The Dinka People of Southern Sudan

Why the Dinka Story?

The Dinka
By Dr. Francis M. Deng
Foreword to the Book

Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher have produced a book of artistic excellence that has vividly captured various aspects of Dinka identity, culture and way of life. In a sense, they have also documented the culture of a people whose world is transforming rapidly. The book presents the Dinka as they were at a time of relative stability and continuity, with an eye for dramatic beauty. They have appropriately focused on the core of Dinka culture and life — their devotion to cattle.

In my various writings on the Dinka, I have always noted that I am describing the culture of a people who for centuries and probably much longer have held to their traditional values and way of life with intense pride, but who are now confronted by forces of change that are rapidly transforming their society. I note this with a sense of moral dilemma. I realize that there is much which the Dinka stand to gain from the modern world. But I also feel strongly that much of what the Dinka cherish and is admired by many outside observers is threatened by the forces of change.

My deep regard for Dinka culture emanates not only from life experience, but also from my studies of the Dinka. These have covered their traditional laws, their moral and spiritual values, their social and cultural life, their poetry and music, their folklore and fairy tales, their oral history and biographies of their leaders, and their vision of the future in a world of increasing complexity and diversity.

As Carol and Angela so sincerely expressed in a letter to me: "The Dinka are among the most outstanding groups of people whose culture we would like to bring to the awareness of the world." And, indeed, they have done so with an artistic elegance that the world and the Dinka themselves will undoubtedly enjoy, and for which I am honored to write this Foreword.

 

“We feel deeply touched to know that our photographs have managed to convey something of the timeless intimacy of this rapport: that another cattle herder in another continent, America, understood the depth of this relationship between man and beast, and felt a deep desire to support the publishing of this book so that others too might have a taste of this extraordinary way of life. We invite you too to share the lives of the Dinka people through these pages, and we hope that our images may open in you the sense of peace, delight, joy and respect that we felt while taking them.”