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Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Günther Schlee 2013



In the Suq of Damazin my Fulfulde-speaking companion, Anwar Abu-Manga, and I, accompanied by my 12-years old son Hassan, are able to identify some Mbororo on the basis of their appearance. They direct us to their local spokesman, Sheikh Baabo ʿUmar, who agrees to accompany us to a nomadic Mbororo hamlet. A taxi takes us northwards on the tarmac road for about 25 km; then we hire a tractor which takes us eight km to the west, across the open range. Herds are driven away as we approach. An old man under a tree begins ablutions for his ʿasr prayers (afternoon prayers) just as we arrive, apparently in order to gain time; he trusts that we will not take any belligerent action against him while he is praying. After the prescribed prostrations, he takes his rosary and mumbles "God help me" in Fulfulde over and over. Reassured by the presence of Sheikh Baabo ʿUmar, more and more people gather around us.

The semi-spherical huts are covered by plastic sheets. The lower arms of the women are laden with brass bracelets, and the young men have their hair plaited backwards in thick tresses – conspicuous deviations from the standard northern Sudanese Muslim dress code. Hassan Schlee takes photographs. The old man answers a couple of questions, but soon Sheikh Baabo takes over as the respondent.