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Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Book Review: History of Sudanese Civilizations

KHARTOUM  - (Sudanow) Published in French by the Paris-based Soleb in 2017 this book, Histoire et Civilisations du Soudan de la Préhistoire à nos Jours (History of Sudan Civilizations From the Pre-historic Age up to Now), was written by seven French authors specializing in Sudanese studies, in addition to one Sudanese researcher.
The authors are Oliver Cabon, Vincent Francigny, Bernard François, Marc Maillot, Odile Nicoloso, Claude Rilly, Olivier Rolin and the Sudanese researcher and arts critic Mohamed Musa Ibrahim. The book contains 957 pages, divided in seven chapters that vary in size and content. It also contains a preface written by Olivier Rolin which is entitled “Sudanese Papers”.
The contribution of Professor Claude Rilly, an internationally renowned Egyptologist specialized in the Meroite Language, has occupied 446 pages, divided into 11 titles and has embodied the latest outcome of archeological, historical and linguistic research about the Sudan. The writer has presented scientific hypotheses and new approaches about the past of Sudan.
Says Rilly: It is the Sudan, the legendary country from where the luxury products used to come to our monarchs. It is the people of Sudan whom Homer mentioned several times and described them as the most pious within mankind and whom Herodotus had described as a nation of miraculously long-living people, and who cherish utmost wisdom. The ancient Egyptians had described the Nubians as the powerful magicians who kidnap a Pharaoh (Egyptian) with their magic at night, beat him in their homeland and return him at dawn quite exhausted, with whip scars covering his body.
Rilly has begun his contribution with a title “The White Nile, The Blue Nile, The Yellow Nile”, that contained the latest conclusions and hypotheses about the origins of Sudanese civilization and the contribution of the Yellow Nile (Wadi Hawar or Hawar Valley in Darfur) to this civilization.
Rilly is of the view that this ‘Yellow Nile’ might have played a crucial role in Sudan during the Prehistoric Age and the Modern Stone Age. That is because this was the place where two tightly connected ethnic groups, namely the Kushites and the Nubians, had migrated from into the rest of the country. The first migration was by the Kushites during the third millennium before Christ and ‘during this age of ours’. Then another exodus took place from Dongla (on the Nile) westwards towards Darfur. That was the migration of the Tunjur. According to Rilly, the Tunjur migration was from within today’s Northern Sudan towards Darfur, contrary to previous beliefs that the Tunjur had migrated from Tunisia into Darfur. To evidence his claim, Rilly cites the name of the capital of the Maqarra Kingdom (Central Sudan), the town of Tangal, as a Nubian word, not anything else. He also argues that the name of the man who established the Tunjur Kingdom “al-Maqoor”, is a corrupted derivation from the word Maqarra.
Rilly also asserts that the Nubians had tamed wild African cattle and supposes that the Latin word “ebur” derives from the Meroite word “ibor” that means elephant. He says that the ceramics of Nubia had reached striking beauties, beauties the world had never known before. During the Middle Ages, the Dongola and Faras painters had produced incomparable wall drawings. “Sudan has underwent millenniums of civilizations and had not yet revealed the secrets of its history. The sensors of archeologists have so far reached very little of Sudan’s history and there are many more treasures to unveil in the history of Sudan,” wrote Prof. Rilly.
Marc Maillot, a researcher in the French section of Sudanese archeology, assistant professor in the University of Florida, has presented the outcome of a century of archeological research in the Sudan. He began his presentation by observations and notes made by travelers who visited the Sudan. He also accounted for the organized effort for archeological research that materialized the location of important urban centers, burial grounds and farming areas in central Nubia down to the White Nile region where excavation work is in earnest in tens of places.
Vincent Francigny, chief of the archeological mission in Sai Island (on the Nile in the extreme north of the country), has discussed the role played by Sai Island, which he terms “ Sudan’s archeological jewel of all ages from the prehistoric age until the Ottoman rule (1820-1885).”
Bernard François, chief of the cooperation section in the European Union (2009-2012) has presented a research on ‘Sudan from 1820 to date’, that carried the titles: Eastern Sudan at the Beginning of the 19th Century, The Establishment of Modern Sudan, The Mahdia State, Darfur Sultanate, The Condominium (joint rule of Sudan by Britain and Egypt (1900-1956), Sudan Independence and Five Years of the Independent Southern Sudan.
In the last part of the book, researcher and documenter Odile Nicoloso has presented a chapter entitled “Sudan Today” in which she gave a close description and colored photos about “The life In Sudan Today”. Her contribution has carried the titles: Khartoum, The Sudanese Countryside, Population, Refugees, Women Conditions, Marriage Customs and Rituals, Funerals, Burials, Religion and Food.
Olivier Cabon presents images of contemporary Sudanese faces which he started with a photo, biography and thoughts of Sudanese academic and intellectual, Dr. Noor Eddin Satti.
Sudanese researcher and arts critic Mohamed Musa Ibrahim gives a review of the history of Sudanese painting, its schools and its symbols together with pictures of some Sudanese works of art.
The book has contained a sum of information, facts, hypotheses and approaches from Sudan (past and present) that constitute an agenda for the coming years and decades in the domains of artifacts, history, anthropology, linguistics, the arts and sociology. It is my hope that French speaking Sudanese and those concerned with Sudanese studies could begin presenting chapters of this book (each in his/her field of specialization) to our students and readers until the full Arabic translation becomes available.
Note: The book was reviewed by Dr. Mahmood Adam Da’ood, Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics, University of Nyala (South Darfur).