Abdalla Udi, a Kunama centenarian gave the following lecture on the Kunama people’s basic social structure, its life and communal activities.
We have only and literally translated his considerations as part of our traditional and cultural heritage.
He began by stating that, “the Kunama is not a society which governs itself and lives in isolation.
It has social principles which bind it to lead a communal life.
There are laws for reward and punishment.
The Kunama society has to observe these laws very meticulously.
Such laws had been handed down to it by its ancestors thousand years ago.
The following are the main activities the Kunama carry out communally:
1- house building;
2- collecting firewood;
3- setting fences;
5- weeding crop-fields;
7- crop-gathering and storing (sifting the cereals from the husk);
8- death / burial;
9- first death day memorial (gitada); *1
10- second or final death day memorial (ana kobisha); *2
I do not know how the communal life is in other ethnic groups.
The communal life gives the Kunama folk group, unity and strength.
Apart from light activities, the Kunama never undertake a heavy work without support.
There is no difference between man and woman, they are both equal and do any work together.
To this regard, the Kunama have a saying: the communal life rolls an elephant’s body.
A Kunama community takes care of the problems a single mother, an elderly man or woman may face.
The Kunama support each other by celebrating both happy and sad events and carrying out their various activities in unity and togetherness”.
*1 “Gitada” is the first service the Kunama hold in memory of a dead person.
*2 “Ana Kobisha” (literally translated: loosing of hair) is a second and final memorial service
held for that same dead person.
There will be a piece of writing on each of these two memorial ceremonies in the future.
Abdalla Udi went on to add very important pieces of information on the status and function of the following members of the Kunama society.
“JIBA OR DIBA MARAI” (community leaders); *1.
“The Community Leaders (people responsible for and experts in community matters) are the guides of a folk.
Up to these days, the Kunama is being guided by his / her ancestor’s laws.
These (the community leaders) are not ordinary people, but individuals who lead their folk according to the rule of law and stand for their people, both at good and bad times.
A man and a woman may quarrel and seek a divorce.
After considering their rights, the community leaders decide on the matter.
The culprit receives his or her punishment.
Besides, there may be serious quarrels, killings, robberies and many other happenings which only the community leaders can settle.
The Kunama is a society which cannot live without its community leaders”.
*1. “Jiba or diba” ( -dgi:ba or –di:ba) is a place, usually in the middle of a Kunama village, where the adult male members of that community hold their meetings and carry out their decision-making processes.