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Social Geographical Survey of Dar al-Manasir

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تاريخ التسجيل : 25/03/2010
الموقع : http://almanasirnew.my-rpg.com/

Social Geographical Survey of Dar al-Manasir

مُساهمة  ابوحسين في الجمعة فبراير 18, 2011 4:16 pm

Social Geographical Survey of Dar al-Manasir
by David Haberlah
Introduction
The research presented in the lecture has been conducted during the first half year of 2005 as a subproject of the "Humboldt-University Nubian Expedition" (H.U.N.E.) of the "Seminar of Archaeology and Cultural Studies in North-Eastern Africa". The aim of this project has been to document the cultural landscape and local material and non-material traditions of the Manasir tribe (ريصانملا) in Northern Sudan. Since their homeland Dar al-Manasir (ريصانملا راد) is located at the area of the Fourth Nile Cataract it will be submerged by the reservoir lake of the Merowe High Dam (Hamdab Reservoir, نازخ بادماحلا) in the near future. The construction of the dam causes the flooding of a 170 km long stretch of riverbanks along the Nile, including many islands and most Manasir villages and agricultural land. About 60.000 residents, mostly of the Manasir tribe, will be relocated to distant areas (cf. Al-HAKEM 1993, LAGNAH 2005).
The traditional ways of cultivation, cultural life and many traditions of the Manasir are inseparably connected to the riverine landscape of the Fourth Cataract with its arid climate and the remoteness of its many small islands with their specific settlement patterns. All these factors will change drastically once the Manasir people have to leave their homeland towards an uncertain future. It is to be expected that their unique way of life and culture will transform and adapt to the new realities and surroundings and that during this process traditional knowledge and skills are going to be lost.
In order to at least document the present culture of the Manasir and preserve some knowledge and memories from the unique cultural landscape of Dar al-Manasir there is an urgent need of anthropological research and programs of cultural preservation. H.U.N.E., otherwise responsible for salvage archaeology, responded to this task by carrying out the mentioned social geographical subproject dealing with aspects described in the following lecture. The research has been conducted by David Haberlah and Jutta von dem Bussche, joining the archaeologists' team headed by Prof. Dr. phil. Claudia Näser during their field work in February and March 2005. The project was financed by the "Programm Kulturerhalt" of the German Department of Foreign Affairs as a contribution to the preservation of the culture of the Manasir. The research concentrated on the concession area of H.U.N.E. which is situated in the heart of the Manasir Country including the left bank of the Nile between the village of Salamat (تاملس) and Gebel Musa (ىسوم لبج), and the four major islands of Us (زوا), Sur (روس), Sherari (يررش) und Shiri (شيير).
Land classification
When approaching Dar al-Manasir from the surrounding deserts, the most striking feature of the landscape is the sudden green narrow band of palm trees lining the shores of the Nile. This strip of land is called Ashu (وشأ), and is generally not more than 20 m wide. Itis situated between the seasonally inundated land of the river bank called Gerif (فرج) and the traditional "waterwheel land" called Saqiah (ةيقاس), (cf. SALIH 1999:99). Nowadays irrigation water is provided by diesel water pumps (cf. BECK 2001).
Date palm trees and Doum palms (Hyphaene thebaica) are perfectly adapted to the regional climate of Dar al-Manasir. They are drought resistant and can withstand the exceptionally hot dry and rainless summers and cold dry winters. The proximity of Ashu land to the river Nile makes the water table accessible to the deeply penetrating roots of fully grown palm trees throughout the year, making it the most valuable class of land (cf. LEACH 1919:101, SALIH 1999:47, 99). Since dates constitute the most relevant cash crop in Dar al-Manasir their cultivation is not limited to Ashu land only, but expands along the irrigation channels of the Saqiah land. During recent years date trees even substitute seasonally irrigated crops such as wheat, beans and okra on the traditional Saqiah land.
Date Cultivation in Dar al-Manasir
Sudan is among the countries that produce good quality dates. Date trees are cultivated from the Egyptian border in the North all the way along the Nile south of Khartoum until Sennar. Bilad al-Mahas, Sukut, Dongola, Dar al-Shaiqiyah, Dar al-Manasir, Dar al-Rubatab and the areas around Bauqah and Berber along the Nile boast extensive date groves. In each date growing region a particular composition of palm tree varieties, including endemic species, are grown (cf. YUSIF 1995:273-274). During the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1955), Dar al-Manasir had been described as the southernmost limit of date cultivation in the Sudan (cf. JACKSON 1926:Cool.
Propagation of date trees
In order to multiply the number of fruit-bearing trees traditional offshoot propagation is practised all along the Nile in Sudan. Lower offshoots called Shatla (لاتش) develop from axillary buds at the lower trunk of a parent palm and are cut off during early spring season. A well chosen offshoot will not only guaranty a female fruit bearing palm tree but also inherit the same qualities of its mother plant (cf. ZAID 2002). The date trees in the region of the Fourth Cataract attain an age of up to 150 years and consist most often of multiple shoots from a single clump called Bu'rah or Hufrah (ةرؤب or ةرفح), (cf. LEACH 1919:102). Satisfactory date production ceases with an age of 90 to 100 years. With increasing age and height the palm tree becomes more difficult to climb in order to be pollinated and harvested.
Pollination of date trees
Pollination of the female fruits is conducted in late February and beginning of March which is, according to the Coptic calendar still used for agricultural purposes by the Manasir, the end of the month Amshir (cf. SALIH 1999:162). During this season the stout male spathes split and their inflorescences reach maturity. Fresh strands of flowers are carefully picked out of the male clusters and packaged to strands of two called Rabetah Qaru'ah (ةعرق ةطبر). The Manasir consider the variety of a potent male seedling irrelevant and pollinate all their female inflorescences from the same male tree. The process ofpollination is called Qaffes (زّفق) and can be carried out by any person physically able to climb the palm tree. In each spathe of female inflorescence about 8-15 packages are tucked between the fruit bearing spikelets. An adult female palm produces around 15 to 25 spathes, each spathe containing 150 to 200 date bearing spikelets (cf. ZAID 2002).
Stages of growth
Dates have to pass five stages of growth before developing into ripe fruits (Timar, رامت) that are harvested in August and September:
1) Tamim (ميمت): During the first 15 days up to one month the emerging fruits are of no use.
2) Dafiq (قيفد): The subsequent green stage lasts for about 2 ½ months and the growing fruits are still bitter. Depending on the variety a certain ratio of the fruits falls off prematurely. These green dates are fed to the livestock.
3) 'Aifanunah (ةنونفيع): This interval lasts in-between 10 and 15 days during which the fruits acquire their sweetness. Children will start eating fruits that are about to fall off.
4) Safuri (يروفص): During the following month the maturing fruits don't fall off easily anymore. Some date varieties can already be harvested.
5) Umm Ra's (سأر مأ): This final stage of ripening is also called Rutab (بتر). The fruits are turning brown from their end towards the perianth. The Manasir never cut the whole fruit bunch called Shakhlub (بولخش) but only single spikelets, with the result of thinning out the clusters and letting the remaining fruits gain in size.
Harvest of dates
Once a date tree is successfully planted it constitutes an economic plant returning good yearly yields for little labour. A mature date tree supplied with sufficient water and natural fertilizer (Sibalah, ةلابز) will produce in-between two and three sacks (Shawal, لاوش) each about 75 kilos (1 Shawal = 15 Ruba' = 123.75 litres, cf. CORKILL 1948:126). The exact amount depends strongly on the date variety, the specific growing conditions and age of the palm tree. SALIH who surveyed the region in 1995 reports an average ownership of 26 date trees per household, producing approximately 900 kg annually (1999:48).
Traditionally the harvest is stored in old water jars (Zir, ريز or Gerr, ّرج) that are preparatorily lined with ash. A further layer of ash on top seals it and protects the fruits from maggots (Sus, سوس).
[Information by 'Abdallah Ahmad al-Hassan Abu Qurun from Mideimir ( نسحلا دمحأ للهادبعرميدم نم نورق وبأ) and 'Abd al-Hafidh from Al-Dum (مودلا نم ظيفحلا دبع ,يررش) on Sherari Island]
Cultural relevance of dates and related traditions
Each farming household in Dar al-Manasir owns or at least shares a number of date trees (cf. SALIH 1999:47-48). They are a viable source of income and nutrition.
Date and Doum palms are not only important because of their edible fruits. The by-products of these trees make up the essential raw material for locally produced tools and handicrafts.productive date trees will be lost in the course of flooding the reservoir lake. The information brochure of the Manasir Committee (LAGNAH 2005:6) is speaking of 250000 productive and 300000 male or not yet fruit-bearing date trees in the year 2003 ( ماع ىف رمثملا ليخنلا ريدقت2003م =250000 ماع ىف رمثم ريغلا ليخنلا ريدقت و ابيرقت ةلخن 2003م =300000 ابيرقت ةلخن).
In spring 2005 there still has not been any reliable information and therefore much confusion among the local population on the matter of which palm trees (depending on the status of land, age of trees and amount of taxes previously paid) are eventually going to be compensated and for how much. Apart from the monetary compensation, each 120 date trees on private property are supposedly to be compensated with one Feddan (0.47 ha) of land in the new relocation areas (cf. BECK 1997:84).
Since the local peasants are still kept unclear about the actual level of the reservoir lake and its consequences for the Nile water regime and the banks of the artificial lake, many nourish hopes to be able to continue living and cultivating their homeland. As a consequence only months ahead of forced resettlement new shoots of date trees are transplanted to higher areas and irrigated with much effort.
Even in the unlikely case of a reasonable monetary compensation, the loss of their date trees would pose a hardship especially for the older Manasir, who laboriously cultivated these trees to be able to live from their harvest in their old age when they can't work in the agriculture anymore (cf. BECK 1997:85).
Date varieties
The Manasir are renown all throughout the Sudan for cultivating a wide range of date palm trees. Any small farming household tends to grow a variety of dates in order to be less vulnerable both to annually changing market prices and diseases affecting only specific types (cf. LEACH 1919:104, SALIH 1999:260).
The people are very proud of the taste, sweetness and nourishing merits of their dates and believe that theses originate from their rocky land containing special minerals (cf. SALIH 1999:48). The dates from Dar al-Manasir compare well with dates of other regions in Sudan, although earlier reports qualify them as being of inferior quality not fetching the market price of fruits from (Old) Halfa and Dongola (cf. JACKSON 1926:Cool.
Date varieties and the average wholesale price during the harvest season 2004:
(Sudanese Dinar per sack [Shawal, لاوش – at about 75kg; 1 Shawal = 15 Rub' (عبر) = 123.75 litres, cf. CORKILL 1948:126]):
Wad Laqai
(ياقل دو)
SD 6000
Wad Khatib
(بيتخ دو)
SD 5000
Barakawi
(يواآرب)
SD 7500-8000
'Abid Rahim
(ميحر دبع)
SD 7500-8000
Bur
(روب)
SD 6000
Bireir
(ريرب)
SD 6000
Qundeil
(ليدنق)
SD 7500-8000 SD
Bit Tamudhah
(ةضومت تب)
SD 6500Gau
(واج)
SD 4500-5000
[prices reported by Al-Tayib Babikir Ahmad Muhammad from Mideimir (بّيطلا دمحأ ركبابنم دّمحم رميدم), local peasant who studied agriculture in Halfah al-Gadidah.)
Meals and beverages from dates
The date fruit is nutritious, sweet and can easily be stored all year long. The Manasir believe that human beings can survive for years if they just have enough dates and water (cf. SALIH 1999:47). The Bedouin Manasir alternatively call dates al-Zad al-negidh ( دازلاضيجنلا) with the meaning of "the 'real' food for travelling"
Dry dates are washed, moistened in water and offered in-between and following the two daily meals. Date fruits constitute the traditional substitute for sugar and are consumed with tea.
The Manasir kitchen also uses dates for the following dishes:
- Madidah Balah (حلب ةديدم) is a date pudding. The dates are boiled until they thicken and subsequently are let to cool. Butter can be added on top.
- Kurasah al-Balah (حلبلا ةسارآ) is a simple dish that consists of the traditional fresh bread called Kurasah topped with small pieces of dates. It can be kept for a few days and is used by the Bedouin Manasir as a sweat bread for travel.
- Barbur (روبرب) is the traditional diet for women during the first three days after having given birth. No other meals are allowed in order to "let the blood out". Pieces of dried dates are boiled in water until they develop a consistency between pudding and soup.
During festivals alcoholic beverages made from dates have been consumed traditionally:
- Sharbut (توبرش) is a common date wine. The dates are soaked in water and are fermented in a closed up Zir for three to fifteen days.
- Nabid (ديبن): The Nabid is a stronger variety of Sharbut. A handful of sorghum grains that have just reached the stage of sprouting are dried in the sun and added to the young Sharbut as a substitute for yeast.
- Baqaniah (ةينقب) is a date beer. Small dried sprouting seeds of sorghum are mixed with dates and are laid out on a watered Birsh. After a couple of days the Birsh is strained and the resulting liquid is cooled in a Zir. The drink is considered hilal (للاح) and given to ailing old people.
[information by 'Abdallah Ahmad al-Hassan Abu Qurun from Mideimir ( نسحلا دمحأ للهادبعرميدم نم نورق وبأ) and Muhammad al-Mansuri from Al-'Atamanin on Shiri Island ( دّمحميرش يف نينامطعلا نم يروصناملا)]
Material Culture of the Manasir
The material culture of the Manasir is very basic primarily relying on the by-products of palm tree cultivation. Date trees not only constitute the main source of income and an important supply of nutrition in Dar al-Manasir, but the Manasir also make intelligent use off all different parts of the palm tree. They are producing diverse household items, toolsfor the daily garden work and building material for their traditional mud houses (Galus, صولاج) from it.
The following account lists the different raw materials and the various products manufactured from them:
Garidah (ةديرج)
Garidah is the midrib part of the palm leave. In order to be used as a raw material the Garidah is stripped of its leaflets and spikes and its broad petiole is removed. Garidat are an esteemed raw material for the production of robust containers and furniture.
The Manasir use it to manufacture small boxes (Sunduq, قضنص) in which they carry vegetables to the weekly market at Suq Salamat (تاملس قوس).
Additionally, Garidat are a good fencing material used for making small hutches called Qafas (صفق) to protect the chicken against wild animals. The Manasir also use it as roofing material to thatch their traditional mud houses.
Sa'fah (ةفعس)
Sa'fat are the leaflets of palm leaves and the most important raw material for a variety of household items and baskets for the garden work.
Household items of particular cultural and practical significance are woven mats called Burush (sing. Birsh, شرب).
Mats that are called Segagah (ةجاجس) are two ells wide and are laid out on the traditional beds called 'Anqarib (بيرقنع). A plain uncoloured Segagah is kept aside in every household to be used for washing and carrying the body of a deceased.
A second type of Segagah is dyed in different colours and laid out by the bride groom during bridal night and further marriage festivities. It is reused for the period of forty days (عبر) after a woman has given birth and during which she is not supposed to leave the house.
A different kind of Birsh can be found in many households and in community places such as the guest house (Madeifah, ةفيضم) of the village. It is four ells long, and will be rolled out on the floor during banquets or for prayer and is called Birsh Ruba'i (يعابر شرب).
The best Burush are woven from the leaves of Mishriq palm trees, prominent for their soft and flexible leaflets, although leaflets of other varieties are added for higher durability. Old Burush are reused for mending holes in the ceiling or for supporting small window openings in the rooms.
Another very specific mat has a circular shape with a central hole the size of a head. It is called Nutu' (عطن). Once a week most Manasir women apply a "smoke mask" called Dukhan (ناّخد) to their face and body. They burn the wood of Acacia seyal (Talh; حلط) in the kitchen hearth or a buried earthen pot in the courtyard. When the burning wood starts to produce smoke the woman will place herself on the Nutu' above the hole, covered by a big piece of coarse fabric and fumigate parts of her body until the upper skin peels off. As a result of this weekly procedure the colour of her skin will appear more pale (cf. CROWFOOT 1918:127-128). The Dukhan can also be used for medical purposes burning additional wood of Acacia ehrenbergiana (Salam; ملس) and Balanites aegyptiaca (Higlig; جيلجح).One very common household item made from palm leaflets is the Mi'laq (قلاعم), also called Mishle'ib (بيعلشم). It is a simple loop big enough to hold a food container. It is made from two crossed straps of plaited palm leaflets. The Mi'laq is hanging freely from the ceiling, from wooden beams in the courtyard or in doorways. It is a simple and effective local utensil to protect small quantities of food from animals.
Another storage device made from palm leaflets is the Shedifah (ةفدش), a tightly plaited container for storing sorghum (Dhurah or 'Ayish, ةرذ or شّيع).
For their work on the fields the Manasir generally rely on a minimum of equipment.
The most important and much diversified objects are baskets made from palm leaflets. A multitude of different sizes with somehow similar shapes are in use, each type of basket meant for certain materials to be carried in.
The Quffah (ةّفق) is the most common basket and used for carrying dates and clothes.
The Kunshibr (ربشنوآ) is a slightly smaller basket in which earth (Turab, بارت) and manure (Maruq; قورام) are transported (cf. NICHOLLS 1918:24). A proper builder and cultivator (Turbal, لابرت – both working with mud and therefore not further distinguished by the Manasir) is expected to employ his own Kunshibr.
The Ghutaiah (ةياتغ) is another very common small basket used to carry dates and seeds. Its size is exactly defined, since this basket is used as a local measurement for sorghum. Ghutaiat are exceptionally tightly plaited from leaflets of Gau palm trees.
The Saqataiah (ةياتقس) is a multipurpose basket, its size in-between a Quffah and a Ghutaiah (ةياتغ اهلاو ةّفق اهلا ةياتقس).
Special baskets are used for mounting on animals. The Bedouin Manasir have large containers for transporting sorghum on the back of camels called Qalibah (ةبيلق).
A very particular funnellike basket is the Rahal (لحر). It is always used in pairs of two, attached to the sides of a donkey by placing a transverse wooden stick through their handles. Rahal are used to carry manure, mud or dates. The lower end of the funnel consists of a narrow hole (about 10 cm wide) that is plugged with a piece of cloth or Lif (فيل). In order to unload the cargo the plug is simply pulled out from below. Nowadays Rahal are mostly substituted by a combined pair of reworked plastic sacks of wheat.
Other items plaited from palm leaflets are the Tabaq (قبط), a flat tray for winnowing wheat and sorghum during the threshing process and a small fan called Hebabah (ةبابه), for heating the coal during the preparation of the traditional coffee (Gabenah, ةنبج).
Lif (فيل) or Ashmiq (قيمشأ)
The connective tissue between young fronds, which eventually develops into a dried brown vascular bundle of rough fibre, attached to the lower edges of the midribs ensheathing the trunk, makes up a very durable tough fibre (cf. ZAID 2002).
Lif can be woven to different strengths of ropes called Hibal (sing. Hibl, لبح). Ropes are used for the handles of baskets, the bridles for donkeys and camels, for carrying water containers attached to a stick and to string the frames of the traditional beds.
Lif, preferably from Gau date trees is also used as a soft but durable filling material called Lihaf (فاحل). Among the older Manasir Lihaf is preferred to cotton for filling mattresses and considered very healthy.
Lif is further employed to fill of the lower parts of donkey saddles in order to prevent sores by friction and called Libdah (ةدبل) or Bedidah (ةديدب – the "ة" can be substituted by a"ى"). The Bedouin Manasir employ Lif for the same purpose in their camel saddles and call it Tillah (ةّلت).
Lif further plays an important role in the Sudanese coffee tradition as the straining plug Lifei (يفيل) in the spout of the Gabenah.
Sabitah (ةطيبس)
The fruit bunch of the female palm tree is also called Shakhlub (بولخش) and consists of a central stem and about 100 to 150 strands of spikelets.
The whole cluster can be used as a broom to sweep the ground whereby it is called Hanquqah (ةقوقنح).
But also some of the finest basketry of the region is created by wrapping palm leaflets, preferably of the Dum palm around a strand of spikelets. The resulting strand is spirally plaited to dishes. They are either used as a Kabbet (تّبآ) for covering meals or the earthen water containers (Zir, ريز), or as a Tabaq (قبط) in the shape of flat bowl for serving the traditional Kisrah bread (ةرسآ) on special occasions. The central part of Tabaqat can be worked from leather. Straps of cloth or plastic may be added to the leaflets in order to make the work more colourful and water resistant.
Other raw materials
Apart from the listed by-products of palm trees, wood of other trees and the leather of the animals are used by the Manasir to manufacture tools and household items.
The finest but rarely found handicraft of the region are big bowls (Tabaq, قبط), skilfully crafted out of the soft wood of Faidherbia albida (Haraz, زارح). Haraz wood is also used for the lower parts of donkey saddles. Nowadays the practise of fine wood carving has declined rapidly, one reason being the shortage of the particularly suitable Haraz tree.
The most common agricultural tools in Dar al-Manasir are the Turiah (ةيروط), a hoe with an angular blade that proves very functional in opening and closing irrigation channels, and a small sawed sickle. Whereas the blade of the Turiah is bought from outside and often even imported from China, all wooden handles are locally produced.
A different local impediment entirely manufactured from wood is the rake-like Arbil (ليبرا) used for levelling the ground.
Very popular among the Bedouin Manasir is the Qirbah (ةبرق), a hose made from the entire skin of a goat. Filled with a liquid it becomes moist and flexible. The Qirbah is hung in a shady windy place, either from the ceiling, a beam or on a wooden tripod. Due to constant evaporation its content is cooled down considerably. The riverain Manasir employ the Qirbah primarily for cooling fermented milk since their water is cooled in huge permeable earthen jars called Zir (ريز). These jars are placed in the shadow of a tree or lined up in a row in isolated covered mud structures called Mazirah (ةريزم).
[Information by 'Abdallah Ahmad al-Hassan Abu Qurun from Mideimir ( نسحلا دمحأ للهادبعرميدم نم نورق وبأ) on the western bank of the Nile, Halimah Hassan al-'Aqib from Khaliwah ( بيقعلا نسح ةميلحروس يف ةويلخ نم) and Al-Tahir 'Uthman al-Tahir from Musari' (روس يف عرازم نم ريهاطلا نامثع ريهاطلا) on Sur Island]Architecture and Settlement Patterns in Dar al-Manasir
The arid climatic conditions and the abundance of alluvial clay throughout Dar al-Manasir are a perfect supposition for developing a tradition of mud house architecture (Galus, صولاج). The Manasir are renowned for their skills of building mud houses all over Sudan (cf. SALIH 1999:152).
An intensive case study in the village Atoyah (يوطعة) on Sherari Island has been carried out resulting in detailed information about the development of architectural styles and functional demands of single buildings and settlement patterns in Dar al-Manasir during the last six generations (cf. HABERLAH & VON DEM BUSSCHE 2005).
Non-material culture in Dar al-Manasir
In order to understand how the Manasir perceive themselves, their history and homeland, it is important to understand and document their non-material culture. Young men are fond of singing local songs accompanied by the Tambur whereas older Manasir recite poetry and narrate legends of the region.
Poetry by Ibrahim 'Ali Salman
Ibrahim 'Ali Salman ( ناملس يلع ميهاربإ) is the most famous contemporary poet of the Arab Manasir who inhabit the area of the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in Northern Sudan. He is referred to by the Manasir simply as "Ibrahim the poet" (رئاشلا ميهاربإ ).
Ibrahim 'Ali Salman was born in 1937 as the youngest son of his father "The poet 'Ali" (al-Sha'ir 'Ali, يلع رئاشلا). Ibrahim died on the 30th March in 1995.
The poetry about his homeland Dar al-Manasir and the ongoing issue of the relocation of his tribe as a result of the Hamdab High Dam project is written in the Colloquial Arab language of the Manasir.
The poems of Ibrahim al-Sha'ir had been collected and compiled by his former student al-Nadhir Tag al-Sirr al-Bashir ( ريشبلا رسلا جات ريذنلا ), currently working as a teacher in the elementary school on Sherari Island. Al-Bashir made his copy of the collection called "The Genius Diwan of the Manasir" (ريصانملا ةيرقبع ناويد) available to the Humboldt-University Nubian Expedition allowing them to digitalize, translate and publish the document (cf. BASHIR 1997) in order to reach a wider audience. The compilation comprises the poet life’s work and is called "The Genius Diwan of the Manasir" ( ناويدريصانملا ةيرقبع). It probably is the only literary document from within Dar al-Manasir.
With the help of Sudanese Prof. Khidir A. Ahmed from the University of Neelein, Faculty of Arts (Dep. of History) and Abu Bakr Hamza Mohammad al-Sha'iri ( ةزمه ركب وبأيرعاشلا دّمحم) from Siwa in Egypt, the following most relevant poems have been translated into English so as to allow an insight into the rare material.
The following poems are representing the affection Manasir people are showing for their homeland. The first poem has been written by Ibrahim while being on temporary work migration, a common step in the life of young male Manasir (cf. BECK 1999):One day in the evening Ibrahim went home from the Sudanese Club [in Libya] after his fellow expatriates left him. He started to remember his friend Bashir 'Umer and wrote the following lines:
ريشبلا يقيدص ترآذت ًاديحو تللظو يتوخأ ينقراف نأ دعبو ينادوسلا يدانلا تايبلأا هذه تناكف:
Oh Bashir I am tied down here
ديق لبطنا يف ريشبلا اي
Allah decided on his will
ديري اميف للها رداقو
Our people used to travel to Upper Egypt
ديعصلل رفست ليبق سانلا
We brought a mechanic who took apart everything
انبلق ريط ديدحلاب قيدص انبج
We brought another one for the spare parts
انبلج ريبسلأاب وضرب حاتف انبجو
Every morning anew we would ride and row to 'Uthman
بآر نامثع يل ةبقعلاب ديدج ًاحبص لآنا
And from the weight of our load we’d become tired
انبعت كتيلاوش ةرتآ نمو
We have changed each and every single part of you
انبج ةرايغ ةبمرطلا دنع يل
We became like a donkey stuck in mud
انبركت ام دح ونيط يف رامحلاو
Oh Merciful Lord please relief us now
انبرد لدعت ميرآ اي بر اي
The credit from the bank is growing like long beans
يد لحنانبت هدعب نمو سدعلا ن
If we manage we shall never raise one again
نبلس ًاروباب ولامو انلاما
What is it with us and the Barbur stealing our money?
انبش يلاغلا وديدحو وزاج نم
Our hair turning grey from expensive Diesel and the iron parts
سآو منغلل عجرنانبطح ري
We should return to our animals, breaking firewood
انبنش ميربو انغلل عجرن لالو
Or else to singing and twirling our moustaches all day long
انبضآو انجيراخت يل عجرن لالاو
3
The river Nile is the source of life of the riverain tribe, constituting the sole supply of water both for consumption and irrigation. The following excerpt of a poem is a vivid description of the annual inundations of the Nile:
The waters turn red and cloudy
بركتاو رمح رحبلا
Its banks black like date molasses
سي وماده لاخبر يو
Its waves rising sounds of a Mismar
بلقج ةرامزلاب وجوم
Carrying with it stalks and driftwood
بطحلاو شقلا وهاعم باج
Returning quite with no more reason
ببسلا لطب نيآ عجر ماق
Becoming clean so that we can drink it
برشناو تفص وتيوم هباد


4
The Manasir have a precise idea of the borders of their homeland "Dar al-Manasir". Many features of the landscape are believed to have been important historical settings which are remembered through legends. The following poem by Ibrahim is a good example:
On one occasion Ibrahim blamed Qamr Suleiman, Sheikh of Birti, for asking Merowe to incorporate Birti into their administrative district for reason of its proximity in comparison to Abu Hammed. He was sending him the following Qasidah:
يلس رمق ىلا باتعو مول نام)يترب خيش ( ديري نيلوئسملل ًابلط مدق يذلا نم اهبرق ًلالعم يورم ةظفاحمل مامضنلاا هيف يبأ ةظفاحم عم تنروق اذإ يترب ةديصقلا هيلإ لسرأو رعاشلا ىلإ ربخلا لصوف هتيشاح نم ةرمز هعم ناآو دمح ةيلاتلا:
3 Barbur: four stroke single combustion diesel pump that revolutionized irrigation agriculture all along the Nile. The first such pump was introduced in Dar al-Manasir in 1955, the last traditional Saqiah operated until 1975 (cf. BECK 2001:69-70)
'Uthman: name of the only merchant of spare parts on Shiri Island at that time
4 Mismar: traditional single or double reed wind instrumentAnd not as remote as my own journey
ديعبلا هد انأ يرفس يز وه ام
Oh messenger hurry from me swiftly
رف ينم ريط ليسيرم اي
To a diminutive Sheikh called Qamr
رمق تخلا خيش يل حور
Tell him I have news about him
ربخ كنع لصاو ولوق
People say they are gypsies of King 'Awan
رجغ ناوع كلملا ولاق
The people of Hamadi and you people of Si Anwar
رونأ يس سانو يدامح سان
Did they divide the land of the sons of Qamr?
؟رمق دو راد مسقت اد
Our boundaries are known and rooted firmly
رزجنم فورعملا اهدح
From the time of our hero Nu'man
رغلأا نامعن نمز نم
Is it the devil appearing before us?
رهظي وباد ًاتيش وه ام
This talk is evil oh Qamr
رمق اي بعآ اد ملاكلا
Never to be expected from a Mansuri man
ركض ًايروصنم اشاح
To voluntarily join the Shaiqi Varans
ررولا يقياشلا ملب ام
After being king of the Nile
رحبلا قيقيش دعب نم
To become a yellow toothed crocodile
ا وبيان حاسمت ىقبيرفص
Your reputation will be looked down at
ردحتا سانلا وبوعمسيو
Remember the history and legacy around you
رثلأاو خيراتلا رآذأ
The war drums of the castle resounding
رقن رقيقلا يف ساحنلا
And men crouching in the trenches
رفحلا يف تدبل لاجرلاو
Your forefathers' horses went straight ahead
رفد وحراق قوفلا كدج
Sharpening their swords shouting "Allahu Akbar"
ربآأ للها هفيس لاسو
Moving the heart of the castle until it split
رسآ رقيقلا دبآ زه
Even when defeated keeping their reputation
اكنا هعمس تخرصتنا ام ن
But victory became their providence
ردقم بوتكم رصنلاو
Be strong like your tribe previous to you
رعو كلبقلا يز ىقبأ
Don't let the palm trees stand to your back
رخأم كلخن نوكي لا
And don't swim on top of an illusion
رشعلا فوط قوف موعت لاو
5
The Merowe High Dam and the issue of relocation are very much discussed by the Manasir, although until now they don't have much say in the final decisions. The following translations highlight the controversial views and fears:
The Hamdab High Dam has been a very old thought and the Manasir people have been saying that if it would ever become reality it would be similar to Judgement Day. The
5 Birti: Island and Sheikhdom in Dar al-Manasir, bordering the downstream Shaiqiyah Country
Merowe: big town and administrative centre in downstream Shaiqiyah country
King 'Awan: former legendary King of Merowe
Hamadi: Abu Hammed, not belonging to Dar al-Manasir
Si Anwar: ridicule address to Sheikh Qamr Suleiman
Nu'man: Nu'man Wad Qamr is the grandson of the legendary king al-Sukari. He was the leader of the Manasir in the al-Debbah Battle on 29/06/1884, where he died a hero despite their defeat against the Turko-Egyptian forces led by Abdel Qadir Basha (cf. AL-TAIYEB et al. 1969:7)
Shaiqi Varan: according to Manasir tradition female crocodiles carry their eggs to the river; the ones drifting upstream become crocodiles, the ones drifting downstream varans
yellow toothed crocodile: varans, metaphor for the downstream Shaiqiyah tribe
palm trees: according to Manasir tradition palm trees standing in sight are a sign of good luck and a donkey in front of anything is considered to be a good omen, having both of them to your back is considered bad luckMy situation becoming only more miserable
new government that came to power after the last revolution [1989] reintroduced the idea once more, referring to it as the "Star of opportunity for Sudan". The government started to survey the area, counting the concerned families and investigating possible relocation areas for the Manasir. There are some Manasir poets disagreeing with the whole project saying the dam should be build in another place. One of these poets is called Abu Hureiba and he recited the following verses:
املو ةمايقلا مويب همايق سانلا طبرف ةميدق هئاشنإ ةركف تناآ بادمحلا نازخ قرؤي ًاسجاه حبصأ ذاقنلإا ةروث تءاجن نوكت ىمظع ةدئاف نم هل امل اهلاب مج مداقلا نادوسلا دعس . ريصانملا ةليبقف ريجهتلا قطانم ديدحتو رسلأا رصح ناكف لق ةصاخ ايازم نم ةقطنملل امل هل ضفار وه ام انئارعش نمو ،كلذب ةينعملا يه ثيح ىرخأ ةقطنم يف دجوت نإ وبأ ءارعشلا ءلاؤه نم قلطلا ءاوهلاو نملأا لوقي يذلا ةبيرح:
Oh our Lord, please stop the dam!
نازخلا لطبت يبر اي
Holy Men read the Fatihah aloud
نأشلا لهأ اي ةحتافلا وليش
Saying: Allah, please prevent the dam!
نازخلا لطبي للها اولوق
Oh Khalwah of Shiri mother of the Qur'an
نآرق مأ يريش ةولخ اي
Always reciting for the troubled souls
ناريحلا يف يرقت ةميدو
There is blessing here from such a long time
نامز اهيل ةآربلا اهيف
A young person looking ahead for the future disagrees with him and says:
قرشملا دغلل علطتملا باشلا هيلع درف:
Oh our Lord, please bring us the dam!
يبر اينازخلا هد اوبيجت
We will mount the camels and move to prosperity
نارطب لامج قوف ددشنو
Our journey will open the door to the West
نابرغ باب انرفس ىقبيو
We will be living in Omdurman
نامرد ما يف انوكس ىقبيو
Feeding on the liver of young sheep
م لآانوناضلا هدبآ ن
6
6 Fatihah: (alt. al-Fatiha) the opening Surah of the Qur'an
Khalwah: Qur'an School, the only educational institutions in the area until 1946, the year the first primary school was established on Shiri Island (cf. AL-TAIYEB et al. 1969:4)
Omdurman: one of the three cities of Greater KhartoumReferences
AL-HAKEM, A.M.A. (1993): Merowe (Hamdab) High Dam and its impacts. In: Kush XVI. 25 p.
AL-TAIYEB, M.AL-T., SULEIMAN, 'A.AL-S. & SA'D, A. (1969): Al-Turath al-Sha'ibi li-Qabilah al-Manasir. Salsalah Dirasat fi al-Turath al-Sudani. Khartoum University Faculty of Adab, p.155
( دعس يلع و ناميلس ملاسلا دبع و بيطلا دمحم بيطلا)1969 Sadريصانملا ةليبقل يبعشلا ثارتلا . يف تاسارد ةلسلس ينادوسلا ثارتلا, موطرخلا ةعماج , بادلآا ةيلآ)
BASHIR, AL-N.T.AL-S. (ed.) (1997): Diwan 'Abqariah al-Manasir. Li-Ustadh Ibrahim 'Ali al-Sha'ir. pp.189
(ريشبلا رسلا جات ريذنلا)جدادعإو عم( ,)1997 Sadريصانملا ةيرقبع ناويد .رعاشلا يلع ميهاربإ ذاتسلأل)
BECK K. (1997): Wer kennt schon Hamdab? Ein Staudammvorhaben im Sudan. In: PÖRTGE, K.-H. (ed.): Forschungen im Sudan. Erfurter Geographische Studien, Bd.5. pp.79-88
BECK, K. (1999): Escaping from the narrow confines – Returning to tight communities. Manasir labour migration from the area of the Fourth Nile Cataract. In: HAHN, H.P. & G. SPITTLER (ed.): Afrika und die Globalisierung. pp. 201-211
BECK, K. (2001): Die Aneignung der Maschine. In: KOHL, K.-H. & N. SCHAFHAUSEN (ed.): New Heimat. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Frankfurter Kunstverein. pp. 66-77
CORKILL N.L. (1948): Weight equivalent of Sudan foods sold by measures of capacity. In: Sudan Notes and Records, Vol.29. pp.126-127
CROWFOOT, J. W. (1918): Customs of the Rubatab. In: Sudan Notes and Records, Vol.1. pp.119-134
INNES, N.MCL. (1930): The Monasir Country. In: Sudan Notes and Records, Vol.14. pp.185-191
JACKSON, H.C. (1926): A Trek in Abu Hamed District. In: Sudan Notes and Records, Vol.9 No.2. pp.1-35
LAGNAH AL-TANFIDHIYAH LIL-MUTA'THIRIN (2005): Khasan al-Hamdab wa Qissah Tahgir Ahali al-Manasir. pp.20
( نيرثأتملل ةيذيفنتلا ةنجللا)2005 Sadيجهت ةصق و بادماحلا نازخريصانملا يلاهأ ر)
LEACH, T.A. (1919): Date-trees in Halfa Province. In: Sudan Notes and Records, Vol.2. pp.98-104
NICHOLLS, W. (1918): The Sakia in Dongola Province. In: Sudan Notes and Records, Vol.1. pp.21-24
QASIM, 'A.AL-SH. (2002): Qamus al-Lahgah al-'Amiya fi al-Sudan. 3rd ed. p. 1076.
( مساق فيرشلا نوع)2002 Sadنادوسلا يف ةيماعلا ةجهللا سوماق .ةثلاثلا ةعبطلا .بتكلل ةينادوسلا رادلا)
SALIH, A.M. (1999): The Manasir of the northern Sudan: Land and people. A riverain society and resource scarcity. 282 p
YUSIF, A.A. (1995): "Al-Nakhil (First Part). Khartoum. 349 p
( فسوي دمحأ للهدبع)1995 Sad ليخنلا–موطرخلا ىلولأا ءزجلا )
ZAID, A. (ed.) (2002): Date palm cultivation. FAO plant production and protection paper 156, Rev. 1ديكنت هميد دياز يلاح
The food consists of macaroni and salted meat
ديدقو ةنوركم لكللا
And rain keeps falling down and snow
ديلجلاو لزان طقسلاو
My sleep is unstable and disturbed
ديمغ ولآ ليللاب يمونو
But the strangest thing will be the oncoming feast
ديعلا لصح نإ هبيجعلاو
The father of Sha'ib will feel so lonely
ديحو سانلا طسو بيعش بأ
Where is Shiri and where are the black people
ديبعلا سان نيو يريش نيو
Where is Bisawi with its pleasant breeze
ديه هماسنلا يوسب هنيو
Life does not work out the way you wish for
ديللاب يشمتب ام روملأا
My longing is satisfied not growing anymore
ديزب ام صقن عمطلاو
Exactly like the old poet was predicting
ديلتلا رعاشلا لاق ام يز
The service to serve your people is a challenge
ديقع سان ةمدخ مدخ نإ
And a man can't escape his destiny
ديسلا همساقلا توفتب ام
And fly but don't fly too far away
ديعص لا هريط رط ينات
Even if one would have to stay selling palm leaves
ديرجلا تعبو تدعق نإ
Or irrigate the middle of the desert during summer
ديوهلا يف فيصلا هتقس لالاو
It is all better than travelling so far away
ديعبلا رفسلا رفاسب ام
No money and no happy circumstances
ديعس ًلااح لا شورق لا
2
Another poem describes the initial hardships the Manasir faced at the time of the introduction of the diesel water pump (Barbur) during the sixties and seventies which revolutionized their agriculture schemes (cf. BECK 2001) as well as settlement patterns and architecture (cf. HABERLAH & VON DEM BUSSCHE 2005).
تناكف ةعارزلا ريغ بسآ داجيإ يف اهلهأ ركف روبابلا للع ترثآ املو ةديصق اونهتما نيذلا لاح روصت يتلا رعاشلااهريغ:
Oh Barbur of Bisawi your breakdowns exhaust us
انبلغ كضرم نم يوسب روبا
Your daily failings freeze our nerves
انبصع درب موي لآ كفوقو
2 travel: temporary labour migration is locally referred to as " travelling". For male Manasir rotational migration is a regular stage in their life cycle and has become a cultural tradition (cf. BECK 1999:206-207)
Sha'ib: son of the poet
Shiri: biggest island and administrative and educational centre of Dar al-Manasir
Bisawi: small village in Dar al-Manasir, home to the family of Ibrahim al-Sha'ir
old poet: the father of the poet al-Sha'ir 'Ali

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