The aim of this article is to highlight some important features of Nuba culture and traditions with a focus on the Kujur as an important character in the Nuba society and spritual leader. He is considered to be a religious person through which Nuba know God. Kujur can be a man or a woman and the most sacred person who can bring prosperity and lift suffering from the people resulting due to natural crisis.
In any Nuba tribe there is a kujur whose power is granted by God through which the secrets of nature are revealed. However, each Kujur differs in his/her ritual performance from one tribe to another.
The Meaning of Kujur
A reference is made here to a book called "The Kujur of Nuba" by Mohammed Haroun Kafi, in which he defined the role of the Kujur comprehensively, covering almost all parts of the Nuba Mountains. In the Kaguli language the word ‘Mussala’ means "the power of God". One may ask you: ‘Mussala ma djitik’(i.e small) Wall Madbu just as we say in the English language God However the Nuba understanding of the word "Mussala Ma Tumbadu", meaning God of Heaven (Almighty God) is different from "Mussala" which refers to the Power of God, that enables the ‘Tamussala’ to do supernatural acts. In African culture, the word Kujur is divided into three phases:
A creation power; the Almighty God, is in general called "Mussala Ma Tabuumbadu" as referred to earlier. The small one - Tamussala or Godly person like the priest in Christianity or "Fagheer" (Faki) in Islam. The miracles or power given by God is called "Aro" or Mussala. However, the two Gods do not have equal comparative weighing as one is supported by true messengers of God while the other is more commonly perceived as magic or more precisely as paganism. The third phase differentiates between types of Kujur - the shaman and the magician.The magician is called "tadianay" or "tatiganay". It also means a juggler. In addition to these two there is a third word which means a person with evil eye or who can foresee what will happen. He can also cause harm by focusing his looks on anything if he so wishes. The word is "Tadiggi" and the verb is ‘iggi-nubo’ which means he can see beyond nature.
The hierarchy of Kujurs
In every Nuba community there is a council of Kujurs which appoint the supreme Kujur called "Tabowake" and he usually appoints his assistants and disseminates various responsibilities to them. In the villages which surround Kadugli there is a Tabowake whose role is to call the community for special pray for rain to come when the rain does not fall. This is not done in public as theTabowake would stand on top of a high ground in the very early hours of the morning and call upon the people to start preparing for the next years’ rainy season, by selecting the crops to be planted. He then encourages men in particular to prepare their farms followed by several warnings to those who disobey. Tabowake would send his assistants to make sure that his instructions were carried out and those who did not would be fined. This is usally in the form of "Mareesa" (local beer) or a goat handed over to the Kujur.
Tabowake would also make calls in the same manner which cover different issues such as looking after goats or cattle so as not to enter the farms; encouraging people to cooperate with each others by making Nafir (collective work) and avoid conflicts at work. He also calls lazy people by naming and shaming them and where possible visit them in their homes to discuss their problems.
Preparing for harvest
During the harvest season when the crops are ripe and ready to be harvested, Tabowake would make his most important message to all people not to go to their farms until after certain date during which period he or his assistants would visit every farm and cut some bundles of sorgham or millet which will be brought back to the house of the Supreme Kujur. The council of Kujurs will then assess the season according to samples brought to them and the best farmers will be praised accordingly. The most important event is that the Kujur warnings and penalties are different this time and have more reaching effects. For instance he would set the Kujur of bees or snakes on the disobedient people.
I remember a woman who said that she injured her left eye and lost her sight because she went to her farm despite the warrning of the Kujur. Another man went to his farm and was chased by bees and lost his shoes and his hand bag as he was trying to free himself. My own mother who disobyed the warning of the Kujur told me she heard a tremendous voice of a giant calling her and her son to go home by saying, "saga wani" which means ‘it is enough, go!" The bastard appeared to have lost patience but took mercy upon the child
The Rainy Season Festivals
It is worthwhile to reflect upon the rainy season festivals due to their repercussions on Nuba youths - male and female alike.
The Kambala is by far the most famous Nuba dance. It symbolises courage, strength and love. Kamballa is now one of the few dances performed.
Suleiman Rahhal in his article Nuba culture: Kambala dance published in NAFIR Newsletter, 1997 wrote: "The word Kambala has no definite meaning but is associated with boys’ maturity and their adolescence, its principally a ceremony to mark the induction of an age-set boys into manhood. Its performance is usually initiated by the Kujur".
In a conversation with my late granddad, he told me when a boy reaches maturity he waits cautiously for his turn to be pulled out of childhood into manhood. The transition into man hood is a great test of endurance and self-realisation. The yardstick for that is for the young man to endure hard lashes of whips on his back carried out by the Kambala man. My granddad went on to show me his back with many signs of healed wounds from those lashes. Each youth would then tenderly be looked after by his girl friend until he recovers from his wounds.
to be continued.