Friday, April 8, 2011

Mapuordit, South Sudan

     Mapuordit (Mah-poor-deet’) is a small town located in central South Sudan. Twenty years ago, no one was living in Mapuordit. But in 1993, during the civil war, government soldiers bombed the town of Yirol, 80 kilometers away. People fled Yirol and went west, and eventually found a forested area safely off the main road, where they settled. The trees in the area obscured their huts from planes passing overhead and provided some security and peace during the war. After choosing the place where they would stay, the people sacrificed a grey and brown bull. The name of a large bull with this coloring in the Dinka language is “Mapuordit”, and the people named their town after the sacrificed bull.

     Today more than 30,000 people live in Mapuordit. They live clustered together in small  “compounds”, or groups of tukuls (huts), which are connected by a network of dirt footpaths. The tukuls are constructed by packing mud around a framework of sticks and adding a grass roof, and are sometimes raised six feet or so off the ground. Often a family will construct a small platform outside their tukul for preparing food, and store their pots and cooking equipment on a shelf made of sticks above the platform.

     While in Mapuordit, we visited a family living in a small, square tukul. Inside there were two twin-sized beds outfitted with mosquito netting along the side walls, a narrow space in between the beds with the door at one end of the space and a small table at the other; a radio/CD player sat on top of the table. Several suitcases were neatly piled up behind the heads of the beds; presumably the family’s possessions were stored inside. The family did their cooking outside, over a wood fire. Washed clothes were spread out on the roof to dry in the sun. There was no running water, no electricity, no toilet facility inside their tukul.  

     The small neighborhood-like compounds always seem to be full of people: older adults sitting under trees in the shade, women and children carrying water or loads of firewood home on their heads, individuals busy with household chores, and invariably lots of folks holding small children and babies. The photo below shows women and children gathered in a typical compound scene:

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