During the last two days of our Dinka culture course, Father John Mathiang, the new Dinka priest in our diocese—who was recently ordained, see “The Walk of Stench”—came to give his perspectives on Dinka culture.
Luke, our friend, fellow MCCer, and classmate, posed an interesting question to Fr John. “What are five things in Dinka culture that should remain, and five things that you think should go?” On Friday, Fr John came with his answer. Despite not sticking to the five/five part of the question, Father John still came up with a total of ten points, which follow.
Things That Should Remain in Dinka Culture (According To Father John Mathiang):
- Openness—The Dinka are known for wearing their emotions on their sleeves; you know when they’re angry, when they’re sad, et cetera.
- Hospitality—Within the traditional culture it was unheard of not to offer a guest water at the very least.
- Sharing Food and Resources—This happens especially among families, which are quite large and include a number of extended family members.
- Dowry—This came with some explanation: currently, dowries are paid using large amounts of cattle (the negotiation starting point is about 100 cattle), and the woman is seen as property being purchased by the man. This should not be. First, the dowry should be lowered and fixed at a certain number—say, 10. Secondly, the reason for the dowry should be as an appreciative gift to the family of the woman (for doing a good job raising her) rather than as a price to be paid. So, the reason that dowry should remain is that it is so ingrained in the institution of marriage that without it the seriousness of that commitment would likely decrease.
Things That Should Change in Dinka Culture:
- Equality—Women and men should be equal partners in society and this should be reflected in family dynamics and other social circles.
- Lifestyle—The Dinka still practice some form of nomadic life, especially in regard to raising food; many Dinka still do not see much value in growing crops, but put all of their time and money into their cattle.
- Polygamy—There are many reasons why this practice should be abolished among the Dinka. Some examples: women are viewed more as servants than as partners, poverty increases as people cannot support such large families, lack of education (too many school fees to send all children), and children also experience a lack of love, especially from their father.
- Revenge Killings—Currently it is the most common form of justice among the Dinka. One suggestion as to why this might be is that there is a lack of justice within the official court system, leading people to feel the need to carry out justice for themselves. Suggestions for diminishing revenge killings include encouraging marriages between clans that have been rivals historically and developing a national identity which transcends clan tensions.
- The Value of Education—Essentially it is non-existent, with the exception of education as a means to make more money. The value of education in and of itself—not only formal education but by traditional means, such as the passing of stories from one generation to another—needs to be recognized in order for the Dinka to move forward in their lives.
- Laziness—This is best summed up with a direct quote from Father Mathiang: “We need to liberate ourselves from poverty. This liberation does not need guns, but it needs hard work.”
There you have it. One Dinka priest’s take on his own culture.
Now we’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this subject? How would you answer this question about your own culture?