By Alrayh Musa Hamad

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 boy 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 manhood 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 my great surprise he said there will also be a second round of lashes performed in the Kambala dancing ground. Women put on the best of their dresses, makeup and nice perfumes. They perform the songs in chorus and hold fans in their hands to use them to fan their lovers for more encouragement to stand the pain and to prove themselves publicly.

Male dancers as previously mentioned tie horns of cow on their Male dancers as previously mentioned tie horns of cow on their heads and rattles tied around their waists. I still remember my uncle’s biggest and lightest horn, which he brought from Egypt (a baffolo horn) when he was a soldier there during the Second World War. It was a thick black horn with a vacuum inside and sharp ends pointed backwards. He hung beads around the horn and wears necklace of gold, the size of chocolate coins around his neck. He used to be the leader of the dancers. They gallop like horses and move like bulls, hitting the ground with one leg while hold up the other and so on. They tie hollow boxes filled with small stones around their legs so that when they dance it produces musical sound, together with the sound of small bells by carry in their hands and the female voices signing love songs and spectacular kind of dance which is really very unique.

During our childhood the kambala day was a very joyful day. We prepare ourselves for the day from early morning until two hours before sun-set when the dance used to begin. When we see the dancers coming together in a row and we all go ee! ee! ee! (Equivalent to wow! wow! wow!)

My granddad then said in great sorrow, "Oh dear son you haven’t seen most of the festivals that used to be" but he then shined up and said, "Well, thank God there were also many hardships a man like you had to go through. There used to be a fight and you had to make or buy yourself a strong spear. Your father would train you how to avoid the spears of you opponent."

I remember many brave men were killed. Then I explained why should all that happen? He answered me with wisdom of the old man, saying that time there were enemies, the Arabs who came to Nuba Mountains to take men for war or use them as slaves, sometimes they took women with them, so we had to prepare ourselves in one way or another. He then said remember my boy life is never peaceful, there must be an enemy out there for every man and you’ve got identity who that enemy is. As a man my boy you will die like any other human being but you never get the happiness of life easily because your enemy would either kill you or oppress you to make your life harder and meaningless so I want you to keep my words my son. I will granddad, I said.

Harvesting Festival

Bukhsa Dance: this is a kind of dance which marks the end of cultivation season and harvesting of the crops. Usually performed by end of November for a period of one week. It’s again one of the most spectacular dance in the Nuba mountains which is performed by majority of tribes. People make feasts, they normally prepare bked beans and sorghum mixed with crushed peanuts or sesame. They also make a lot of mareesa (local beer). All the food and drinks are carried to the house of the great kujur; the Tabowake who organises the occasions.

The Bukhsa sibir begins by announcement made by the Tabowake one week in advance. On the day of the occasion numerous rites are carried out, the most important one is the sibir of crops whereby the Tabowake and his council members shave their hair, massage their bodies with oil and they all go to a place almost seven miles from the village. At that spot there is the home of ants and short thorny bushes. 

Nuba Tradition on Death

Death is a very sad event in Nuba life. Nuba do not celebrate births, but there are many ritual ceremonies and dancing parties when a very old man dies (usually over 60). When a young dies it is really very sad. People express their grievances in different forms and they stay with the deceased’s family for a week or more.

Nuba define death as the separation of spirit, which they call shadow – ‘Korongorany’, from the body. If the shadow unites with the body it means life but if it leaves the body death occurs.

In the "Kujur of Nuba", Mohammed Haroun mentions different myths from African and quotes some examples of Kujur practices. There were attempts by the kujur to inquire about whether a missing person was still alive or dead. If a family miss a person for quite a long time with no assurance of his wellbeing, they call for theS Kujur’s assistance.

The Kujur would come to the house of the absent and will enter his or her room taking with him a calabash and other items of his craft. He operates evacuation, so if the spirit comes, a voice will be heard from inside the ground or calabash, very similar to the voice of the lost person. The Kujur will ask the members of his family to speak to him and he replies. This means the shadow is separated from his body and in other words the person is already dead. If no voice is heard it means the shadow is still within body of the lost person and that he or she is still alive. The spirit only comes in cases of actual death.

Indeed some of these rites were until recently practiced in cases of death of elderly people, particularly the Kujur or members of his family with whom several types of magic are associated. Nuba think that their souls are a bit different and if these ceremonies are not done harm may happen to the living people. For instance a group of Kujurs would go and take the dead Korongorany (shadow) and dispose of it in deep wells in the middle of the mountains. And they had to perform evacuation i.e speak to the separating shadow. The shadow will recommend certain things to be done or certain belongings to be put by the grave and ceremonies to be carried out to avoid the revenge of the bedroom tiger (njaro ma badi). In case of the bedroom tiger people normally slaughter goats and mix the blood and meat with very sour juice from a certain tree called "Aradape" and spill it all over the house of the dead Kujur or his relative. Only selected people are allowed to eat from that meat.

The Death of the Kujur

Nadel (1947) spoke about the Kujur of the eastern Nuba Mountains as follows: "when the Kujur dies his power stays for a period of seven to fifteen years and after that it possesses another person. He or she sees fearful dreams of wild animals attacking him or her until he or she becomes frightened while asleep or awake, and also he dreams of snakes or serpents running after him and trying to bite him without any reason. Such person becomes a Kujur after the spirit "ara" or Korongorany possesses him/her and uses him /her as a medium to speak while in trace."

The death of a normal elderly Person:

Despite death being a very sad event for the Nuba, they sing and dance in memorial services for the death of a very old man or woman. They believe the dead person had lived sufficiently enough and satisfactorily attained the average reasonable age and that there is no justification to mourn them as bitterly as they mourn a young person who they wished to live longer to look after his family and enjoy more of life.