This week I have been attending the 3rd annual meeting of the Aguok community in Gogrial town. Aguok are the largest territorial section of Dinka in the greater Gogrial area. What that means, basically is this: the Dinka are a large ethnic group, and they divide themselves up according to geographical distribution. So, in Gogrial East and West Counties everyone is Dinka Rek, Dinka Rek is then further geographically divided – Aguok is one of those divisions (Apuk, Kuac and Awan are the others). Aguok then divides up further… into (I think) 12 subsections. You might have seen this represented in an abstract diagram in an anthropology textbook somewhere, but its quite simple really. People also belong to a clan (dhieth), which is a non-territorially defined patrilineal descent group. The clan I have been adopted in to, ‘Pagong’ is found across all Dinka areas. Clan is an exogamous group, so you can’t marry someone in your clan, but you can marry someone in your territorial section.
Anyway, this was a large meeting organized by elected community leaders and Aguok people employed in the government (mainly based in Juba). All chiefs and subchiefs, religious leaders, youth representatives, diaspora etc were invited. It was pretty star studded, Chief Justice Chan Reec Madut attended, so did the former Warrap Governor (and now presidential advisor) H.E Tor Deng Mawein. I also met a woman who had come from the US to attend the meeting and see her family. It was the first time she had been back to Gogrial since leaving as a child. She was going to proceed to Khartoum to see her parents for the first time in 14 years.
The broad aim was to bring Aguok people together and decide what they can do to develop the community (there is a pot of cash behind this too – the Constituency Development Fund from the central government which needs to be allocated, so its not just chit-chat). It is also an opportunity to discuss other issues too – like relationships between Aguok and their neighbors, which can be strained. Critically, it was also a pretty good party and a general celebration of being Aguok.
Four days of discussion pushed my comprehension of the Dinka language to its limit and I can’t pretend to have gotten all the details. But now at least I know enough to know when people are talking about something I want to know about, and I am armed with a voice recorder so I will be getting a lot of it translated. I find language one of the hardest parts of research, any anthropologist that claims to be able to understand everything from a fast and complicated discussion in a language as difficult as Dinka after 8 months is either lying or fooling themselves.
Alongside the discussions there was plenty of good entertainment. Including Dinka pop stars John Kudusay and Akut Kuei. I have gotten really into their music from being here – which is lucky because its played all the time. Look them up on YouTube. More ‘traditional’ music and dancing also got everyone up from their seats regularly. Here are some photos.