A Dinka song from South Sudan. The young men singing this song consider themselves as a special age-set, using their education to ‘change the land’. Their mothers must learn that, in the modern world, clothes and pens are more important than cattle as wealth.

Our junior age-set in white gathers at Abyei, (1)
The school is convened,
The age-set in white knows the words of wisdom.
I shall turn the land upside down,
I shall change the land.
I am a small boy but I am a man,
I sit in the place where words flow.
Our mothers all cry,
‘Our children have gone astray,
The land has remained without a child.’ (2)
Mother, I do not blame you;
There is nothing that you know,
Nothing you know,
The word of the world is creeping on.
It comes, crossing the lands beyond.
In Khartoum, a child is born, and goes. (3)
Am I to appease you only with a cow?
What about the white clothes and my pen?

from The Dinka of the Sudan (1972)
Francis Deng


Footnotes

  1. Abyei: The oil-producing town on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. It’s status is currently disputed.
  2. The children (this was 1972) have all left home to attend school.
  3. In the then capital, children leave home almost immediately.