Cultural Tidbit #4 – Manners

Sex & Food

Sex and food are the most sacred and holy subjects for the Dinka (according to our teacher). This means they must be kept as a secret and treated with discretion. When a group of Dinka eat they will take their food and eat it in private (although during workshops we have not seen this happen – perhaps because it is peers eating together). By eating in private the ways a person consumes their food is not known to others. This is because of pride – they don’t want others to accuse them of being greedy. Secrecy for the meal is also a sign of self-respect and of food-respect (to eat with concentration and thoughtfulness for the value of the food).

The introduction of restaurants into Dinkaland has been because of migrant workers and expatriates. By eating at a restaurant Dinka are afraid that it might look like you don’t care for your family. Our teacher says if he goes out to eat he would rather go to a Kenyan or Ugandan restaurant. The reasons that people might go to restaurants are if they have no family in a certain area, or if that family is quite poor and they would feel bad for imposing on them.

If a person dies because they have eating something bad people will not talk about it. Likewise, if they die from a sexually transmitted disease this will also be a secret.

These two sacred subjects have are fast becoming the norm. Students know all about sex from movies, stories, and experience. Food is being consumed openly in the market. “I am the last generation,” our 30ish-year-old teacher said “who will know about these holy things.”

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2 comments on “Cultural Tidbit #4 – Manners

  1. wow, these tidbits are all so very fascinating! Some stuff I had already heard of (like carrying on the family name after someone dies), but others are just completely new to me. Who knew! Very interesting.

  2. michaeleona says:

    I think we also should go back to more discretion and secrecy regarding the sex subject. There is such a thing as freedom of speech, but also a thing of respect and privacy for certain things. The eating thing actually makes sense too. I am always aware of people thinking something like, “Look how much she’s eating, she certainly doesn’t need that much”. Only thing about that is, I would probably eat more in private than in public. :(

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