses through which they see and navigate the world. Wow!!!. This is amazing. It is therefore, arguable that culture is not naturally determined, rather it is a sociocultural product and project.

    Thank you.
    Sabe Mpisi.
    Psalms 34: 19

  2. Scarification is becoming less imposed in many tribes in Africa in these modern times. The picture of the youth who had undergone scarification is more likely to be from the Dinka tribes rather than the Nuer tribes of South Sudan and northern Sudan. The distinction is that the Dinkas have parallel lines of scarification roughly about eight to ten depending on their forehead size. The Nuer have very distinguishing scarification marks which are more like little neat rows of pearls. Often in other parts of Africa, as in West Africa such as Mali, Ghana, Sierra Leone etc...scarification has steadily gone out of their traditional ways. African bronze art especially that of Benin and Ife have these scarification features. Still, if body markings like tattoos are somewhat permanent, scarfication must be rather a trying time for the the ones being initiated. Often such socio-cultural rites are conducted in secret.

    Very rare photo indeed which might need a warning label for some who may be distraught by it.

    G Stephan
    February 2014