From the Mound of the People: Part IV

Silence fell over the room.

“With the lack of technology invented in my day and my youthful ignorance, I assumed that since I was black and since our skin tones resembled that I would be welcomed back to the mother country with celebration. Ha, I was a leper when I arrived.  However, I had travelled to the South and once I began advocating for their rights I became popular despite their unease.  I made a few friends that I want to introduce you to.  They could give great insight on the southern Sudanese life.

“Anyway, after I became popular I moved to the north to advocate a bit more vehemently.  I admit I was something of a wild one back then.  I dressed in long length Arabic garb that I ripped and tore.  I knew they treasured their dress and I was making a mockery of it.  It was a small riot, including only the small number of friends I’d acquired but it was still significant.

“I began to do more dangerous protests, really foolhardy things that you aren’t allowed to do.  I would directly provoke northern officials.  I made many recordings documenting the injustices towards the southern Sudanese.  I would play the tapes loudly, walking down the streets of northern Sudan.  I was involved in some riots, usually very small-scale and mostly provoked by the northerners.  I advocated passive aggressive attacks.  I wouldn’t initiate violence, but I would reciprocate violence aimed at me. This is foolish, and landed me in prison  few times. I was starved during this time, not allowed to bathe or use the restroom.  I would spend months in a dark room surrounded by my own waste, and then I would be transferred to do hard labor in the sun.  However, I never stopped, I actually reveled in the pain.  I suppose I felt more accomplished that way. I certainly gave my parents a scare, anyway.

“But don’t you see students this is the experience that I want you to have.  You need to know that anthropologically speaking, being directly involved helps you understand.  You never know a people, unless you are the people.  Even as you look about the room and notice the excruciating fear and anxiety you don’t know the cause.  If nothing else, I will ensure that when you leave here, you will understand that you aren’t looking for the effects of the war. You are looking for the cause for each person and you are analyzing that fear, anxiety, or hatred and relating it to history. Because everything that happened here, has happened before somewhere else, so why does history repeat itself? Why do humans cause pain? Why do the northerners consider the southerners inferior? Why was British colonization able to fester hatred in a people? Whose fault is that? These questions will cause pain.  They will excite anger. They will entice anxiety. But these are the questions you need to ask. These are the emotions you are going to study, dissect, examine, facilitate, and then—when anthropology stops being a profession and becomes a passion—change. ” Mr. Knightly  reverently looked at the sky as if the answers to his questions were hidden among the stars.

When he finally settled, he looked about to find that his class was asleep.  A small smile formed on his lips as he watched young innocent faces snore and dream.  He found their innocence amusing.   They didn’t yet understand his passions.  Of course they all had the passion for the field, but yet none of them had or even understood the passion for the art.  In time they would understand; ignorant bliss would leave them and they would dream of nothing but history.  But for now he would have to settle for this small group of ignorant youngsters who could only see what was in front of them.  He’d often mentioned to them that they needed to read between the lines.

Gathering his thoughts, he took Harlow’s blanket from her bag and settled it around her shoulders.  She wrinkled her nose and then snuggled into the warmth.  He sighed and then went to the back room seeking the comfort of his small bunk bed, tracing lines of anxiety on the walls as he went.

Harlow opened her eyes and looked at the place her step-father had disappeared from.  She stared a long time, fingering the infant’s bone in her pocket all the while. Her eyes fluttered closed and she began to dream about the horrors of the war.

From the Mound of the People: Part III

“Tomorrow the president wants to meet up with you  to give his appreciation.  His wife will also be present with some of her friends.  They are going to be presenting the official fashion of Northern Sudan.  While we are here, we will be dividing the semester into two segments: the north and the south.  Both of these areas are very different from the other, and were affected differently by the war. Your dissertation should reflect the difference.”  Mr. Knightly said serving his kids dinner.  They sat at the table, quietly.  Harlow was usually a very talkative person, but she was quiet also.  He assumed it was the depression of the house.

“Harlow, how was the dig site?” He asked with only mild curiosity.  She gave a grimace and sighed, “We were late so we had to catalogue.” Her tone belied her feelings for the task.

“Will we be allowed interaction time tomorrow?” She asked.  He noticed that Mateo and Chenoa had turned towards Harlow with identical expressions of questioning.

“Yes, but it comes with limitations.  You are not allowed to pass Northern borders until we visit the president. If you decide to leave this facility you do it only if I have prior knowledge and a fellow student is accompanying you. If it is not yours, do not touch it.  You may ask questions and inquire, but do not provoke the locals. It is paramount that you hold yourself to the highest degree of maturity, have I made myself clear?”

He received a few nods and looks of understanding. Exasperated with the silence, he begins to eat.

“Mr. Knightly, tell us about the war again.”  Mateo suggested, like him, also uncomfortable with the silence. “Of course, are there any opposed to hearing it?” There was silence. “Okay, then lets take our food to the main room.”

After the kids had shuffled to the main room and settled down on the floor, he began his tale of the Sudanese Civil War.

“As you know there were two civil wars, the first being the cause for the second.  The first Civil war was mainly due to the Sudanese government periphery. Most believe the two main problems were racial or religious: the first being the Arabs versus the Africans and the latter being Muslims versus Christians. However, truthfully, the problem runs a lot deeper than that.  When the British colonized Sudan, they administered rule to the North and South separately. However, then they pressured the northerners to integrate, which cause conflict. The northerners took over the southerners, and the southern élite was considered insignificant under the northern élite who took all control of governmental administration.  When the British sought Sudanese Independence they failed to recognize the needs of the south.  The First Civil War really started when Christian missionaries were expelled from the country and Christian schools were closed.  The government attacked Southern protesters, which resulted in sporadic fighting and mutiny and the beginning of the Civil War. This war ended with the Addis Ababa Agreement, which, unfortunately, gave the South religious and cultural sovereignty.

“The violation of this agreement was a direct cause to the most recent, Second Civil War.  An indirect cause was that the north wanted to take control of the oil fields that reside in the south.  The south, naturally wanted to maintain control of this oil because they understood its significance.  Oil revenues made up more than half of Sudan’s export earnings. When Nimeiry, the Sudanese President at the time, tried to take control of the oil fields surrounding the north-south border he violated the Addis Ababa Agreement. This combined with the north’s previous hate for the agreement in itself led to the northerner’s pride mounting.  Another contributor was the president naming Sudan an Islamic state.  This led to protest against the central government.  Protesters argued that the central government was creating policies that caused disintegration.”

“Well they were, I mean to think to separate a group based on where they lived or their religion.  It always ceases to amaze the true stupidity of human beings.  Though God made us in his image, he sure didn’t give us his great mind.” Tiffany, a popularly devout Christian, exclaimed in a huff.  He smiled over her small tantrum and watched as the rest of the students laughed.

“When a new government came to power, the Sadiq al-Mahdi government, they worked to appease the Sudan’s People Liberation Army who was one of the main protesters against the central government. This is about the time I arrived in Sudan.  If you had been here the anxiety could have killed you.  I remember when John Gerang and the Sudanese political parties met to pass the Koka Dam.  Does anyone remember what this is?”

A blond-bobbed girl raised her hand. “It’s the declaration that abolished Islāmic law.” Mr. Knightly nodded and continued.

“To sum up the fact, basically the government was a disaster.  People tried and succeeded on forming a new government, which led to confusion and chaos. When I had first come I was surprised by the primitive conditions the Sudanese government was in.  Of course my situation wasn’t much better.  I ate Fuul everyday and every meal. I had decided before coming that I wanted to experience Sudan fully so I came without anything but a few pairs of clothes and some hygienic products.”

“No food?” Mateo asked.  Mr. Knightly shook his head and gazed straight ahead.  “If I had brought food I wouldn’t have experienced Sudanese food.  I made myself dependent upon the food, so that my taste buds wouldn’t be so quick to reject…I promise you, when you are hungry, you are willing to eat anything.  Why in the climax of the war when some would run out of food they would find other things to eat.  During most wars dirt, animal feces, and  cannibalism are the major supplements, though in this case cannibalism was very rare, I am sure it occurred.”

“Naw…ain’t gonna happen. I’d give killing myself a few good tries.” Mateo drawled.

“That’s just ignorant. Killing yourself because you have to eat feces?” Thomas argued.

Mateo snorted. “Better than death by feces.”

The students who had listened laughed, others had started side conversations.

“You told us before that they didn’t accept you.” Harlow prodded so he’d continue.

“Ah, Yes!” Silence fell over the room.