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Funeral dance of the Latooka tribe, Sudan, 1863?

Baker, Sir Samuel W.: The Albert N'Yanza, great basin of the Nile, and explorations of the Nile sources.

 

Latooka tribe - THE FUNERAL DANCE.

Drums were beating, horns blowing, and people were seen all running in one direction;--the cause was a funeral dance, and I joined the crowd, and soon found myself in the midst of the entertainment. The dancers were most grotesquely got up. About a dozen huge ostrich feathers adorned their helmets; either leopard or the black and white monkey skins were suspended from their shoulders, and a leather tied round the waist covered a large iron bell which was strapped upon the loins of each dancer, like a woman's old-fashioned bustle: this they rung to the time of the dance by jerking their posteriors in the most absurd manner.

A large crowd got up in this style created an indescribable hubbub, heightened by the blowing of horns and the beating of seven nogaras of various notes. Every dancer wore an antelope's horn suspended round the neck, which he blew occasionally in the height of his excitement. These instruments produced a sound partaking of the braying of a donkey and the screech of an owl. Crowds of men rushed round and round in a sort of "galop infernel," brandishing their lances and iron-headed maces, and keeping tolerably in line five or six deep, following the leader who headed them, dancing backwards. The women kept outside the line, dancing a slow stupid step, and screaming a wild and most inharmonious chant; while a long string of young girls and small children, their heads and necks rubbed with red ochre and grease, and prettily ornamented with strings of beads around their loins, kept a very good line, beating the time with their feet, and jingling the numerous iron rings which adorned their ankles to keep time with the drums. One woman attended upon the men, running through the crowd with a gourd full of wood-ashes, handfuls of which she showered over their heads, powdering them like millers; the object of the operation I could not understand. The "premiere danseuse" was immensely fat; she had passed the bloom of youth, but, "malgre" her unwieldy state, she kept up the pace to the last, quite unconscious of her general appearance, and absorbed with the excitement of the dance.

These festivities were to be continued in honour of the dead; and as many friends had recently been killed, music and dancing would be in fashion for some weeks.

 

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