LOCATION: Republic of Sudan

POPULATION: Over 1 million


RELIGION: Monotheistic worship


The Dinka are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Republic of Sudan. They belong to a group of cultures known as the Nilotic peoples, all of whom live in the southern Sudan.

In 1983, a civil war erupted in the Sudan, pitting the largely Arab and Muslim northern Sudan against the black African peoples of the south. Lasting into the 1990s, the war has had dire consequences for the Dinka and other Nilotic peoples. Tens of thousands of Dinka have died; countless others have become refugees. Rebel groups and international human rights organizations have accused the Sudanese government of attempting genocide against (extermination of) the Dinka.


The Dinka inhabit a vast region in the south of the Sudan that forms a seasonal swampland when the Nile River floods. Due to civil war, large numbers of Dinka have migrated from the southern Sudan to the northern Sudanese capital of Khartoum, as well as to Kenya, Uganda, Europe, and the United States.


Linguists classify Dinka as a major language family in the Nilotic category of African languages. The Dinka have a diverse vocabulary with which to describe their world. It is estimated that they have more than 400 to refer to cattle alone—their movements, their diseases, and their variety in color and form.


English Dinka
cow weng
beer mou
husband moc
wife tieng
child mieth


The Dinka tradition of oral literature is extensive and a considerable amount has been recorded. Two figures stand out prominently, Col Muong and Awiel Longar. Col Muong has an enormous appetite for all things in life. When he is hungry, he is said to eat an entire herd of cattle or an entire field of grain. Stories about him suggest that people should do the best they can with what they have. Awiel Longar figures as the common ancestor of all Dinka peoples.


Dinka religion may be regarded as monotheistic (believing in one deity). Nhialic (creator) is thought to be the source of all life and death. Lesser manifestations of the creator's power are honored by the Dinka through ritual sacrifices. Rituals are performed at births, deaths, to cure disease, and in times of crisis.


Celebrations take place in the autumn when the whole tribe is together. To honor their traditional spiritual and political leaders, the Dinka enacted day-long ceremonies marked by large public gatherings and the sacrifice of many cattle.


Birth, marriage, and death are all marked by standardized customs involving public ceremonies. These are typically accompanied by animal sacrifice. In the passage to adult status, young men, rather more than young women, are publicly recognized. Adult males decorate initiates' heads with a series of deep gashes that form permanent scars.


When men become adults, they no longer refer to themselves by their birth names. Instead they adopt "ox-names"—derived from characteristics of their favorite cattle. Thus, a man may be known as Acinbaai (a man who never leaves his herd of cattle). Children's names often reflect the circumstances of their birth.


Traditionally, the Dinka dwelled in round clay huts with conical thatched roofs. Homesteads were typically surrounded by a garden and separated from each other by an open expanse of grassland forest. Garden soil would typically maintain its fertility for ten to twelve years. Following this, the area would be set afire and a new homestead erected nearby.


Polygamy (multiple spouses) is common among the Dinka. Men of high social standing may have as many as fifty to one hundred wives. In polygamous marriages, wives cooperate in performing household duties, although each rears her own children. Much of Dinka public life is dominated by men. However, women play a significant and even powerful role in local life.


The Dinka wear very little clothing and no shoes. Men go naked, and the women may wear goatskin skirts. Both men and women wear strings of beads around their necks. Women also wear bangles on their arms and legs, and they may also wear elaborate jewelry in their ears.

12 • FOOD

Dinka have traditionally produced all the material resources needed to sustain their livelihood via a combination of horticulture (gardening) with pastoralism (nomadic herding), fishing and occasional hunting. Millet is the mainstay of the Dinka diet. Depending on the season, it is supplemented with cow milk, fish, meat, beans, tomatoes, or rice.


The Dinka lacked any formal system of education until literacy (reading and writing) was introduced via mission schools in the late 1930s. Even today, most Dinka lack the ability to read and write. The educational system has disappeared due to war.


Song and dance play an important role in Dinka culture. A set of drums is found in every Dinka settlement. Artistic expression is associated with cattle, which they often imitate in songs and dances. There are also battle songs, songs of initiation, and songs celebrating the tribe's ancestors.

Following is a typical Dinka song:

O Creator

Creator who created me in my mother's womb

Do not confront me with a bad thing

Show me the place of cattle,

So that I may grow my crops

And keep my herd.


Tending herds of cattle and growing millet form the basis of the livelihood and economy of the Dinka. Labor is clearly divided along gender lines, with men in their twenties and thirties devoting their time to cattle-herding. Women are responsible for growing crops, although men clear new fields for planting. Women also cook and draw water.


Dinka men engage in mock sparring, using spears or sticks and shields, in order to develop their fighting skills.


There is little time for recreation during the dry season, when much of the Dinka population disperses to follow the herds. Song and dance accompany social events such as marriages, which take place during the rainy season.


Dinka men make spears and fishing hooks. Women make clay cooking pots using a coiling technique. Besides making pots, which are essential for carrying water, Dinka women also weave baskets and sleeping mats.


Since the civil war that began in the 1980s, numerous Dinka villages have been destroyed by burning or bombing. Thousands of Dinka women have been raped and their husbands castrated in their presence. Many Dinka have been abducted and sold as slaves in the northern Sudan. Violence against the Dinka is now on a level that has no precedent in their remembered past.


Burton, John W. "Dinka." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1992.

Deng, Francis Mading. Dinka Cosmology. London, England: Ithaca Press, 1980.

Deng, Francis Mading. Dinka Folktales: African Stories from Sudan . New York: Africana Publishing, 1974.

Deng, Francis Mading. The Dinka and Their Songs. London, England: Oxford University Press, 1973.

Lienhardt, R. G. Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinks. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1961.

Ryle, John. Warriors of the White Nile. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Time-Life Books, 1982.


ArabNet. [Online] Available http://www.arab.net/sudan/sudan_contents.html , 1998.

World Travel Guide. Sudan. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/sd/gen.html , 1998.

User Contributions:

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Mar 8, 2007 @ 1:13 pm
THanx for this site!!! I was doing a powerpoint presentation for my class and this site really helped. Shor sweet and to the point. No long paragraphs. I like it!!!
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Oct 14, 2008 @ 12:12 pm
This site is very helpful. I have found much information on Economy and Religion.
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Nov 11, 2008 @ 8:20 pm
thnks for all the info. it was great and helped a lot on a paper i had to write
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Mar 17, 2009 @ 8:20 pm
Great resoure, really helped me on all five papers I had to write on the Dinka culture.

-Two Thumbs Up.
kilo kijana
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Mar 26, 2009 @ 4:04 am
great nation can be lead by worrior not by the coward people and also can be lead by principle and culture.
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Dec 23, 2009 @ 10:10 am
it is a very very good website i was doing a project i think nther needs to be the follwing
there history
way of life
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Jan 16, 2010 @ 5:17 pm
This was great thanks a lot for everything
i have a lot 2 write and this got me started, it really helped thx
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May 4, 2010 @ 10:22 pm
This is very helpful. You should also read "They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky". A book written by 3 Lost Boys from Sudan. Very heart-wrenching, but a very good book!!
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Oct 21, 2010 @ 5:05 am
the leadershop we have now they are the one to go with as to the end of CPA. in south Sudan. and my pery my God keep them for in this time.
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Nov 18, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
Who is the author of thias website? It was vey helpful!
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Nov 22, 2010 @ 4:16 pm
A good site to brief you on many of the cultures of many ethnic groups
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Jan 27, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
Dinka iy my tribe but the way the are being describe is somehow not similar tour culture.otherwise iam very proud to be Dinka.
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Jan 27, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
i have really learned more from this site,thank for the work.iam really proud to be Dinka.
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Mar 28, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
Really cool site learned alot for my project on them for school
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Apr 13, 2011 @ 9:09 am
helpfull website, but maybe needs a little more detail such as types of clothing, or the way they dance.will have to find that somewhere else.but overall it was ok.
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May 3, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
This article was very helpfull for a skool project
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Sep 1, 2011 @ 5:05 am
thanks this info was helpfull,interesting AND saved me from a detention
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Oct 2, 2011 @ 10:10 am
Geat website! Thanks so much! Sweet, short and too the point!
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Jun 27, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
Great website, found out a lot about Dinka, although maybe it could be a little more detailed which would help alot! Overall a great help for my geography homework! Thank you.
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Sep 20, 2012 @ 7:07 am
Hey Thanks so much this site is so helpful... It helped me find information for my presentation on Ethnic Groups. I give You Guys 5 stars for this site...
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Dec 3, 2012 @ 11:11 am
I thought this was quite elementary, however, was the bare bone essentials for kids to do their presentations. So, not bad, however I would have liked that there would be pictures as well as meaty textual presentations of the true wealth of the Dinka tribe.
Mabeny Baai & Daughter Amuok
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Jan 27, 2013 @ 11:23 pm
This website is very informative, many people around the world now know more about the Dinka culture.Dinka are most proud of their culture especially the way marriages are arranged.The Dinka tribe is definetely the most interesting tribe in the world.They treat their animals so nicely. they have good relationships with their animal. this tribe is one of the very important tribes in the world and they should be supported to conquer their enemies. this culture is very rich and is amazing to read about. as one of Dinka tribe , this what we been used to say that we are strongest tribe in africa. that world community should respect to do their affairs and recognised worldwide to be part of decision making member.
Kuei Aqueilga Manyoun
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Mar 10, 2013 @ 6:06 am
Very happy with the informtion of Dinka
Culture .
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Mar 20, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
best website about every tribe in Africa. This is the best
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Apr 9, 2013 @ 11:11 am
This was helpful. This site helped me out with my Social Studies project.
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May 9, 2013 @ 1:01 am
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May 14, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
thia is a good site to use in social studies it helped a lot i got most of my info on this page great job to who made this
Gai Atem Deng
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Jun 26, 2013 @ 10:10 am
I really give thank to those who published this page to us. it remind us for our culture. it look so amazing to read this page you can improve your self as a Dinka person and even other can learn from it.
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Jul 3, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
This website helped me a lot with my school project
Magok Alier Akuot
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Jul 11, 2013 @ 10:10 am
It seems to make sense in terms of knwoing were you come from, your cultural heritage; and how to sustain it for the next generations. of our children's children!
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Aug 13, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
Thank you so much this help me learn more about dink and I am very proud to be Dinka
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Oct 3, 2013 @ 6:18 pm
Thanks for helping me and always keep helping i am 11 years old.
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Dec 3, 2013 @ 6:18 pm
The Dinka are very cool!! I would love to learn their language.
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Dec 16, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
madongo madongo madaongo
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Jan 18, 2014 @ 1:01 am
first aim really very content to Almighty God for united Dinka to have their own website. so it is very good orientation for them to advise their assembly to join hand with all south sudanese
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Jan 29, 2014 @ 11:11 am
What is the resource of the Dinka? Also Why do the Dinka put scares on there fourheads? Right now in my class we are reading Wlaking on water and it is a very nice story but it is true and what is happening in the story is awfole it is pain what they went threw!!!
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Jan 30, 2014 @ 11:11 am
Thank you for your information i learned alot about the Dinka This year!!!
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Feb 25, 2014 @ 8:08 am
thanks for this this is cool and it help me a lot thanks again
Jordan (Phoenix)
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Feb 27, 2014 @ 7:07 am
This website helped me on my presentation about the dinka and south sudan
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Mar 24, 2014 @ 9:09 am
These things helped me with my project very much. Thank you so much. It helped me a lot.
Jason G
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Mar 28, 2014 @ 7:07 am
Thanks for this site. This is better thana silly worksheet, this is the future of school.
John Yong Chol
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May 15, 2014 @ 5:05 am
Wow! what an amazing website, though I'm a Dinka, i was born in 90s so i didn't know much. thanks.
bob o brien
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Jun 13, 2014 @ 10:10 am
Kuech Deng
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Oct 11, 2014 @ 7:07 am
I love this wepsite it helps me alot find information about my people Dinka
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Oct 24, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
This the best website that I had ever used that tells you a lot of imformation.
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Nov 6, 2014 @ 8:20 pm
This helped me on my presentation. NOw I could get 100 points on my work.
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Nov 22, 2014 @ 9:21 pm
Good information to teach our children heritage.South Sudan is a independent country can be possible of education.
Benjamin Ater Alessio
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Dec 14, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
Very, very wonderful development to the Republic of South Sudan and to more especially Dinka tribe at large, because the information found on this site is more fruitful to the young guys who are willing to study their history as well and be able to know more about their own tribe, very important. finally, my great thank goes to the creators of this association so that entire community may benefits from it.
i really love it.
sabit majak
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Jan 6, 2015 @ 11:11 am
i just want to be part of association, i really love it
A Person
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Jan 24, 2015 @ 9:09 am
It was very helpful and got me started but maybe there needs to be more detail.
Chol Bluk
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Feb 5, 2015 @ 2:14 pm
Thanx for this information...keep making research.
Peter Chol Agok
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Apr 20, 2015 @ 10:22 pm
This is one of the important information that all dinka can look into it, that's is wonderful introduction.
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May 11, 2015 @ 10:10 am
This is a lot of information and is very useful for my homework in geography.

-4 stars

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