Sudanese Cultural IdentityTue, 26 Sep 2017
The paper dealt with the subject of the Sudanese Cultural Identity using the historical, descriptive and analytic methodology. The importance of the paper lies in the linguistic and terminological definition of the concept of identity and culture in their historical relationship with law and politics, analysis and discussion of the cultural correlation with its natural dimensions for all human beings and explanation of its humanity, quality, benefits, hindrances and civilization aids, in addition to elements and bases of the cultural identity. The paper, also, dealt with the characteristics of the Sudanese cultural identity in its accumulated civilizational and environmental composite through its old, modern and contemporary history and expose its quality, value and good management to create a consistent, interrelated, harmonious, and cohesive society which is the aim of this paper. This requires from future point of view, that we presently acknowledge the fact of the Sudanese cultural diversity and we must open the door wide for the dialog of the numerous Sudanese cultures justly and freely and provide support for the sake of cross-culture, settlement of problems, realization of security, stability and peaceful co-existence, sustainable development, ability to effectively participate and take a top position in the international cultural dialog.
- Overview on Sudan
- Cultural Identity
- Elements and Components of the Sudanese Culture
- Psychological Pattern and Affiliation
- Sources and References
Overview on Sudan:
Arabs gave the name “Sudan”, from historical and geographical aspect, to the area extending from the Indian Ocean and Red Sea Mountains in the East of African Continent to the Atlantic Ocean in the west of the continent. They meant by this name, The Land of Blacks (Sudan meaning blacks and the singular form of the word is Aswad) whom most of Western Authors call Negroid; meaning black-skin people (Ahmed Elias Hussein, 2012, P. 141). That was before the arrival of the European colonization. But, after the European colonization had occupied the area, it divided it into three areas starting from west and ending at east. It gave the area extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of Niger, the name “Western Sudan”. The second area including Niger and Chad received the name “Central Sudan” as it was under the French colonization which tried to annex the Islamic Sultanates of Masaleet, Gamar and Fur. But, it was not successful because the fierce resistance it faced from the inhabitants of that area and it was defeated. The third area between Chad and northern parts of the Red Sea Mountains received the name “Eastern Sudan” or Nile Valley Sudan. this is the current Sudan and its capital is Khartoum. It gained its independence in 1956 after it expelled the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, scrolled down their flags and raised its own flag, giving the best example to all African liberation movements to reinforce their struggle and stir it up to have their own independences from the rule of the European colonization which was characterized by its repulsive imperialistic face, robbed the African countries from their riches and overpowered the lot of their peoples who revolted against it.
Sudan was known by several names with connotations, senses which, particularity, described its geography, land, people and area, especially, when we know that there are extraordinary mixtures among its population with their distinctive features. The people, sometimes, have similarity of features and sometimes differ in color, language, belief, norms, customs, traditions and all other cultural heritages prevailing in their life patterns. Many people, including Abdul Motalib Alfahal, (2014, P. 33) said: “Land of Sudan was a name given in ancient times to that part of the African continent which is located south of Great Sahara and extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean in the east. While it was known by this name, specifically in the past, that area located in North Africa between latitudes 4-27 degree north and longitudes 22-38 east. The name “Kush” was mentioned in Torah and Assyrian texts on this piece of land” he added, explaining, “the name “Kush’ was well known and it was a synonym of the original inhabitants who were known by “Nubians” in a previous time. Although the name “Kush” had historical, civilizational and cultural implications, the old name “Nubians” superseded it, especially, after its stretch in the area and becoming associated with the Kingdom of Nepta and keeping pace with its civilization prosperity, (Abdul Motalib Alfahal, 2014,P. 34). Afaf Saleem (2013, 47) believes that some people think that the origin of the word “Nubia” comes from Nub, meaning gold of which the land of Nubia was famous, but she thinks the word “Nubia” was derived from Nepta. She, also, says: “it was given to the northern part of Nub (Upper ) which is located within the borders of Egypt, and that the name “Kush” was given to “Lower Nubia) which is located to the South in Sudan”. Hebrew texts in Torah mentioned the Land of Kush (37 times) to indicate the Land of Nubia south of Egypt, that area which was called by the Egyptians “Tahansu” meaning Land of Bow to indicate the skill of Nubians in using it. Also, the name “Tartihsy” meaning land of blacks or dark skin people (Afaf Shalabi, 2013, P. 47) and (Yusef Fadul Hassan, 2014,P. 7).
Many people say that Kush is the son of Sam the son of Noah, and he had three sons; Nubia; the father of the Nubians, Zinj; the father of Negroid, Sudan’s Barbarians, Fezzan, Zagawa, and Habash; the father of Abyssinians with all their races (Abdul Motalib Alfahal, 2014, P. 41). Greeks gave the name “Ethiopia” to include the area located south of Egypt and other areas in Africa and Asia to indicate those with dark skins, scorched faces and Negroid features, including Marawians. Romans and Greek divided Ethiopia into two areas: Upper Ethiopia which was known by Abyssinia with its capital now in Addis Ababa, and Lower Ethiopia which is now known by Sudan. (Abdul Motalib Alfahal, 2014, P. 41). This was confirmed by Yusef Fadul (2014, P. 7) who mentioned the most important names given to the northern part of Sudan. Those names are: “Wawat, Yam, Nanhesy, Tacity and Kush. The name “Ethiopia” came in the Epic Age of Homer’s Iliad twice, and in Odessa three times to indicate the area itself. Note that the name is composed of two words in Latin (aitho) burnt, and Opsis ( face)………………………….. (1965) pointed out differences of views………..that they are of Libyan origin, a group of them invaded Egypt and some of them carried on to the Land of Nubia. Others believe that they are from Egyptian origin”. He says: “We must stop a moment and search for the origin of the Kushites and narrate the conflicting views in the issue. Fraizer who made the excavations in the area of Banata in Marawi believes they are of Libyan origin. Whenever a party from Libyans invaded Egypt, some of them infiltrated to the Land of Nubians. Another group of researchers believes they are of Egyptian origin and they support their research by the presence of the Egyptian civilizational character on the land of Kush. It was known that the first viceroys were chosen from the closest courtiers of the king in Egypt because of the importance of the position. Discussion heats up regarding those rulers who started with the invasion of Egypt from Napata, the capital of Kush and combined the two countries. We are not interested in a short period, but rather we are discussing an era that extended for centuries since the establishment of Kush”. He believes, whatever the origin of the ruling class was in Kush, it became Sudanese as a result of intermarriage, the effect of the region and loss of relevance to the origin. That is because the class acclimatized and their interests correlated with the people it ruled. Also, the rulers- when they invaded Egypt- considered themselves as sovereignty and those who came after them did not know any country except Sudan. Sudan’ civilization was their civilization. This is true and applicable to many peoples who migrated for many reasons from their countries to other countries, settled down and intermarried with local peoples. Some of them are even named after their names. The best example is the Arabs who entered the lands of Nubia and Bija in Sudan in successive periods starting from the arrival of Islam; that is sine early first century B. C. (Said Tawud:).
Ahmed Elias (2012, volume 2, P. 140) says: “Some rulers of Egypt sent commercial expeditions towards South. Their leaders recorded names of some of that areas and called their inhabitants Nahsy, Tahasu and Etit. They are the inhabitants of Nile West and their descendants still live in Shamta Darfur, such as Arty on Midob Mountains and Tamah or Tama in West Darfur. The tales of Tama who were in current Wadi bAlnatroon Desert confirm this.
Generally, it appeared to authors and historians that the earliest trace of settlement in Sudan goes back to about two hundred thousand B.C. That trace is related to the descendants of Bushmen. In addition, those inhabitants belonged either to Negroid, Hamites or Samites. The area of Khartoum was subject to a wide activity of black people that related to the old stone age, about five thousand years B. C. their relics were found in different areas among which are: People’s Hospital in Khartoum, Khor Abu Anja and Shiainab in North Omdurman and other places. Also, archeological relics were found between the first cataract and fourth cataract that belonged to the people of the groups (a), (b) and ( c) which settled in the same area about 2300 B.C., at the time of Marawi Kingdom, after which came the people who were classified as (group) (Yusef Fadul Hassan, 2014, P. 5).
That story was supported by Ahmed Elias Hassan (2012, volume 2, P. 141) who further explains: “Group (a) inhabited the same area until 23rd century B.C. Then they were joined by a group from Nile West due to change of climate, drought and desertification.
Migrations headed towards the Nile and we find that group ( c) is the same group (a) who intermingled with Negroid and were called Ethiopians, meaning outsiders. They were of black color and herdsmen of big-horned cattle. Part of them moved to the center and west Darfur, in confirmation of what Herodotus mentioned about the migrations of cattle herdsmen from South Libya and their cattle had big horns extending to the front. He mentioned: “The intermixture between the inhabitants of the Sudanese Nile Valley and inhabitants of West Sudan goes back to many centuries before Christ and the relics of successive civilizations resulted from such population intermixture between peoples who settled along the Nile and its tributaries and inhabitants of the areas connected to the Nile, especially, the western areas. Excavations showed that the inhabitants of Group ( c) belonged to Badeyat, Midob, Mountains Nubia and Bija and they are all descendants of Mejayw or Medju who settled west of the Nile. He thinks that all these groups which settled in North Sudan, besides another group in the center and east, are the ones who founded the State of Kush in Karma with its borders extending to Aswan on the borders of Egypt. That means the inhabitants of the areas between South Libya in the west and the Red Sea in the East and Darfur in the south, belonged to the same origin and culture. They were, ethnically and culturally influenced by continuous migrations from Darfur, Kurdofan and their extensions northward and westward. This had been going on since before Christ until the rise of Marawi Kingdom some of whose vestiges I had seen by myself. They included sculpture, pottery, drawing and painting in Genaina and Jabal Moon in the utmost west of Sudan, Neyala and Talas in South Darfur Nuba Mountains where groupings called Kushy live now.
Ahmed Elias (2012, volume 2, P. 214) said the name “Nubia” came from their city “Nuabia” located in the Western Desert, although, Arabs, he believes, attributed it to their grand grandfather who was known by Nubia because when they came to Egypt they found the inhabitants of the southern borders of Egypt called Nubatians, and they called them Nubians instead of Nubatians.
However, both the Land of Nubia in the North and the Land of Bija in the East, witnessed Karma civilization during the period (2500-1500 B.C.) and Belo Civilization respectively. Karma, located on the second cataract, was influenced by much of Egyptian civilization (Yusef Fadul Hassan, 2014, P. 6-7), which is a pure African civilization. On its wreckage, rose a kingdom (750 B. C.- 350 B.C.) and its influence extended to the confluence of White Nile And Blue Nile and beyond that to Gazira and Kurdofan.
Then, Kush became an international power when its kings were able to impose their influence on Egypt. This kingdom consisted of two branches: Nepta at the utmost East and Marawi to the south of Nepta (Yusef Fadul Hassan, 2014, P. 7).
In the second century a.c., according to Mitwakil Ahmed Amin (b. t. P. 72) the activity of Christians increased in Egypt. Roman emperors used to ill-treat and torture them, so, many of them migrated to South of Egypt, neighboring and far deserts and Land of Nubians. The Land of Nubians was divided into three Christian kingdoms: Nubatia with its capital in Bagrash or Faras, Makarrah with its capital in Dongola and Alawa with its capital in Suba (Yusef Fadul Hassan, 2014, P. 7) and Father Guvani (1998, P. 7-27). Nubatia and Makarrah united for several reasons, and Arab migrations increased with the revelation of Islam for many reasons and Muslims extended their influence to Sudan benefiting from the inheritance of the king’s throne by the line of mother, the practice which reigned in Sudan. The Christian entity ebbed (Yusef Fadul Hassan, 2014, P. 7). He explained that the arrival of Islam to Sudan was not a result of war battles, but through trade, intermixture and intermarriage. Arab could not defeat the Nubians for their proficiency at throwing arrows and they called Romat Alhadag, meaning “Eye Shooters”. They made a peace agreement with them which was known by Bagt Agreement” in 652 (Mitwakkil Ahmed Amin: b. t. P. 77-85).
The exodus of Arabs continued to the Lower Lands of Nubia and groups of them settled down there. Some bought part of Land of Nubia and intermixed with them, so some of the Nubians converted to Islam, especially, after they learned Arabic language.
Then, the Kunuz set up a State in Nubia with its capital in Old Dongola. Islam spread among the inhabitants of the land at the end of the fifteenth century. Arab Muslims made an alliance with the Funge Sultanate and wiped away the Christian Kingdom of Alawa with its capital at Suba (Mitwakkil Ahmed Amin, b.t. P. 81-85).
Abdullah Jamma from Quasma and Omara Donos from Funge lead the Arabs and set up the Islamic Sultanate of Sennar in 1504, which was preceded by Sultanate of Darfur 1104-1445 and followed by the Islamic Sultanates of Musabaat and Tagali. These Sultanates were an extension of the Islamic State of Andalos when Arabs headed to the East after their defeat by the Christians in December 1200. Note that the Sultanate of Darfur was a repetition of the Islamic Sultanate of Brno according to Abu Saleem ( ). Many writers and historians, including Al-Amin Mahmoud Mohamed Osman (2011, volume 269), Naom Shugare, Introduction of Fadwa Abdulrahman Ali Taha (2007- P. 442) think its rise goes back to the period between 1050-1445, that is, nine years before Sennar.
Islam spread all over Sudan, especially, in the North, East, West and center. Therefore, any Muslim was called an Arab as a social implication rather than ethnic. Tribes living in the Nile area extending between Kosti, Sennar, Butana, Gazira, North Kordofan and Darfur assimilated the Arabic culture after Arabicisation of the population, in general. Such Arabicisation went into two directions: Arabicisation of the nationals and rooting the Arabs and introducing to them Sudanese flesh and blood constituents, according to Yusef Fadul Hassan (2014, P. 10).
That was followed by the rise of Mahadist State under Imam Mohamed Ahmed Al-Mahdy, succeeded by Abdullah Bin Mohamed Bin Ali AlKarrar, nicknamed by Taishy, after he lead a fierce struggle between him and his supporters; the nationals of West Sudan on one hand and those who were called “Sons of the Sea” on the other hand. The State of Mahadia which succeeded in bringing together all the Sudanese people with their different cultures carried on and chose Umdurman as its capital and it became Sudan’s historical national capital which constituted the Sudanese multicultural product. It was named “Albugaa “by Abdullah). Thus, it became the symbol of the Sudanese national movement and its name became synonymous with Mahadia Revolution and remained its capital until the arrival of the Anglo-Egyptian colonization which overthrew the State of Mahdia. The Sudanese fought many fierce battles against the colonialists in many battlefields including the battle of Um Debaikrat where Khalifa Abdullah was killed with several of his brave knights as he was prostrating on his prayer rug in 1898.
The national resistance against the colonization continued and the Sudanese formed many organizations whose members were fighting valiantly publicly and privately. Among those organizations were the White Banner Association formed by Ebaid Hag Al-Amin, the military revolt of 1924 under the command of Ali Abdullatif, Graduates Congress, Debating Societies and political parties formed by Gordon College graduates who abandoned tribalism and sectarian affiliations.
Struggle movements claiming Sudanese rights and independence continued until it was realized in 1956 and the Sudanese flag was raised aloft hovering on the Republican Palace. National governments came one after an other until today (Yusef Fadul, 2014, P. 12-15).
After the independence, the leaders were faced by the problem of naming their State which was dubbed Sudan. The names included other states too. They thought: can they take the name Sennar, Kush or what? Finally, the majority of the votes weighed and called for choosing the name Sudan despite the magnitude of its shadows and concepts to the Arabs and Europeans. It was the names which was chosen by the English for their colony to which they set the political borders and named it the English-Egyptian Sudan.
There was another colony named (French Sudan) to the west from the English Sudan. It was still carrying that name when the people of the English Sudan got their independence (Ahmed Elias Hussein, 2012, P. 35-36). Sudan gained international legal legitimacy upon signing the condominium agreement by the English colonization in 1899 which lent legal personality to what was named Sudan, despite that international legal legitimate agreement did not abolish the tribal reality. Although the English colonization called its colony Sudan, it did not call its people Sudanese. It called them by the names of their tribes applying its political motto “Divide and Rule” (Mohamed Omer Basheer, 1991, P. 3-9). That political approach is still nestling in the Sudanese political mentality and became one of the causes of the weak development of the sense of national unity, whether at the level of the center or provinces. Consequently, a number of tribal disputes and armed conflicts erupted among the Sudanese, in addition to mismanagement of the cultural diversity and failure to invest it in supporting the cultural development and progress of the political, cultural, social and economical structure of the home country and the identity of its Sudanese people.
From the idiomatic point of view, the concept is associated with homeland and the place where one lives and achieves self-actualization. Consequently, one is committed by the right of one to search for and benefit from all the blessings of the home and society one belongs to. A person can have the benefit of all its bounties and get his physical and non-physical requirements in accordance with laws, statutes, customs, traditions and norms which provide for the rights and duties of each individual. Therefore, each individual is required to defend its sanctuary, assets, borders and sovereignty provided that he finds in it security, happiness, peace and freedom. He should be able to practice his non-destructive intellectual and productive activities and contribute to its construction, development and progress without restriction or accountability. He must be able to cooperate with all the individuals for the promotion and progress. This is what Ahmed Elias Hussein (2012, 15-17) meant by saying: “The concept we know today is different from what it had been two centuries ago. The perception of the identity is attributed to emergence and sovereignty of nationalisms and national States in Europe in the eighteenth century. So, now therefore, the identity of a person is related to his political entity, that is, to the political borders of the country he lives inside, regardless of his ethnicity, language or religion”. Identity is said to be a set of features and characteristics that distinguish an individual, a group, homeland or a nation from other. Such characteristics form the core of its existence and identifies the unique personality. Identity indicates a set of concepts used by a group of people to identify themselves and to communicate with others. It includes ethnicity (kinship), religion, language, culture ( including values and traditions) and common history. In other words, the concept of identity indicates the conceptual features which can distinguish an individual or a group in their social relationship among themselves and with others. Identity is a self-assertiveness and self-pride. It does not mean egocentrism and intolerance of others or persecution and contempt of other groups and their culture (Yusef Fadul, 2014, P. 4).
It is worth mentioning in this regard that the term “Identity”, in terms of its elements and components, becomes connected to other terms that make the identity easy to be interpreted and explained, such as; subjectivity, objectivity, nation, homeland, citizenship and patriotism and other terms are used in a way to appear as if they are mere synonyms. This was pointed out by (Yusef Fadul Hassan, 2014, P. 2) in his paper that dealt with the Sudanese Identity. He said: “Based on this study, the fact of cultural diversity and multiplicity in Sudan obliged us to connect ‘identity with patriotism’ so that it may mean the identity which is shaped from the multiculturalism, overlap and interaction, not only through such multiplicity and melting, but also, in the current presence of variety. Patriotism, for the purpose of the study, is the most suitable for homeland in terms of the geographical and political borders which shaped Sudan across different historical periods. It includes everything within such borders. Therefore the intended patriotism is different from the sense of the word “nation” whose members belong to groups living in multiple homelands, such as Kurds and Germans. On the other hand, the notion of patriotism differs, too, from the political, linguistic or intellectual nationalism, such as Arab Nationalism or Socialism. Patriotism, here, does not include groups outside the limits of “Homeland”. The notion of citizenship is derived from the notion of “Homeland” which is a central notion in the future vision introduced by this paper. This concept is parallel to the concept of identity and contains it at the same time, as the concept of identity is related to culture and the concept of citizenship is related to law. Both concepts overlap”.
That is a general concept of identity. Identity, currently, differs from what it had been in the old history. It was basically related to the tribalism or ethnicity. Then, it turned into a religious affiliation. But now, after emergence of state and homeland with their political borders, there are certain conditions that are required to form identity. These conditions are: religion, language, culture and homeland with its political borders, so, this applies to the Sudanese identity. At the seminar of the cultural identity and cultural policies in Sudan, Mohamed Omer Basheer (1991, P. 8), fingered the problematic idea and explained that Sudan “Combined within it tribes that had kingdoms and sultanates since ancient times, such as Marawi and Nubia, and others newly formed, such as the kingdoms of Funge, Fur, Tagali, Bija, Dainka, Shuluk and Zandi. It, also combined other tribes which had no political administrative systems, such as Nuair, and Angesna, indicating that this mixture of tribes was forcedly combined under one political administration of the Turkish Governor General in Egypt. These lands acquired the legal legitimacy with certain political borders as a country and as a colony in 1899 upon signing the condominium agreement which lent the legal personality to it and it was called Sudan.
But despite the spread of Islam in Sudan, especially, the northern part, which made a significant change in the concept of nation after the State of the City which made the citizenship, from the Islamic point of view, a general affiliation to the nation regardless of ethnicity, religion or language, and considering the affiliation to the tribe less important, but the Sudanese tribes which converted to Islam did not lose their cultural identities. Mohamed Omer Basheer attributes this to the absence of the missionary call for Arabism and Islam. In addition, an African nationalization materialized in the South of Sudan against the Arab approach and affiliation. Note that some Muslims have a feeling of sensitivity and dissatisfaction towards affiliation to Arabs because Arabs are the ones who called them Sudan- meaning land of blacks or Negroid and slaves- and practiced against them the slave trade, especially, in the area of Bija, neighboring the Arabian Peninsula from the side of Yemen. For this reason, Imam Mohamed Ahmed Al-Mahadi did not give attention to the Sudanese identity or call for nationalism besides calling for Islam. However, the Mahdist Revolution sowed the first seeds of the Sudanese identity and, in addition, the growth and development of the Arab Nationalism was linked to anti-colonialism movements in Africa. But, the word “Sudanese was equal to the ward slave for the educated class and some leaders of the patriotic movement in Sudan. This idea solidified in the minds of the Arabs of Sudan (Yusef Fadul, 2014,P. 13-23). This made the color black unattractive and undesired for its association with slavery, so, automatically, affiliation to Arabs was chosen. So, they justified that every person who speaks Arabic is Arab. This lead to joining the Arab League and Sudan became part of the map of the Arab World, besides being a member in the African Union.
Ahmed Elias Hussein, 2012, P. 29-34, says in this regard: “The identity was not known in Sudan before the arrival of the Turkish colonization because it was not understood in Europe at that time. The perception of citizenship which prevailed was that known among the Muslims since the ninth century, in other words, citizenship was not defined by political borders.
But, after founding one central state in Sudan since 1821 and thereafter, the Sudanese considered the unity of the identity as they belonged to one State and multiple Islamic kingdoms. On the other hand, the impact of the two international wars ; the first and the second negatively affected the sense of identity in one State. Consequently, both tribal and regional identities built up by the encouragement of the colonialism itself. Generally, affiliation and identity became weak. At the time of the Islamic kingdoms in Sudan, the Sudanese citizen, in his opinion, was regionally or tribally affiliated and used to say: “I am Darfurian, Sennari, Mussabaati or Taglawi, for instance, for he did not perceive decentralized political borders, but perceived the central religious borders before the arrival of the European colonization (Ahmed Elias Hussein, 2014, 33-35). The Sudanese tribes had to unite after they felt the danger of the colonization and its practices against them threatened their lives, humiliated their dignity and became demeaning to them and to their existence. So, they nourished a feeling of unity and search for identity and everything that might reunite them and would promote their concern, or something that would increase their consciousness of their right to decent life in their homeland and would lead to their independence and freedom”. “Cultural identity characterizes every people, center of their existence and the carry-over of his life” said Fadl Allah Ahmed Abdullah (2008, edition 2, P. 8-20).
“There is no society or even we cannot imagine a society without identity. Identity is the essential rule of all its intellectual, defensive, cultural and social events”. He added, remarking on the cultural identity of the Sudanese person which shaped his features, including methods of his life, values, beliefs, means of subsistence, experiences, accumulated knowledge and all his creative skills he uses. This is in relation to identity, in general, and the Sudanese identity, in particular, each of culture and identity being connected to each other in a manner that would be difficult to handle one of them without handling the other. In other words both express each other. They are the two faces of the same coin.
Culture from the linguistic and lexical point of view, means the proficiency and mastery of a thing. Ibn Manzur says, in Lisan Al-Arab (Arabic Tongue), the Arabic word “thagifa and thagufa” means, became smart and understood, and when the word comes with the arrow “thagufa Al-sahm” it means he is smart at throwing it. “Thaggafa altifl” means he gave the child good education. He quoted the verse from Quran “Therefore, if you overtake them in war”. Idiomatically, there are many definitions. We will take the definition of Marwan Mohamed Abu Bakr (2015, P. 13) saying: “Culture as a term was not common for forefathers and in early Islam, despite of the of the presence of the root of the word in Arabic Language. Learned people were not described by this description. Other terms were used such as ( fagih, mufassir, aalim, and so on) meaning- scholar, enlightener, learned. But, the use of the word “culture” by Europeans is old and associated with sciences taught to people in all disciplines, such as History, Arts, Geography, Philosophy etc…
With respect to multiple definitions of the term “culture”, in early Fiftieths, two American anthropologists mentioned one hundred and fifty definitions of “culture”. Different definitions shed light on the intended meaning of the word which commonality understands more than understanding its definition. One of the most wide-ranging and strongest definitions of culture is that it is “a set of beliefs and values accepted and complied to by the members of the society”.
This idea was affirmed by Yusef Fadul in his remark on the Sudanese identity in richly debate on culture, besides other researchers . He said: “The term “culture” received attention in History, Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology etc., according to their different concerns. In spite of this, the collective definition of the term “culture” remains the most comprehensive and mostly used by the researchers. It is a definition that treats culture as “the whole composed of habits, traditions, norms, religions, languages, behavioral patterns and methods of thinking, and all material and non-material achievements produced by the human being”. It is the ideas contained in the acts. In this sense, culture takes a comprehensive meaning, weaves the individual and closely relates to the social and environmental setting. From this inclusivity, it derives its characteristics and features”. However, the term “culture” defined by Yusef Fadul conforms with the commonly used definition of Edward Tailor, whic lacks the connection of culture to the environment, which Yusef Fadel added at the end of his remark quoted here. Therefore, Yusef Fadul’s definition becomes more precise and more profound than the other’s.
Abdulghaffar Mohamed Ahmed’s definition (1991, P.1-2) is more comprehensive and precise as mentioned in his paper “Meaning of Culture and the Dialog of Cultures in Sudan” which he presented at the seminar of “Cultural Identity” at the Institute of African and Asian Studies, Khartoum University. He defined culture as: “ The overall methods of the society life and ideas that are important to introduce the term- however, ideas are more than the methods of life and behavior of society. He, also, believes that culture is inclusive of partial components limited to: 1/values, symbols, morals, qualities, beliefs and skills used by the person in dealing with his environment. 2/ artistic expressive creativities, including literature, music, drawing, dancing etc. 3/ thought represented in science, philosophy, ideologies, doctrines and theories. Specifically, he believes that culture “Is the set of moral qualities, social values and the practical activity practiced by the individual since his birth, and which automatically becomes the link between his behavior and method of life in the community where he was born and it will be the milieu from which the person shapes his character and personality”.
These definitions of culture, in many aspects, conform with the definition of UNESCO which Mike Robinson and David Yakard (2006, P. 45) commented on in their remark on the “Tourist Culture and Sustainable Development”. They said “Culture is anything connected to beliefs, values, social activities, rituals, habits, traditions and conventional industries. Culture, also, includes civilization associated with architecture, languages, performances, traditional carnivals and professionalism of the performer of arts and anything highlighting the artistic expressions. (Gerham Abdulgader: 2013, P. 31).
Therefore, culture can be defined as all achievements of human beings, including thought, knowledge and work at the theoretical and practical level. It may include his emotions and experiences accumulated throughout time and place, whether successful or unsuccessful, through successive generations within his cultural environments, both natural and social, forming his old, new and contemporary civilizations. Note that there are many common and overlapping elements and components among the members of the same civilization or among all civilizations of the world, in addition to multiple aspects of difference, conformity and similarity.
Common cultural factors among nations cause convergence point among the members of one society and a cultural conformity possibility among the nations. The world today needs convergence among the members. “Culture is the widest concept in order to be a human action, characteristic and product that does not exclude a society or except a group of people”, said Marwan Abu Bakr (2015, P. 45-86) quoting Ibn Alqayem “Allah put in the minds and innate personality preference of honesty, justice, benevolence, righteousness, bravery, high morals, fulfillment of trusts, visiting relatives, giving advices, fulfillment of promises, entertainment of guests, maintaining good neighborhood, advocacy of the oppressed, assisting in constants of right etc…” The common culture, with all its characteristics and qualities has numerous advantages. Such advantages will be represented in making peace, peaceful coexistence, dialog, development, environment protection, humanitarian aid, interdependence, political reformation, international cooperation, friendship among nations. It helps to look a head, evaluate the present and understand the past, in addition to being a source of human rights. Besides the advantages there are many obstacles that should be refused, rejected and fought against vigorously and bravely, like the racism, ethnic superiority, hyperbole, religious extremism, falsification of human values, falsification of history, cultural hegemony, terrorism, retreat on self, fear, rejection or not recognizing the other or his rights, political, intellectual and ideological despotism. Therefore, the common culture must be detailed, whether between individuals, groups, peoples or all nations. This can be implemented through many media such as education, translation, all kinds of information, cultural dialog, religious thought, embassies, immigrants, ministries of culture, common cultural civil society institutions, religious institutions, local and international competitions and carnivals, types of common cultural investments among people, passing laws and regulations which regulate this work and prevent obstacles of application, shunning narrow affiliations and tendencies in writing, translation and etc.. in order to adapt and cooperate to discover the cosmic truths, discovery of common cultural points and extended human relations, in addition to planning points of differences to work them out through serious and meaningful cultural dialog.
The human culture is undeniable fact and deeply rooted in the human nature. It is worth mentioning here what Narwan Abu Bakr said (2015,P. 162) in general when stating the necessity of being aware of the prevalence of the universal culture. He called for the importance of reflecting the human awareness of culture and crystallization of the local and international culture and its effect everywhere for the sake of the national and international cultural communication. Such policy can help in the solution of the international problems and spread of the spirit of peace, security and tranquility. It may lead to conclusion of agreements to promote the rally of the international culture, and holding conferences, meetings and visits to convey and transmit the human values of the culture. It will confront the obstacles of the human culture, protect the cultural heritage against the twists and threats of generations, cooperate to protect the intellectual and cultural security and combat anti-human-value cultures. In addition, holding competitions, allocate prizes for talented, taking care of the cultured and intellectuals, honor participant in culture rooting, highlight the cultural community among religions, show meeting point, make the most of the religious rostrums in instilling the spirit of brotherhood, appreciating it and directing it towards the cultural communication. It will be possible to get into international contracts to explore the ancient ruins in form of investment, for instance, sustain the scientific research specialized in human culture and civilization, patronage and set up artistic and media projects to produce and market the materials that reveal aspects of human civilization and highlight the cultural community.
Elements and Components of the Sudanese Culture:
There are many elements contained in the cultural components, in general, and Sudanese cultural components, in particular. These elements are: the historical dimension, geographical location, topographical situation, demographics, traditional and modern economical productive activities (livelihoods), social structure, religion, language, psychological aspect and affiliation.
Sudan is usually described as the beating heart of Africa due to its location on the African map. It is, also, described as the world food basket as it is teeming with economical resources on, in and around the surface. Also, it is said to be the bridge of the Arab and African cultures, being a member of Arab League and African Union (former African Unity Organization). In spite of this, it is a special cultural entity, a melting pot of local and foreign, whether from Africa, Asia or Europe or other countries of the world. Anything that goes to its melting pot, cross-mingled or melted outputs a Sudanese product. Thus, its culture is a crossbreed of a composite community where the Arab and African elements are dominant more than other elements, even though in varying degrees for several cultural and environmental reasons. Therefore, its Arabism and Africanism were both unique. The Sudanese culture is the result of this cross-breed and melting which occurred in an accumulated sequential form embodying many elements and components which form the basic pillars of the Sudanese cultural identity.
It can be described as pure Arab and complete African, being, as stated by Abdulghaffar Mohamed Ahmed (1991, P. 6) when commenting on the Sudanese identity: “it is wrong to believe that there is a pure Arab culture and an another single African culture in Sudan. There is a continuous dialog among several sub- cultures which have not melted in one melting pot yet. But, we have to take for granted that the Sudanese culture is a culture of Arab and Islamic features that impart their characteristics to the center and North of Sudan, while the rest of the parts of Sudan remains carrying several features of sub-cultures of African origins”.
Ahmed Abdulrahim Nasr, in his book “Folklore and Development in Sudan”, presented three trends to read the Sudanese cultural identity. The first: the Arabic trend, lead by Mohamed Al-Amin Al Dareer, the author of “Arabism in Sudan” and Mohamed Abdulrahim, in his book “Share of Arabism”. Both believe that the Sudanese community is Arab and its culture is Arab. The second trend lead by the southern politicians who alleged that Sudan is an African country with an African culture. The third trend believes that the Sudanese community is hybrid and its culture is a composite of African and Arab, besides that some Sudanese groups are neither Arab nor African, but came from Europe such as Turks, Indians, Hungarians and others who came from other countries and settled down in Sudan and became indivisible part of the Sudanese community. However, we must highlight the dominance and prevalence of the Arab-African culture as pointed out by William Y. Adams (Translation by Magub Eltigani, 2010, edition 3, P.2): he said “ In this way, the description I find is more appropriate to depict the cultural reality in Sudan to describe it as a plastic painting where colors vary, overlap, blend in shadows and frills, but in its overall lines and strings forms one object that gives a specific impression with a comprehensive theme and reflects a sense of unity and harmony”. If this is the Sudanese cultural reality, the main two characteristics in this picture are diversity and unity; variety and homogeneity. Therefore, the Sudanese culture is described by disparity, variety and diversity. The essence is constant and appearance is mobile and variable. It is worth mentioning, in this regard, that the Sudanese culture is a source of strength and invincibility and not of a source of weakness servility. It needs good management and proper functioning. The countries which perceived this and acknowledged it as a reality could benefit from it in their advancement and take front positions in the world. Examples are countless; The United States of America, South Africa and others. The United States is now at the top of the countries of the world in homogeneity after it renounced the racial segregation. Also, South Africa holding the World Cup competition (2005, P. 5) as soon as it relinquished the apartheid. Adel Harbi asserts this and says: “In Sudan, we find two kinds of culture; the first a cultural diversity in an ethnical idiomatical sense, for instance, some areas of the South of Sudan, Angesna, Nuba Mountains, Bija and some Arab tribes. The second is what has been known by the diverse culture such as the ethnical examples of many cultures in the center of Sudan, East of Sudan and West of Sudan. Both cultures have a significance and a role in weaving the fabric of meanings, thoughts and behavior of the individuals in the society, and arts, folklore and manifestations of behavior on the people’s lives collectively and individually”. He believes that culture has its own properties, nature and balance which are attained by resoluteness although they are subject to change and transformation as they contain multiple physical components, items, values, examples and traditions, but they constitute a strength through a social interaction between the individuals and their requirements. This lends to culture the quality of contribution.
Therefore, the plurality in the Sudanese culture is a result of the plurality of its civilizational elements and components. They are:
The history of Sudan can be divided, in general, into two stages; the stage of old history which included the thought since pre-Islam until the arrival and spread of Islam. That was the period during which existed Kushite kingdoms, Kabuda, Nepta and Marawi. The second stage is the modern stage which starts from the arrival and spread of Islam, the statehood of the first centralized state, European-Egyptian colonization and national governments which sowed the first seeds of the Sudanese cultural identity. The Sudanese participation in support, rejection or resistance vary from an area to another and from policy to another, too.
2/ Geographical and Topographical Location:
Sudan is located in East Africa and South Arab Center. It is one of the Nile Valley Basin countries and occupies a good part of it, in addition to the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile with their tributaries. The climate is diverse; desert, semi-desert, Savanna poor, Savanna rich, semi-Mediterranean on some its heights, such as Arkawit in the East and Jabal Marra in the West. The soil is varied between two layers and sandy and gravel semi-two layers. Because of the graduation of rains and diverse soil, plains, hills, creeks and swamps, the vegetation is graduated from short and disperse trees and shrubs to high trees permeated by some forests and big trees.
3/ Demographic and Social Structure:
The population of Sudan ethnically consists of a compound hybrid as a result of interference, intermarriage and blending between the local population and expatriates of consecutive immigrations from inside and outside Africa. We are conducting some scientific research and studies in the field of Genetics depending on blood chromosome analysis to determine the common genes between different Sudanese groups.
4/ Conventional Productive Activities (Livelihoods)
Based on the topographical structure of Sudan, in general, the conventional productive activities are the agriculture, whether rain fed, mechanized rain fed or the modern irrigated. The most famous of them are Gazira and Managel schemes in the center of Sudan. In addition, there are the Bedouins; the camel breeders in the area along the Nile in the North of Sudan, East and center of Sudan, Kurdofan, Darfur or Baggra in the center of Darfur and Kurdofan, White Nile, Blue Nile and plains of Butana. The conventional production can be divided into two types ; livelihood and commodity, besides the modern production represented in trade, free business, functional and military.
5/ Religion and Language:
Religions in Sudan are in accordance with the old and new historical division. Old religions are the non-divine religions. The new ones are the divine religions, especially, Christianity and Islam. Religion is a cultural factor, like the language. They all influenced in building the Sudanese civilization and culture with all their distinctive features and characteristics which form the identity and culture of the Sudanese personality with all its civilizational dimensions that are manifested in its existence and affiliation. Leftovers and antique collectibles reflect the old civilizational achievements. In addition to the influence of Christianity of which a portion passed to Islam and still practiced through Islam because it does not oppose it, although the Islamic religious awareness plays a significant role in this regard.
Regarding the language, there are several local languages and foreign languages, especially Arabic Language which blended with such languages and lead to emergence of many Arabic dialects. Some of them are extinct and abandoned and some are still spoken by the natives beside Arabic Language with some of them their languages overcoming Arabic Language. However, Arabic is the official language as it is the language of the majority and the common denominator among the Sudanese, especially, in the field of education, work and general national social media.
Some of them borrowed some vocabulary of their origin language or incorporated in Arabic or vise versa. However, the Sudanese dialect is one of the clearest Arabic dialects and most comprehensive in understanding and learning in the Arab world. They are the closest to the Standard Arabic in most cases. The best example is the Sudanese popular poetry, such as the couplets, Huda, eulogy, mourning, lyrics, language of proverbs and popular wisdoms.
Psychological Pattern and Affiliation:
The psychological pattern of the Sudanese person is related to his general and special affiliation to his homeland; Sudan, its Nile, soil and people. The psychological pattern is an outcome of his habits, traditions, norms, behavior and his morals in connection to his relationship with all members of the Sudanese society through its different entities and organizations, beginning from the family with it nuclear and extended conception to include the tribe and homeland. Furthermore, the religion, residence areas, work and professional colleagues and school mates, Sufi societies, social, political and scientific organizations and groupings and all that form its values, temperament, tendencies and relationships with others around him.
The cultural identity is connected to the political borders of the state in its relation to nationalism and patriotism with all its common spatial, ethnical, linguistic, religious, heritage and historical dimensions between individuals and groups. Thus, the elements and components of its civilizational structure are shaped with regard to its relationship with the world’s values and civilizations in the framework of the shared culture naturally created with all its properties, advantages, hindrances and aids of the humanitarian nature. The Sudanese culture with its civilizational dimension which has been extending on its land since pre-historical times up to now is described by disparity and variety and characterized by unity in diversity. It unites in essence and varies in appearance. It is an outcome of several civilizations as a result of its diverse cultural and social environments. It is a composite of African Arab Islamic nature. The variety is predominated by the cultural hybrid structure which adds strength and invincibility to it, if well managed, and not weakness and servility. Culture protects oneself from being lost and helps to participate and involve in enriching the cultural and civilizational dialog that is taking place today in the world. It forms the future dialog vision to get ready for the civilizational conflict currently occurring in the world, and fight steadfastly, effectively and dependably as part of impacting and being impacted and give and take. Who does not have cannot give.
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