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Otoro Nuba Droe, Anj


The term Nuba refers to over 50 distinct ethnic groups residing in the Nuba Hills of what is now Sudan (Adem, 2019:1). Otoro refers to a particular Nuba tribe that occupies the Otoro Hills hill chain. This entry focuses on the Otoro Nuba during the 1930s, and relies primarily on ethnographic information from principal ethnographic authority Siegfried Frederick Nadel. Nadel conducted fieldwork with the Nuba from 1938-1941, during which time the region was under British control as part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. While the Otoro had come into contact with European cultures and the primarily Muslim and Arabic population of the surrounding area, European and Islamic influences on the Otoro at the time of Nadel’s fieldwork were limited. At this time, the Otoro lived in eight separate hill communities, each containing many homesteads or small villages. The Otoro were organized into 35 patrilineal and strictly exogamous clans, ranging in size from 20 to 130 families (Nadel, 1947:92). An age grade system was also utilized: at puberty, Otoro males were assigned to an age-based group and collectively underwent initiation rituals that created strong social bonds. At the time of Nadel’s writing, the Otoro were developing a system of chieftainship. Each hill of the Otoro Hills had a separate chief with the skills necessary to interact with external bureaucratic entities. Religious leaders included priests with various specialties, such as the rainmaker or the grain priest. The Otoro rituals and ceremonies centered largely around the agricultural calendar and the life cycle. Although not described in substantial ethnographic detail, supernatural beings were identified as being present in the form of previously human spirits. For the Otoro, religious beliefs were inseparable from almost all aspects of social and political life. Therefore, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with the society at large.

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