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Läki Cɔllɔ (shk)
The Shilluk Kingdom (yellow) and its neighbors.
|Religion||Animist Imperial cult|
|-||17th century||Odak Ocollo2|
|-||17th century||Reth Tugo2|
|Historical era||Late Medieval Africa to Early modern period|
|-||Established||c.1490 & declined in 1865|
|-||Disestablished||c.re-established in 1956 to present1|
|Today part of||South Sudan|
|– 1 This is an approximate date, the Shilluk began to decline starting from 1865.
– 2 Mentioned in Ogot, B. A., ed. (1999)
The Shilluk Kingdom is a state in East Africa situated along the banks of the White Nile river in modern day South Sudan. Its capital and site of royal residence was the town of Fashoda. According to their own folk history and the accounts of their neighbors, the kingdom appeared in the mid-fifteenth century, founded by the first ruler, the demigod Nyikang. Starting from the nineteenth century the Shilluk began to suffer from the military assaults from the Ottoman Empire and later, the British colonization in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Today, the Shilluk king is no longer an independent political leader only as a traditional chieftaincy in connection with the government of South Sudan.
The position of monarch, the Reth, has been a political and religious one. In Shilluk eyes the monarch was the one who guaranteed social order; his health and the health of the nation were seen as codependent. Worship is done through rituals inspired from the semi-factual national myth of Nyikang, the first Reth. The monarchy of the Shilluk and their belief system was studied in 1911 by Charles Seligman and again in 1916 by the British anthropologist James George Frazer in his book The Golden Bough. Seligman described the Shilluk form of government as a "sacred kingship".
Geography and people 
The Shilluk Kingdom was situated along a strip of land along the western bank of White Nile, from Lake No to about 12° of latitude North. The Shilluk people are closely related to the more common ethnic groups of South Sudan the Nuer and Dinka who are their neighbors to the south and east respectively. Their language is closer to that of the people Anuak near the rivers Baro and Pibor.
The English name for the Shilluk language is from the Arabic language verision of the Shilluk's own self-designation: 'Cɔllɔ' (or chollo). Which implies a link with the Acholi, another ethnic group that lives on the Ugandan-South Sudanese border, who many Shilluk believe they have a common origin to.
Like most of the Nilotic peoples of South Sudan, like the Nuer and Dinka they, practiced for their subsistence the breeding semi-nomadic cattle with a limited level of grain farming. Their social system was very egalitarian and herds were of great symbolic value. The lifestyle of the modern Shilluk is not much different for the exception that their activities make use of smaller herds. Their lifestyle was much more sedentary because the strip of land they occupy along the White Nile is much more fertile than elsewhere in the region. Living of the cereal durra, a variety of sorghum (millet), made ??them a relatively prosperous agricultural people except during times of prolonged drought. Today's Shilluk population is approximately 1.7 million (informal census) since 2005; whereas, in the nineteenth century, the Shilluk were estimated at about 200,000 individuals in hundreds of villages.
The Shilluk country was divided into two provinces: Gerr, the northern most and Luak, the southern most, which were in turn subdivided into several more zones.
Social structure 
Linage (Kwa) 
The word Kwa means "grandfather" or "ancestor". The word "Kwaro Kwar" can have the same meaning but can also mean the opposite, namely "grandchild" and "down". They are the Shilluk language equivalents of the words "lineage" and "clan". The members of a Kwa descend from same ancestor, the Kwar Kwa. Kwar okel means all the descendants of okel, a person. The system is used even if that person is thought to be legendary character. When studied, more than a hundred lineages were noticed. It was customary, and to a degree still customary today, to know one's personal linage. No lineage has no founding ancestor.
Examples of Kwa:
- The Kwa Ajal, was founded by Jal, an exile alongside Nyikang.
- The Kwa Mon, was founded by Mon, as a servant Nyikang met on his arrival in the country Shilluk.
- The Kwa Ju, was founded by Ju, the half-brother of Nyikang.
- The Kwa Tuki, was founded by Tuki, a spirit that Nyikang found in a river.
- The Kwa Tuga, was founded by Tuga, an Arab whose sister married the Nyikang.
Grouping (Podh) 
The podh, grouping, may refer to any grouped set, the Shilluk country, a group or federation of combinations. In this context podh refers to a group of villages inhabited by several lineages federated for the purposes of mutual defense and ruled by a single leader. This federation of hamlets is the basis of the tribal structure of the Shilluk. The country has over a hundred of them whose importance in terms of population can vary up to sixfold.
These groupings may not appear as simple as geographical area or as an aggregate of several disparate lineages competitors. Before and during the British colonization, these lineages are united under the threat of tribal wars. But during peacetime, these communities saw their unit to dissolve because of internal rivalries. Because of this many people found themselves torn between their allegiance to the leader of podh and they belong to their lineage (Kwar).
Originally, Nyikang gave each lineage a podh as their home territory. If this line still exists, it is considered the owner of the land. This family is then known under the term 'dyil'. The other lines living in the area derived from later migrations are named under the term wedh. If the ruling dyil family dies out, the rights go to the second oldest lineage in the area. In theory the lineage of the dyil provides the podh with its leader. But the authority may also revert to the lineage which has become more important. In this case, the original lineage will still retains its prestige and rights of land ownership. Some groups, like the Odong Fanyikang, have adopted a rotation system of authority between the two or three most important lines.
Hamlet (Pac) 
Within each grouping (podh), are hamlets (singular: pac, plural: Myer), homogeneous units. The hamlet is inhabited by individuals from the same lineage. Some hamlets are very small and consist of only one dwelling, others may have more than fifty. In all cases, the hamlet is a family in the broadest sense. The traditional dwelling consists of two huts, gol, between which a small space is enclosed by a fence made ??with stalks of millet or with coarse grass mats. These homes are built around a large common pens used to keep goats and cows in the village. Within this space, a large hut (luak) is generally built to house livestock during the rainy season. Throughout the year, the hut serves as a hostel for foreign guests and town hall. The other is of normal size and has no barrier, it serves as a dormitory common to all single men. This hut also acts as the storage site for the ashes the men us to cover themselves from the sun and the stings of insects.
Family (gol) 
By extension the term gol which means "home" means "family". In the latter sense, the gol is the smallest unit of Shilluk people. An unmarried man does not have his own home. Unmarried individuals are attached to their father's gol. If the latter has deceased, the single person joins the gol of his oldest living married brother or, failing that, the oldest living married brother of the deceased father. The owner of the house is the head of his family and responsible for its inhabitants. In addition, it also has the family herd. And since the traditional remedy to any offense or crime is a payment in cattle, it follows that the family head is responsible for the fault, not the wrongdoer himself.
The Shilluk people were divided into four classes.
The Kwareth (kwa ancestor and reth king) is the royal clan formed by descendants of Nyikang whom the Shilluk linage is naturally derived. This group is widely distributed in all the Shilluk country, with members having a greatest number of wives. Today, he has no political authority but members of this class form a rural aristocracy. Within this class, the members have one of four titles:
- Reth – The Regent who succeeds through male primogeniture.
- Nyireth – Prince or Princess. If male this is the heir presumptive.
- Nyareth (f. Nyinyireth) – son of a Nyireth.
- Kwar Nyireth: son of lesser-Nyireth.
The Ororo is a branch of the royal line that has lost its place in the line of succession. The Shilluk tell them that "they are noble but are Kwar Reth of C?ll? likeness." Its members do not differ from the rest of the population apart from their important ritual functions in connection with royalty.
The time of King Odak, the Shilluk were defeated by Detang after a battle against the Anuaks. Given this setback, it was decided at a council of war, against custom, to engage all royal sons in battle the next day as offers. The conscripted army crossed the river to battle with the exception of Prince Duwadh. The battle was a massacre and all the royals sons were killed. Duwadh became king and demoted every son of the dead princes to the Collo class. From that day on only the descendants of Duwadh could eligible for class Kwar Reth. The relegated were nicknamed Ororo term which means "son of a crowd of young girls".
This class includes the majority of the Shilluk people. This class consists of most Shilluk clans. Its members are the descendants of the collateral Nyikang (Jur clans, or Othou okel), the descendants of the companions in exile Nyikang (Abogo clans, Muol, or Nyileng Ojul), the offspring of individuals of other peoples who migrated and settled in Shilluk country (e.g. the Jung clan was originally a Dinka clan), the descendants of the peoples settled in Shilluk country before the arrival of Nyikang (clan Oman).
Bang Reth 
The Bang Reth are the possessed class, owned by the king. The first group includes his royal wives and the widows of dead kings, the second are serfs: the descendants of slaves captured in raids or volunteers under the protection of the king because of a violent crime.
Origins and migration 
The Shilluk legend traces their origins to a hero called Nyikang, the first Reth. Nyikang was the son of a king Okwa who ruled a country located "far south near a large lake". This may be the Lake Albert where the Acholi live. Following the death of Okwa, Nyikang goes to war with his brother Duwadh, the legitimate successor to the throne. Facing defeat Nyikang leaves his homeland with his retinue and migrates north-east to a place called Wau located near the Bahr el Ghazal, the river of gazelles in Arabic. In this country known by the Shilluk as the Pothe Thuro, Nyikang married the daughter of Dimo, the local magician-king. Around the year 1550, after a conflict with Dimo, Nyikang emigrated north again, crossing the Bahr el Ghazal, and arrives at Acietagwok, a Shilluk village located about thirty kilometres west of the village of Tonga. Nyikang then runs along the left bank to reach Nyilual; an uninhabited region west of the present town of Malakal.
Border conflicts 
In the seventeenth century, to ensure a surplus of resources, the Shilluk conducted raids and looting on neighbouring populations to their North and South, along the White Nile. These were usually organized looting by the heads of Podh (clusters of villages). The Shilluk king (Reth) was no exception in this. The Reth of the south of the country would send his Shilluk warriors upstream to the Dinka lands. Reserving the largest share of the plunder, the Reth increased his possessions and therefore its influence on the Shilluk country through its armed men, Bath Reth. The historical period of these events remains obscure. It has still not been established whether the Reth is a single figure derived from a single dynasty or whether, instead, multiple Reth coexisted together. If we accept the latter case, it may be that the contemporary line in her pedigree would have amalgamated a dozen different dynasties.
Between the reign of King Odak Ochollo (circa 1600–1635) and 1861, the Shilluk were trying to expand their northern border militarily. The portion of the valley of the White Nile between the villages of Muomo and Asalaya wasn't favourable for agriculture. However the northern savannah provided an abundance of food such as game, fish and honey. To control trade on the White Nile, Odak Ochollo made an alliance with the Sultanate of Darfur and supported it in its fight against ethnic Funj of the Sennar Sultanate.
By 1630, the Dinka located south and west of the Shilluk country invaded the southern border of the Sultanate of Sennar. The progression of the Dinka continues throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries towards the region of Gezira. Before this changed the strategic balance, the Shilluk and Funj join forces against the Dinka and manage to hold them militarily. This era marked the beginning of a policy where the Shilluk establish ties of economic interdependence with other groups (Funj, Arab, European merchants, Mahdists).
Golden Age of the Shilluk monarchy 
After 1650, the Shilluk population, despite its diversity, appears to gain a sense of national unity. This phenomenon is accompanied by a strengthening of royal authority. The Reth (king) through a more centralized government then established a monopoly over economic resources and on trade flows. This monarchical centralism is mainly due to the successful military forces led by the Shilluk King Dhokoth (circa 1670–1690). Looting continued downstream of the White Nile in the Dinka territory, but also westward to the Nuba Mountains.
In 1684, a drought destroyed Shilluk crops. Driven by hunger, many men took up arms and went down the river to the Arabized peoples of present Sudan. These lootings were orchestrated from the river, men using canoes would raid the northern Arab regions. During this time the White Nile was dubbed the Bahr al-Scheluk, the "river of Shilluk". King Tugo (circa 1690–1710), son of Dhokoth, founded the town of Fashoda and made it the permanent residence of the Shilluk kings, which set up elaborate rituals and investiture ceremonies.
In the eighteenth century, the Sultanate of Sennar declined in power. The Shilluk kings took the disappearance of Sennar from the political scene as an opportunity to strengthen their position on the northern frontiers. The caravans came under the influence of the Shilluk kings. The caravans were enriched by the shuttle service the Shilluk made available to merchants when they wished to cross the White Nile to Asalaya, when travelling between Sennar and El Obeid.
In 1786, the Funj Sultanate of Sennar started to enter a period of irreversible decline. Sultan Adlan II troubled by his war with the Hameg tribe established south of the town of Er Roseires. It follows a period of thirty years of anarchy where the Sheikh Nasser Hameg devastated the region by incessant looting. In 1820, the Viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali began his southern campaign to conquer the Sudan. The same year the Turkish-Egyptian troops of Ismail Pasha put a final end to the Sultanate of Funj. From there, confrontation between the Ottomans and Shilluk become inevitable. From 1821, despite resistance from the Shilluk, the northern border began to recede. They suffered from serious raids by Arabs and Turks, undertaken in order to steal their cattle and collect slaves. At the same time, during the reign of Reth Nyakwaa (circa 1780–1820), a massive united force of Dinka and Nuer crossed the river Sobat, an action which caused the Shilluk to lose total control of the White Nile. By 1865 the Shilluk Kingdom would never again have any serious political standing.
Religion and mythology 
Linage of Nyikang 
The Shilluk, like other peoples Nilotic do not give great importance to the creation myths of the universe (or cosmology). For the Shilluk the focus lies on a figure who live so long ago his life is shrouded in myth, the reign of King Nyikang. His origins were divine. A white cow named Dean Aduk bore a gourd. When it was torn, a man named Kolo arose. Kolo begat Omaro, who begat Wat Mol, who begat Okwa.[nb 1]
One day Okwa went on the banks of a river. There he saw two beautiful young women, Nyakayo and Ongwat, who were coming out of the water. They had long hair but a part of their body was shaped like a crocodile. Okwa grabbed them and took them with him by force. Their screams alerted their father Odiljil qu'Okwa who had been with them but Okwa had been unaware of before committing the misdeed. Odiljil was a man on the right side but a crocodile on the left. After some discussion, Odiljil consented to give his two daughters to Okwa although at a high bride price. Nyakayo Nyikang bore several children. Nyikang, some say, was his eldest son, but according to others it is only his youngest son. Another tradition makes Nyikang's twin brother Duwat.
A popular belief has been the site of confluence of the River Sobat with the White Nile's residence Nyakayo.
On the death of Okwa, began a feud between Nyikang and his brother Duwat about the succession to the kingship. Duwat obtained royalty but Nyikang refused to swear allegiance to him. So he decided to leave his native country and seek a new country. Nyikang was accompanied his family members. But names vary with different versions of the myth, commonly named is Omoi Ju.
While Nyikang was leaving he saw his brother Duwat calling to him asking him to look behind. While calling Duwat threw a long sharpened stick towards his half-brother. In this gesture, Duwat signified to him that migrants were to never return under the pain of death. Nyikang took the stick and decided to use it as an agricultural tool in order to plant crops.
The migrant group, after many days of travel, arrived in new land ruled by Dim, a Sorcerer-King. It was here Nyikang married the daughter of Sun who bore him a son named Dak, a turbulent Machiavellian.
The fugitives eventually settled near the site where the river Sobat crossed with the White Nile and founded the Shilluk Kingdom.
Notes and References 
- DS Oyler's document states the cow that gave it birth Omaro begat Kolo who begat Okwa Moel as opposed to Kolo being the founder.
- David Graeber, The divine kingship of the Shilluk, 2010 [text here]
- Bethwell Allan Ogot, Histoire générale de l'Afrique: V. L'Afrique du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle, UNESCO [text here]
- D. S. Oyler, Nikawng and the Shilluk migration, from Sudan Notes and Records, vol. I, 1918
- M. E. C. Pumphrey, The Shilluk tribe, from Sudan Notes and Records, vol. XXIV, part I, 1941
- Diedrich Westermann, The Shilluk People, Their Language and Folklore, 1912
- "Shilluk." Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East, Volume 1 Infobase Publishing, 2009
- Ogot, B. A., ed. (1999). "Chapter 7: The Sudan, 1500–1800". General History of Africa. Volume V: Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 89–103. ISBN 9780520067004.
- Westermann 1912, p. 264
- Pumphrey 1941, p. 6-7
- Westermann 1912, p. 127-134 – from a complete list of 74 Kwa
- Pumphrey, 7
- Pumphrey 1941, 6–7
- Pumphrey 1941, p. 7 -8
- Pumphrey 1941, p. 9
- Pumphrey 1941, p. 10
- Pumphrey 1941, p. 12-14
- Pumphrey 1941, p. 14
- Pumphrey 1941, p. 14-16
- Oyler 1918, p. 108
- Graeber 2010, p. 13-14
- E.A. Robinson, "Nimr, the Last King of Shendi", Sudan Notes and Records, 8 (1925), p. 105
- Graeber 2010, p. 18-21
- Westermann 1912, p. XL
- Westermann 1912, p. XLI