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Sudan / Peoples /
Other name: Jieng

People living in southern Sudan, in the savanna surrounding the swamps of the Nile basin, with a population of about 3 million (2002 estimate). The 1956 census established their number at 1,200,000, a time when the Sudanese population was 27% of the 2002 population (10 million to 37 million).
The Dinka are ethnically divided into a large number of subgroups, almost all being small and knit to tribes and extended families, sizing from 1,000 to 30,000 individuals. The small groups represent political units, and enjoy a great degree of autonomy. Their language belongs to the Nilo-Saharan family, and has many similarities with Nuer. Although their language is considered the main one, it has many dialects from region to region.
The Dinka are pastoralists, nomadic in the dry period from December to April. In the period where they return to permanent settlements, the Dinka grow crops, of which millet is the main produce.
Religion and tribal leadership are closely connected with the Dinka. Their principal god is called Nhial, while ancestral spirits are considered closer to ordinary people and their daily needs. Sacrifices are central to their communities, and occur both as large annual rituals, rituals connected to individual changes from one position in society to another, and rituals dealing with difficult situations.

By Tore Kjeilen