Antique Dinka Battle Shield – Mahdist War – South Sudan
Late 19th century. Leather, paint, wood. Cm. 112,0 x cm. 42,5.
The shield is in excellent general condition. Only a small hole in the center due to years and use.
The Dinka people are a Nilotic ethnic group native to South Sudan, but also having a sizable diaspora population. They mostly live along the Nile.
The Dinka mainly live on traditional agriculture and pastoralism, relying on cattle husbandry as a cultural pride, not for commercial profit or for meat, but cultural demonstrations, rituals, marriage dowries and milk feedings for all ages.
The Dinka people have no centralised political authority, instead comprising many independent but interlinked clans. Some of those clans traditionally provide ritual chiefs, known as the “masters of the fishing spear” or beny bith, who provide leadership for the entire people and appear to be at least in part hereditary.
The Mahdist War was a war of the late 19th century between the Mahdist Sudanese of the religious leader Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah, who had proclaimed himself the “Mahdi” of Islam (the “Guided One”), and the forces of the Khedivate of Egypt, initially, and later the forces of Britain. Eighteen years of war resulted in the nominally joint-rule state of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1899–1956), a de jure condominium of the British Empire and the Kingdom of Egypt in which Britain had de facto control over the Sudan. The Sudanese launched several unsuccessful invasions of their neighbours, expanding the scale of the conflict to include not only Britain and Egypt but the Italian Empire, the Congo Free State and the Ethiopian Empire.
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