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When I visited Sudan a few months ago, one of the highlights of my trip was attending a block party thrown by and for members of Khartoum’s community of Nuba people. For those unfamiliar, the Nuba region is a very remote and mountainous land in Southern Kordofan.
The party featured a band composed mostly of percussive instruments, and featured a guitar-like instrument that resembled more of an electric tennis racket than the traditional Stratocaster or Les Paul models that I’m used to seeing. The music itself was a hypnotic and throbbing kind of polyrhythmic dance-rock—the type of sound that inspired albums like the Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. A dance troupe outfitted in wonderfully colorful and ornate clothing performed several dances, some imitating fight-battles, and others with obvious courtship overtones. Perhaps the most joyous dance of the night was the line dance, which turned out to be the Nuba version of a conga-line, and ended up involving a few hundred locals all snaking and dancing their way around the large, dusty block.
One of the party’s organizers who invited me and my Oxfam colleagues to the celebration explained, “It’s important for us to create events like this to make sure the Nuba culture is remembered, and relearned, and passed down to the next generation. The Nuba people are from a hidden place, and it’s easy to forget they are there. That’s why we like to make this loud noise. To let you know we exist and are important.”
It is those words I keep reflecting on as I read of the current situation in the Nuba Mountains, where violence against the Nuba people continues seemingly unchecked. Long-suffering as a result of Sudan’s 22 year-long civil war, the Nuba people will remain tied to Khartoum government as the regions adjacent secede to the new Southern Sudan state. I keep reading how the situation in South Kordofan might turn into “the next Darfur.” Having recently seen Darfur with my own eyes, I pray that this is not the case.
Here’s a video clip from that night at the block party in Khartoum…the night I learned without a shadow of a doubt that the Nuba people “exist and are important.”