Culture of South Sudan

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The culture of South Sudan encompasses the religions, languages, ethnic groups, foods, and traditions of peoples of Southern Sudan.


The official language of South Sudan is English.[1]

There are over 60 indigenous languages, most classified under the Nilo-Saharan Language family; collectively, they represent two of the first order divisions of Nile Sudanic and Central Sudanic.

In the border region between Western Bahr Al Ghazal state and Sudan are an indeterminate number of people from West African countries who settled here on their way back from Mecca—who have assumed a traditionally nomadic life—that reside either seasonally or permanently. They primarily speak Chadian languages and their traditional territories are in the southern portions of the Sudanese regions of Northern Kordofan and Darfur.

In the capital, Juba, there are several thousand people who use non-classical Arabic, usually a pidgin called Juba Arabic, but South Sudan's ambassador to Kenya said on 2 August 2011 that Swahili will be introduced in South Sudan with the goal of supplanting Arabic as a lingua franca, in keeping with the country's intention of orientation toward the East African Community rather than Sudan and the Arab League.[2]


While Sudan to the north is predominantly Muslim, South Sudan is predominately Christian and African traditional animist, though Islam is not altogether absent.[3]

National holidays[edit]

  • 1 January Independence Day (1956)
  • movable date in July–October - Eid al-Miraj (Rajab al-Adha), a Muslim festival in memory of the night journey of the Prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem and back
  • movable date in October and February - Muharram, the day of mourning for the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein
  • moving date between late December and early February - Eid al-Adha (Kurban Bairam)
  • movable date in March - August - Mawlid, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad
  • movable date in late October - early November - Eid al-Fitr (Eid al-Fitr), the feast of breaking the fast, the final Ramadan
  • 30 June Anniversary of the Revolution for National Salvation
  • 25 December Christmas Day off - Friday, in the southern regions, where the spread of Christianity, - Sunday

Ethnic groups[edit]

Ethnic groups present in South Sudan include the Nuer, Dinka, Kakwa, Bari, Lugbara and Keliko people, Azande, Muru, Baka, Madi, Mundu, Avokaya, Jur people, Shilluk, Kuku, Murle, Mandari, Didinga, Ndogo, Bviri, Lndi, Anuak, Bongo, Balanda[disambiguation needed], Ottuho (Latuka and Lokoya people), Topossa, Lango, Dungotona, and Acholi.[4]


Most South Sudanese kept the core of their culture even while in exile and diaspora. Traditional culture is highly upheld and a great focus is given to knowing one's origin and dialect. Although the common languages spoken are Arabi Juba and English, Kiswahili is being introduced to the population to improve the country's relations with its East African neighbors.


Emmanuel Jal at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York 2008.

Due to the many years of civil war, the culture is heavily influenced by the countries neighboring South Sudan. Many South Sudanese fled to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda where they interacted with the nationals and learnt their languages and culture. For most of those who remained in the country, or went North to Sudan and Egypt, they greatly assimilated Arabic culture.

Many music artists from South Sudan use English, Kiswahili, Arabi Juba, their local language or a mix of all. Popular artist Yaba Angelosi sings Afro-beat, R&B, and Zouk; Dynamiq is popular for his reggae releases; and Emmanuel Kembe sings Folk, Reggae and Afrobeat. Emmanuel Jal is one South Sudanese music artist who has broken through on an international level[5] with his unique form of Hip Hop and a positive message in his lyrics.[6] Jal, a former child soldier turned musician received good airplay and album reviews in the UK[7] and has also been sought out for the lecture circuit with major talks at popular talkfests like TED.[8]

In 2012, rapper Thomas Tombe won the television show Talent Search South Sudan 2012.

There are few female artists that South Sudan has produced so far. Reflections BYG is a Zouk artist whose first single "Ng'ume" means Smile. She performs the popular Jazz as well as Afrobeat and Hip Hop. Other artists include De-vine singing R&B and Zouk; Nyaruach on the Afro-beat and pop; Queen Zee is known for her rap music.[citation needed]


Main article: Sports in South Sudan

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011". Government of South Sudan. Retrieved 12 July 2011.  Part One, 6(2). "English shall be the official working language in the Republic of South Sudan".
  2. ^ "South Sudanese still in Kenya despite new state". Xinhua. 2 August 2011. Retrieved 2013-09-16. [dead link]
  3. ^ "SustainabiliTank: The animist culture of South Sudan (Juba) clashed with Islamic North and the Divide & Rule Brits. Now they prepare for a January 2011 vote for Independence and the first break-away African State will be born. Many more should be allowed to follow. But this particular case is specifically hard as most people are still centuries behind". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  4. ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  5. ^ "National Geographic - Inspiring People to Care About the Planet Since 1888". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  6. ^ Stevenson, Jane. "Emmanuel Jal uses music as therapy | Music | Entertainment". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  7. ^ "Music - Review of Emmanuel Jal - Warchild". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  8. ^ TEDGlobal 2009. "Emmanuel Jal: The music of a war child | Video on". Retrieved 2014-01-18.