Jartig (A feature of an Ongoing Civilization)

Tue, 12 Jun 2018

Dr.Ahmed Moutism Al Sheikh



We aim from this study to document a genuine cultural practice deeply rooted in the Sudanese social matrix , Jartig. This ritual remained connected to marriage ceremonies from ancient times. It was thus considered, in its primordial form, an initiation custom similar to that of ancient royal court coronation ceremonies. It was also considered, in its two other connotations where the bride joins the groom through the particulars off the process, a ritual for the obtainment of protection, a good omen for fertility, prosperous livelihood and auspicious future.

Jartig is performed using characteristic tools, namely the 'Angaraib[1] , the crown, the headband, feathers, the sword, the whip besides the bride's traditional costume. Those items, together represent a set of articles historically associated with monarchs and dignitaries in the society. Jartig,  also associates with other practices, such as the wedding saira (march), dummy fights and poetic eulogy. The same sermon used to be conducted in coronation celebrations where women dominated the procedural activities as did the mother queen and the king's sisters along the course of the successive Sudanese ancient kingdoms.





The researcher elected for  descriptive analytical technique relying on primary and sometimes secondary data sources in his quest of tracking the Jartig ritual through the ages up to the present time. Below are the findings of this endeavor:

The collection of signs observed identify the genesis of the ritual with the Kingdom of Marawi where a small ring adorned with carvings which the maker is thought to have stricken inspired by the ceremonies of a true Jartig event. The continuity of the ritual is an indicator of the continuity of the ritual thereof, despite the introduction of more recent elements prompted by the changes that befell the old concepts and beliefs.


Introduction :

The term Jartig refers to an assortment of rituals which are practiced as part of wedding festivals and to a lesser extent during boys' circumcision. In wedding occasions it applies only to the groom. The custom is almost confined to the central fluvial  parts of Nilotic Sudan, especially among the Ja'aliyīn group which comprises the ja'aliyīn, Rubāṭāb, Mīrafāb, Manāṣīr and Shāigiya, and the in the Nuba areas where it serves as a ritual for protection and fertility.

The practice was not detected in the bedwin tribes such as the Bija in the east and the nomads of Kurdufān, Dārfur and the rest of the nomadic tribes. Nor is it to be found at Nuba mountain dwellers or among those of South Sudan. in the rare cases where the practice is detected in any such areas, it is almost entirely restricted to towns and to the Jallāba[2] communities of the immigrants from the Northern Nilotic tribe areas.

That the custom is not known to the Sudanese Arabized tribes comes as no surprise, for these rituals are definitely not of Arabic origin. There exists no mention of Jartig in references to wedding practices among Arabs. It is also not known to the communities in Egypt, the Arab Peninsula and the Maghreb countries[3]. There is no sign either that it is practiced in any of the neighboring African countries. Thus, Jartig is a pure Sudanese ritual which is practically limited to central area  of the river Nile, the seat of the ancient Sudanese kingdoms in Marawi, Sauba and Sinnār.


Definition of Jartig :

Jartig is one of the most prominent rituals conducted during marriage ceremonies and is considered to be of importance in customs of initiation[4]. It includes within its form three distinct types, one which concerns the broom and is performed in his parents' house before they proceed to the bride at her domicile. The ritual at this stage mimics that of a king's coronation procedure and the groom is looked at as a true crowned monarch experiencing all manifestations of authority within his parents household. There are at the same time no signs of separate Jartig proceedings concerning the bride[5]. Rather, she partakes in the protection and fertility rituals which take place on the seventh day of marriage for some folks and on the fourteenth for others[6].

The second ritual is performed jointly by the two spouses and is basically meant to ward them against witching and evil eye to which they are more likely prone during this particular occasion where they are the center of attention and curiosity.

The third ritual, including, like the one before, both the bride and groom, is performed in anticipation of good omen, having children, enjoying prosperous fertile and long life.

As mentioned earlier, the groom's Jartig is an imitation of a king's coronation ceremony of the ancient Sudanese kingdoms, an event which is retained in peoples collective memory. It continues to live in the individual's daily activities and culture. Some scholars theorize that the groom's outfit by the end of the Jartig ritual together with the Ḍarīrah[7] on his head, and Harīrah[8] round his wrist, a gold and beads necklace round his neck and a brandished sword in his hand are all a contemporary depiction of the paintings of the Marawitic king seen on the walls of the Temple of the Sun and in Muṣawarāt al Ṣafra and al Nag'a[9]. There is a popular saying that states that "An Arab's heyday is that of his wedding". This proverb is made real through the ritualistic proceedings which accompany the marriage festivities. Ceremonial scenes of royal wedding are materialized in a number of the Marawitic carved murals where the gods are seen giving their blessing to the king and his queen.

We may, within this context, construe the word Jartig itself as a legacy remnant of the ancient languages. It is possibly made of the Marawitic word 'Qor" meaning king and the standing phrase "Tig" still used in the Rubātāb region in addition to other words such as mitig, martig and bitig which mean to do or to cause to be done and may be Marawitic in origin. Combining the two words results in a forged expression that reads "Qortig" modified to Jartig that means to make or instate him a king. Performance of Jartig as an inauguration of a king represented here by the person of the groom is an inspiration of the cultural heritage symbolized by rituals of instating kings and rulers in the successive Sudanese kingdoms. The present time practice reflects one way or another the ancient rituals, symbols and indicators of the act of  instatement in a way which we will explain hereunder:


Jartig 'Angaraib:

The 'Angraib used to be instrumental during the funeral rituals since the first kingdom of Kush, Karma civilization.[10] It was found in the graveyards of that kingdom and was, thus, considered one of the funeral customs the kingdom was characterized by. It was possibly employed in inaugural royal festivals as well. We happened on one 'Angaraib in a Marawitic discovery which item could have been part of Jartig rituals.

From what came to our knowledge about the time of the Funj state, a 'Angaraib was specially  crafted from Saraṭān to the kingdom's first king in addition to another one for the queen. They were both carried on their respective 'Angaraibs (from Sinnār) till they set foot at Jabal Mauya. "… and when they claimed kingship, they took to Saraṭān 'Angaraib as a custom.[11]"  As a heritage, the Sudanese 'Angaraib has been largely associated with rulers' seating who are often referred to as possessors of 'Angaraib, as compared to possessors of Tabarauga ( round-shaped prayer straw mat) who are the religious leaders.

Within the historical course of this heritage, there came to being a 'Angaraib which bore the name of 'Angaraib al Jartig, passing from one generation to another in some highborn families of old history in ruling and religious leadership. It acted as a symbol of glory and genuine nobility. Of lately, it has become custom made, crafted upon certain specifications and shared by families in their different occasions.

During  Jartig celebrations, the 'Angaraib occupies the central position. A red colored birish or 'Atanaiba (rectangular straw mat) woven specially for the occasion[12] is laid on it. The birish was lately replaced by a red sheet or carpet. As such the 'Angraib plays the role of the throne for the groom who sits on it signaling the instating formalities to take place.



The Crown, Headband and Feathers:

The crown worn by a Marawitic king takes the shape of a headband. The front of the band is ornamented with the royal insignia which is the cobra snake. In an old manuscript a Nuba king's viceroy during the Christian epoch was described as the wearer of the band. In some cases, plumages appear in murals of Marawi dynasty of which a human head is seen wearing a band decorated with a feather. Actually, feathers were known since the time of Karma Kingdom, where they are observed on ram heads. The Funj sultan was also described as wearing on his head "a crown garnished with gold and surrounded by seven slender feathers made of gold and silver."[13] Feathers, till today, occupy a central position in the instatement of the Shelok Ruth (the tribe's king). Feathers are the main constituent of the Ruth crown. The groom, on the other hand, is sometimes called Abu Rīsh (wearer of feather), as the front of the band around his head was usually adorned by two big feathers, mostly from ostrich plumage, and they play an important role in the Jartig custom proceedings[14].


Chains and necklaces:

One of the features that attract attention in the carvings and drawings which depicted Marawi royal events, is the inclusion of various types of necklaces and chains around the kings' necks and chests as part of their symbolic attire. During other historical eras, reference was made to some kinds of necklaces and chains as parts of the official symbols. Mention was also made to a temple necklace that is related to the last days of the Christian epoch that preceded the 'Anaj rule. The 'Abdallāb were said to have appropriated this temple necklace among other spoils which comprised the king's belongings. 'Abd Allah Jammā' was said to have personally taken possession from al 'Anaj of the king's jewel-studded crown and the temple necklace inlaid with pearls and rubies which thence went down the 'Abdallāb royal line as their exclusive property.[15] The rulers of the of the nilotic areas called "maṭārig Ja'al" who ruled during the Funj era, were probably wearing this laminated necklace as a symbol of their ruling authority.[16] A man of religion during the time of the Funj dynasty narrated that upon the formalities of his ordaining as a clergyman, he was made to wear a "Kanar jade necklace". There are indications that group and tribe rulers were in the habit of decorating their necks with special kinds of red coral and amber, as well as rosaries of which were ben tree rosaries.

It is noticed that, in the act of mimicking kings, the said necklace is included as one of the Jartig tools. For instance, Manāṣir women from the groom's side make available a jade necklace called kanār which has a symbolic value. This tribe is also known to refrain from making any decision regarding the wedding proceedings until the groom's maternal uncle has arrived and executed the ritual of sliding the muṭrag (golden chain) down the groom's neck. This deed signifies the start of the coronations and other formalities.



The Bracelet:

To Marawi kings, wearing a bracelet was a symbol of authority. Reference was made to it during the Christian period when Ṣāḥib al Jabal (Man of the Mountain) described one of the King's viceroys mentioning that he was wearing the band and the "Golden Bracelet". It was also referred to in the Funj Kingdom; a religious man stated that he was made to wear a "Golden Bracelet" as part of ordaining him an official clergyman[17].

The subject of the bracelet in connection to the groom has appeared in almost all the communities which practice Jartig rituals such as the Rubāṭāb, Ja'aliyīn, Manāsīr, and Shāigīya, among the most important articles that symbolized authority in the event of the groom's Jartig.


The Sword and Whip:

Throughout the historical periods that extend from Marawi Kingdom onwards, the sword has remained a prominent token of power and kingship. The ruling clans continued to inherit some swords till these gained reputation and bore their own distinctive names like Namnam and Maṭag. Kings, rulers and even leaders of religious families are obliged to own swords that allow them claim authority and display their greatness. The whip, as much as the sword, has its symbolism in those societies. It appears that the whip known as the 'Anaj whip, after the ethnic group that ruled the area during the final days of Christianity, has become a symbol of the power manifested in the grooms magnificent appearance at the end of Jartig formalities shouldering a sheathed sword and carrying a whip cut out of hippopotamus skin. The role of the whip as a sign of power has repeatedly being asserted. Mentions al Ṭabaqāt book that while being ordained a certified clergyman, a magnet sufi leader "was approached by the seven jinnee kings who vowed obeyance and submission to him. They also brought him a gold-made kakar (low concave seat) and a 'Anaj whip." At the Manāṣir, the significance of the whip is highlighted as a symbol of authority during the Jartig rituals. In the custom of "holding out the whip", the groom walks around the different houses with the whip in his hand lashing the walls and repeating the expression "we are holding out the whip". People respond by handing him appropriate gifts of various kinds[18].


The Groom's Costume:

Legacy have it that the question of attire was instrumental in determining the groom's social status. Attire set the demarcation line between nobility and being a commoner. It was reported that during the Funj era, ordinary people were banned from wearing certain dresses like skullcaps (Ṭāgīya) and tailored garments, those found in violation of the rule were punishable by a fine[19]. Some types of dress were restricted to the kings such as silk robes and here we realize that by wearing the Surrati robe, the groom is actually mimicking a king. The 'Alaj ???????? from the costumes designated for kings. By dressing himself in these cloths, the groom emphasizes his status as a royal subject or one of the highborn dignitaries who have claim to the right of appearing clad in such fine attire.


The March:

During the coronation ceremonies, Marawi Kings were in the habit of walking for long to attend to the temples at Barkal Mountain and visit other temples of importance as a compulsory component of the coronation process[20]. The same march was referred to in the Funj Kingdom writings which indicate that the newly instated king would be borne on a 'Angaraib and carried for a long distance to some shrines in search of good fortion.

Similar to the above, the groom indulges in a march to visit the burial shrines of pious men of God in the vicinity asking for their blessing. He would also be made to pay a visit to the river bank to please the entities and the spirits people believe reside therein.


The Dummy Fight:

Part of the coronation proceedings which were taken notice of during the Funj period upon the arrival of the 'Abdallab Manjail (Chief) at the king's court, was the staging of a make-believe battle between the two parties where high pitch screams are issued and swords brandished imitating the events of a true battle. The incident would be concluded in a confrontation between the king and the Mānjail at the end of which the latter would show his subjugation to the king. Both men would then proceed from there to conduct the rest of the coronation ceremony of the Mānjail in the capital Sinnār[21]. A similar dummy battle was also observed during the instatement of the Shelok Ruth. Attendants would split into two adversary factions facing each other. They would then engage in a false fight filled with action, fervor, challenges and threats with weaponry, but then all ends well in front of the Ruth[22].

Until recently, such a dummy fight was adopted, in imitation of that royal practice, at the wedding festivities. It was used to start at the arrival of the groom surrounded by his folks at the bride's home. The two parties would face each other, clubs in hands and swords brandished and start throwing each other with provocative words and expressions such as "Your bride is ugly" which accusation would generate a response  like "and your groom is a flunky." And so on so forth. The dummy fight eventually ends with the spraying of water at the bride's side by those accompanying the groom followed by the display of welcoming initiatives and acts of generosity.



Eulogy (Sumār):

Of the familiar features observed in the presence of ancient Sudan royalties and rulers and in other African kingdoms is the presence of poets in the court. Those individuals have as their main mission the reminding of kings of the glory and prestigious standing of their ancestors[23]. A poet of this class is called Angaib or the King's Angaib. History has preserved the names of many of those such as al Ni'aisān, Mak Nimir's Angaib; Abu Digainah, Shukriya chief's poet and other names of poets and angaibs who associated with the kings of Mirafāb and Rubāṭāb and others.

In keeping with this deeply engrained royal tradition, it has become customary today to include in the Jartig customs, recitals from stereotyped ancestral poetry known as the Somār or Binaina. It is usually recited by a skilled female poet from the family but it is not unusual for the poet to be a man. The theme of this verse focuses on reminding the groom of his royal ancestors glorious past and on praising the most prominent  pious religious scholars who have established khalāwi (religious schools). It also prompts the groom to follow their example specially if he descends from a reputable family. It is worth mention that the word Sumār which defied time and changing circumstances, belongs to an extinct language and was in use at the time when the Jartig tradition first came into being.


Protection Customs:

Sudanese societies in their olden days and during previous civilizations have developed a firm belief in a whole invisible world that existed parallel to ours. This world, made of various kinds of beings and spirits share our everyday life and affects us in many ways, benign and evil. Such metaphysical domain was dealt with through certain rituals and traditional means and ways with the purpose of obtaining its benefits and avoiding bad effects its might inflict on our lives.

The bride and her groom are considered during this critical phase of their life cycle which is the process of wedding, especially vulnerable to the influence of the evil powers. It is therefore imperative to conduct all possible rituals to protect the couple from evil and ward off the dark powers, while attracting every possible good that can be had from this hidden world.

 It is possible that the groom's playing the role of a king, an act that occupies a significant portion of the Jartig tradition, is actually a protection custom of a sort. Sudanese kings in their days were considered sacred and were thought to be enjoying guardianship and protection by the gods, so it is hoped that the protection bestowed upon the king will apply to his today's copy[24]. During the Christian and then the Islamic periods, this concept of gods was replaced by the angels. Paintings from the Christian era confirm this hypothesis. On the other hand, the walk every groom takes to the pious men's shrines in pursuit of blessing and protection and his visit to the Nile where he is made to dive in seven times for purging and to please the spirits and other beings good and  bad, are all a kind of enactment of the rituals that date back to the times of his ancestral monarchs.

Among the rituals the groom is made to endure is his being confined in seclusion in a small hideout throughout his first week of marriage where he is compelled to avoid being exposed to the sun for most of the time especially during certain hours at sunrise and sunset. These moments are termed morning and evening red moments (Ḥamārāt al Ṣabāḥ and Ḥamārāt al Maghīb). If it was absolutely necessary for him to leave the place, then he must carry with him his sword and whip.

It appears that the protection custom is indeed an act of obscuring the groom's masculinity by disguising him as a female among the women who perform the Jartig tradition. His palms and feet are tinged with henna, his eyes darkened with kohl and he is anointed with women perfumes like khumra (a mixture of ground aromatic wood) and dilka (a fragrant kneading paste). He also wears gold ornaments, necklaces and beads the use of which is otherwise restricted to women. The purpose, it seems, is to protect him from the evil spirits by hiding his real sex identity so that these harmful beings may mistake him for a woman among the other women around him.

Precautionary measures must be taken to protect the groom and bride from the risks of being touched by harmful spirits and evil eyes. Such risks are manifested as kabsa and mushāhara the result of which could be contracting a disease or failing to have children.

Red predominates over other colors in Jartig. The birish (rectangular straw mat), Firkat al Qarmaṣīṣ (Crimson loose robe wrapped around the body), Ḥug (dry perfume container), Rab'a, and the blood stone are all red. It is believed that the red color which is associated with initiation customs carries a precautionary denotation. Red is the color of blood which is the essence of life and is therefore targeted by evil spirits.

There is a widely accepted belief that certain metals such as gold, copper and iron as well as some precious stones and beads contain certain properties that allow them to exorcize demonic spirits. Some old articles like al Ju'rana (a stone-carved beetle or scarab) together with other contents of the Jartig tray and the accompanying strong perfumes are thought to have the property of casting away evil spirits and attracting good ones for the protection of the newlywed during such a delicate stage in their life together. Without the items referred to, Jartig is not satisfactorily accomplished[25].

Protection custom is adjoined by some supplications and incantations which are pronounced to guard against spells. Expressions like Dagar ya 'Ain (be off evil eye), and calling for the help of the prophet, his daughter Fatima or the guardian angels is customary in these occasions. Such practices are assisted by different amulets and protective writings.


Fertility and Good Omen Customs:

 Among the customs conducted for the groom and bride jointly are ones that symbolize fertility and the quest for good fortune. The proceedings begin with the two spouses sitting facing each other on the 'Angaraib designated for Jartig. The bride here sits to the left of the groom and the event is supervised by old women who happen to be maternal and paternal aunts of the groom, assisted by his sisters and other girls with characteristic skills from among his relatives. The atmosphere during these proceedings is one of great seriousness and severity. In some societies, the custom begins with bringing in a newborn who must be in good health with both parents alive, happily married and in harmony with one another. The new born is then placed in the groom's lap who will then hand it over to the bride and vice versa for seven times while the attendants repeat "May you outdo her with money and may she outdo you with children"[26]

The couple then exchange a milk container, mostly a dedicated vessel called 'Umra. They each drink from it seven times. The one of them who takes the last sip then blows some of the milk on the other. It is mostly seen to it that the bride takes the last sip.

A tray made of palm tree fronds is then brought in which contains some wheat, sorghum and sesame seeds besides beans and dates from the area's produce. Again the couple hand the tray to each other alternatively for seven times. In some cases a handful of the contents is alternated for seven times between the two. The last to be handed over the seeds would sprinkle them on the other[27].

A number of objects including a fish bone as a symbol of fertility are tied together by a red silk ribbon with a wrist band and some green and blue beads, and tied around the groom's wrist together with the silk wrist band. A small Salam tree wood (Acacia ethrenbergiana ) or a Sidir tree thorn (Ziziphus spina-christi) may also be tied. Actually, every extended family has some particular objects which it regards as a good augury and are called Sibir (family-specific luck habit). The custom may well be a remnant of an old totem.

The position of the number seven in the center of these ritual practices is worth attention. Obviously it is of symbolic importance for the purpose of realizing good luck and fertility to the newlywed which are the subject of this custom.


The Role of Women in Jartig Customs:

The dominance of women in the performance of Jartig proceedings, with almost complete absence of the male element, is too obvious not to notice. Indeed, only the maternal uncle is required to attend and take part in a certain stage of the rituals which is what is termed "Nizzail al Mutrag" in reference to his role of dressing the groom in the necklace that signifies the latter's instatement. This act is followed by the uncle handing over a valuable present to his nephew.

The dominant role of women in the proceedings of the king's instatement and the role the mother queen and the king's sister kept playing throughout the subsequent Sudanese civilizations, has been highlighted in their inauguration obelisks[28]. Records from the Christian kingdoms reveal an augmented role for women particularly the queen mother, and so did the narratives from the Funj era and how instrumental was the participation of grandmothers and Mairams in the inauguration proceeding of the Fur kings[29]. It was stated that the queen mother or the Artiya at Tagali Kingdom was the sole custodian of the king's insignia and other royal symbols and that she had the free hand to install the king of her choice[30].

Jartig proceedings are exclusively conducted by old women under the groom's mother or sister's direct supervision. Meanwhile, he remains closely surrounded by his maternal and paternal aunts. The atmosphere during the course of the Jartig process is packed with silence and owe, every moment being characterized by seriousness and severity. The rituals themselves are carried out with considerable professionalism, comprehension and attentiveness.

At the end of the walk and upon his arrival at the bride's home, the groom is admitted into the section of the house designated for women. When at the door, he is asked in a sarcastic manner to count the house shagīg (roof timber beams), then he is asked to show the attendants the "laugh and half the laugh". Such silly questions and gesticulations are meant to test the man's patience. Finally he is asked to say who his mistress is, to which question he is expected to spell his bride's name.

Following this interrogation, the groom is allowed in the house. This moment marks his being entirely in the hands of the bride's household women acceding to their every instruction especially during the first week after the wedding. He is sometimes compelled to extend his stay for forty days before being set free. This compulsory confinement was described in connection with the Funj newly coroneted king "And when they instate a new king, they get him to marry a girl who is a descendent of this woman and they call her Bint 'Ain al Shamis (daughter of the eye of the sun). they are then carried in this advanced state to Ḥawsh al Jundi (the Soldier's Enclosure) where he is held in custody for seven days during which he is kept from exposure to the sun and is guarded by an old woman"

It is also noticeable how important the role of the maternal uncle in the execution of the Jartig custom is. This relative's special position was visible in the court of the Funj kings who considered him the official in charge of coronation and occupied a high status thereafter. Some researchers maintain that Sayid al Qawm (Peoples Master) who  represents the executioner of the ritual killing was indeed the king's maternal uncle[31]. The maternal uncle's presence in the Jartig custom is required for the instating of the groom via what is called Tanzīl al Muṭrag (lowering the necklace), which is the act of dressing the groom in a necklace or a golden chain that signifies the accomplishment of the instating event. The maternal uncle and the importance of his presence beside the groom are regularly referred to in the Jartig heritage and the Sumār poetry.


Jartig in Marawi Kingdom:

This study aims at helping in the  analysis of a finding included in the treasure of the Marawi queen,  Amani Shikhaitu who is considered one of the most prominent Kandakas (qeens) who ruled this kingdom in the first century BC. This treasure which is in display at Berlin museum, includes a great amount of golden ornaments carved by a skilful goldsmith. The finding we are concerned with is a finger ring 2.2 cm in diameter and 1.1 x 3.14 cm2 in area. It was found among other carved rings[32]. The talented maker has worked hard and with as much accuracy as he could muster within the limited space available, to illustrate sufficient features  of the Jartig custom. It is not unlikely that he was actually inspired by true Jartig events, and there is reasonable doubt that the bride was Queen Amani Shikhaitu herself as she was distinguished by wearing the original crown with the distinct snake head on the front.

It is easy to see how the carved tools and symbols from that ancient time represent a portrayal of what , until recently, was conducted in the Jartig custom as the symbols and procedures are obviously inherited from that time.

The first item that attracts attention in the carving is the Jartig 'Angaraib with its minute details and the birish or 'Atanaiba (rectangular painted mat woven from date palm fronds) laid on top of it exactly as it is the case today, except that the birish is being largely replaced by a red velvet sheet.

The second remarkable feature is the relative positions of the spouses. The carving pictures them facing each other in a way that would allow easy transfer of the Jartig tools and symbols between them. This arrangement is usually not to be seen in Marawi mural that portrays kings in sitting positions.

The carving also shows the spouses handing one another a small child. The stretched arms of the two and placing the child in the space between their hands is an indication of the alternating handover which is the practice in the Jartig custom that indicates fertility proceedings and which is still taking place.

The carving reveals a conical-shaped vessel under the groom's left hand that resembles the milking vehicle seen in one of Marawi kingdom carvings. This container is made from tightly woven palm tree fronds. It is still in use by the bedouins in the area for the purpose of milking and is called 'Umra. Handover of the milk container is still popular as a practice within the fertility and good omen rituals.

On the groom's lap, sits what looks like a plate or similar. It may probably be the tray where the cereals, legumes and dates were placed and alternated by the two spouses as part of the fertility and good omen ritual.

The carving also reveals the total similarity between the costumes of the groom and bride so much so they are almost indistinguishable. Reference was made earlier to the attempted concealment of the groom's identity by dressing him in women's clothing and ornaments as part of the protection ritual.

Of the features common between the Jartig symbols and those depicted in the Marawitic carvings, is the band wrapped around the groom's head and decorated with what appears to be two feathers placed on the front. The band, with the two feathers, and with the addition of a (golden) crescent are still worn by the groom in Jartig custom. It is noticeable in the carving that the symbol in the groom's crown is two feathers in the front while, in the bride's crown it is in the form of  snake head which is typical of the crowns worn by the kings and queens in the Kingdom of Marawi.

Though not sufficiently clear, there is noticed an image of what could be a necklace round the groom's neck and, a bracelet round his wrist and what looks like an ornament of sort in his hand. All these articles are seen in the wall paintings and carvings of Marawi kings and they are still included among the symbols of today's Jartig custom.

It is amazing how this talented blacksmith was able, in an extremely limited space on a few centimeters surface area of a finger ring, to display such considerable amount of the Jartig custom particulars in Marawi Kingdom. One marvels at the extent of development achieved in artisanship  that has produced a work like the treasure of Queen Amani Shikhaitu.



We have been tracking, in our endeavor to identify and understand the nature and denotations of Jartig rituals, the mimicry by the groom of kings of successive ancient Sudanese kingdoms. We have also noticed that a number of today's ornaments, symbols and costumes associated with Jartig have a historical dimension that links them to the past and that indicates an obvious civilization continuity in relation to this custom.

Our analysis-confirmed cultural continuity is further supported by a finding from Marawi era. Breaking down the components of this finding, we were able to indicate a near identical correlation with what until recently used to be practiced of the Jartig rituals in central riverain area, the seat for Marawi civilization and culture[33].

We have to add here that the subject matter of this research, namely the Jartig custom, which until recently was widely practiced, is now facing extinction as is the case with many similar traditional practices. This is happening because of the tendency to curtail the proceedings of marriage and the introduction of new elements some of which are the product of cultures from outside Sudan. That being said, Jartig is still around, albeit as a brief folkloric phenomenon that that has lost most of its original meanings and denotations as a result of the changes that befell old beliefs and concepts.           


[1] A wickerwork bed

[2] The term "Jallāba" refers to the group of traders who bring to remote areas in Sudan western regions different types of merchandise. Jallāba is derived from "jajaba" : to bring from afar.

[3] See: 'Ᾱdāt al Zawāj fi al Waṭan al 'Arabi, Ḥalagāt al 'Anāṣir al Mushtaraka fi al Mathurāt al Sha'biya fi al Waṭan al 'Arabi, Arabic UNESCO, Department of Culture, Cairo, October 1971

[4] Sayid H. Ḥuraiz, Birth, Marriage, Death and Initiation Customs and Beliefs in Central Sudan, MA Dissertation, University of Leeds, UK, p. 143

[5] 'Abd Allah al Ṭayib, The changing Customs of Riverain Sudan, IV: Marriage, Sudan Notes and Records, N. S. Vol. II, Pp. 28-29, 1988.

[6] Amal Abu Zaid Khalīfa, (1991), Dirāsa li ba'd al Adawāt wa al Mawād al Murtabiṭa bi Marāsim wa Tuqus al Zawāj fi Madīnat Umdurmān, al Fatra 1885-1985, thesis presented for an MSc degree, Dept. of Folklore, Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Khartoum, p. 53 

[7] Ḍarīrah is milled sandal wood soaked in oil perfume and scattered on the groom's head

[8] A pink silk band tied as a bracelet round the groom's wrist.

[9] 'Abd Allah al Ṭayib, ibid, p. 29

[10] 'Abd al Qādir Maḥmūd 'Abd Allah, al Lugha al Marawiya, Research Center, College of Arts, King Sa'ūd University (1986) p 9-10

[11] Aḥmad Ibn al Hāj Abū 'Ali, manuscript of "Kātib al Shūna fi Tārīkh al Salṭana al Sinnāriya wa al Idāra al Maṣriya, reviewed by al Shāṭir Buṣaili 'Abd al Jalīl, Cairo, 1961, p. 83.

[12]  Crowfoot J., W., Customs of the Rubāṭāb, "Sudan Notes and Records" Vol. 1, 1918

[13] Na'ūm Shugair, Jughrāfiyat wa tārīkh al Sudān, Dār al Thagāfa, Beirut, 1972, chapter 2, p 240 - 478

[14] Amal 'Umar Abu Zaid, ibid, p. 50

[15] 'Abd Allah Ibn al Arbāb Ḥassan Ibn Shāwur, Wāḍiḥ al Bayān fi Mulūk al 'Arab bi al Sudān, manuscript No. MSc/20/23, National Reccords Office, Khartoum 

[16] See Muḥammad 'Abd Allah Abū Sabīb, Al Muṭrag ka 'Igd min al Ẓahab, Adawāt al Zīna 'Ind al Shāigīya wa Uṣūluha al Thagāfīya, Dirāsa fi al Jamālīya al Sha'bīya, 'Abd al Karīm Mirghani Cultural Center (no date), p. 62. See also Aḥmad al Amīn al Shaikh Muḥammad, manuscript of "Makhṭūṭ Kitāb Īgādh al Nās ila Sharaf bani al 'Abbās, Khartoum, 2010  

[17] Al Ṭayib Muḥammad al Ṭayib et al, al Turāth al Sha'bi li Gabīlat al Manāṣīr, Silsilat Dirāsāt fi al Turāth al Sudāni (8) Shu'bat Abḥāth al Sudān, Faculty of Arts, University of Khartoum, 1969, p. 7

[18] Aḥmad al Mu'taṣim al Shaikh, Mamlakat al Abwāb al Masīḥīya wa Zamān al 'Anaj, Sudan Studies Center, Cairo, 2002, p. 54

[19] Spaulding, Jay. The Heroic Age in Sinnār, African Studies Center, Michigan State University, USA, 1985, p. 196

[20] 'Umar Hāj al Zāki, Mamlakat Marawi, al Tārīkh wa al Haḍāra, sequel of Dam Execution Unit publications, release No. 7, 2005, p. 49

[21] Spaulding, Jay, ibid, p. 49

[22] James Alala Deng, al Turath al Sha'bi li Gabīlat al Shuluk, Sequel of studies about the Sudanese Popular Heritage, Dept. of Folklore, Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Khartoum, 2005, p. 119

[23] Vanessa, Jan, Oral Tradition as History, James Curry, London, 1985, p. 37

[24] 'Umar Ḥaj al Zāki, ibid, p. 47

[25]Al Ṣāḍig Muḥammad Sulaymān, al Ḥurūz fi al Sudān: Uṣūluhā wa wadhāifuhā wa aghrāḍuhā, MSc thesis, Dept. of Folklore, Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Khartoum, 1983, p. 198

[26]The researcher obtained the information about the newborn's alternating from Fāṭima Muḥammad al Ḥassan al Shaikh, a resident of Karma village in the Rubāṭāb region who was then about sixty years old and who experienced the custom in her own marriage proceedings. Her story was confirmed by other women in the area who also stated that the habit was until recently practiced by some families.  

[27] 'Afāf Sālim 'Ali Shalabi, 'Ᾱdāt wa Ṭuqūs al zawāj 'Ind al Ḥalfāwiyīn, MSc thesis, Institute of African and Asian Studies, 2003, p. 162

[28] Amal 'Uthmān Ḥāj Bilāl, Dawr al Maraa al Nūbīya fi Istimrāriyat wa taghayur Ṭuqūs Dawrat al Ḥayā fi Manṭiqat Dungula, MSc thesis, Institute of African and Asian Studies, 2003, p. 162

[29] Muḥammad Ibn 'Umar al Tūnusi, Tashḥīẓ al Aẓhān bi Sīrat Bilād al 'Arab wa al Sudān, reviewed by Dr. Khalīl Muḥammad 'Asākir & Dr. Mustafa Muḥammad Mus'ad, Cairo, 1965

[30] 'Abd al Qādir Muḥammad 'Abd al Qādir Dawra, Tārīkh Mamlakat Tagali al Islāmiya, Intishār Publishing Sequel, publication No. 32, General Corporation for Printing Publication and Distribution, Khartoum, second edition, 1999, p. 34  

[31] 'Aḥmad Ibn al Ḥaj Abū 'Ali, ibid, p. 83

[32] Wildung, D., Sudan Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile (1997), Munich

[33] Shinnie, P. L. Moroe, a Civilization of the Sudan, London, 1967

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