South Sudan

6AM sunrise in the Mundari Cattle Camp.
This man has been sleeping next to the fire all night, making sure the cattle stay safe.

It’s over 102 degrees during the day and not much cooler at night. Wood is relatively scarce, so cow dung is burned instead.
The Mundari Cattle are treated almost as pets. They are not worshipped in the traditional sense of the word, but it’s close to it.
Large horns and skinny (underfed) bodies are the tell tale signs of a Mundari cow.
Our early morning watcher lights a tobacco pipe. Note his rather non traditional gown. I didn’t have the heart to point out that he is wearing a women’s blanket.
This particular Mundari camp had over 1000 head of cattle. Each day they are marched to the river where they drink and eat.
One of the only fire pits that had wood in it. 99% of the fires are from dried cow dung.
Visual proof of the lack of nutrition that the cattle get. I didn’t actually notice their skinny state until I looked at the pictures afterwards. They are so large in person that you don’t notice the ribs sticking out.
By 630AM the sun crept higher into the sky and more men joined our night watchmen.
At this point I had slept only 7 hours in the previous 4 days. Only such an exotic place could have kept me awake.
Silly faces are universal.
A young Mundari boy picks up cow dung. The dung will be placed into large piles and then burned. At over 100 degrees outside it doesn’t take long for the dung to dry. The young boy is totally nude and wears no gloves, nor does he have any method of washing his hands, aside from using cow urine.
Cleaning up the cow dung that will be used for fire. The fire keeps the mosquitoes away from the cows.
Some of the cows are massive. All of them are very capable of trampling a child, yet the kids have no fear of them and scoot around the ground right under the cows.
Starting a fire out of cow dung.
The Mundari are among the tallest people on the planet. I decided to stand on my toes to give myself an edge.
My fearless guide is on the right. The Mundari tribesman on the left must be a little sleepy.
The dried earth is rubbed on the face and body. It serves as protection from the sun.
A young boy collects cow dung.
This young boy has bright orange hair. He wasn’t born that way. It comes from consistently washing his hair with cow urine. After about 2 weeks the hair becomes orange.
Mundari children are rather adorable.
The child on the left has the distinctive orange hair. The one on the right has the distinctive smile.
This is the Mundari symbol for cow horns. Many of them run around making this symbol. The young boy saw me attempt to make it and he ran in for a picture.
The Mundari have goats as well as cows. They had perhaps 200 goats (my own estimate) and I was told over 1000 cows. The goats are not treated with the same reverence as the cows. I also personally hated their goats? Why? A crying goat sounds much the same as a screaming child. The goats cry all night long.
The leopard print was likely bought at a store in Juba. It is 100% not an actual leopard skin. Large dangerous game are not found anywhere near this part of South Sudan.
I loved this little goat. Read the next picture to find out what happened to our Dalmatian friend.
Fear not! The goat is not being beheaded. Every owner makes different marks in the ears of their cows and goats. This avoids any conflict about who owns the animal. This is done with no pain killer.
A very clear example of using the dried cow dung as sun screen.
I’m certainly not the tallest one, although I’m probably the heaviest….
They made fun of me for drinking water this early in the morning.
Almost all the men spent the day sitting there smoking tobacco. Others were smoking Marijuana, which grows freely near the camp.
Some rather yummy looking tobacco.
Coffee and Hookah, a classic combination.
I don’t believe they normally mount the cows, but he seemed to think I wanted a photo of it.
Literally dirt poor and as happy as they could be. The Mundari are proof that physical possessions don’t define how happy we are.
In many remote regions of Africa it is young kids that baby sit even younger kids.
My guide with a borrowed spear.
The women were preparing for a wedding later in the day. In a Mundari wedding the groom gives many cattle as dowry for the bride. One man was recently married and told me he gave 52 heads of cattle to the brides father.
Perhaps the best picture of ritualistic scarring common among the Mundari. When a Mundari owns his first cow he is allowed to cut his forehead. It’s somewhat dying out among the younger generation, but I would estimate that roughly 85% of the men over 20 had their heads cut. I saw some as young as 12 with scarred heads. Other Mundari had scars all over their backs from having blood let out when they were sick. Modern medicine hasn’t dispelled that brand of medicine yet.
Perhaps the two tallest Mundari in the camp and another great example of the red hair. They told that the glass part of the Hookah broke years ago. They are now using a steel bottle.
One of the strangest customs among the Mundari. Due to the high temperatures the men don’t want any body hair aside from their head. So the young boys are tasked with removing the hair from the armpits and pubic areas. They did this for several hours.
Still images grabbed from a video that I shot. The Mundari are famous for wrestling. The young boys wrestled all day long. It took very little encouragement to get them to go at it. I have the full videos on my Youtube channel.
Totally nude and knocked to the dirt…. but still smiling.
The largest and fiercest Mundari picked me to wrestle. Despite being much smaller than him I still managed to win. (I picked him up high in the air and pretended to throw him, the result was him smiling from ear to ear)
A traditional Mundari shower. The head is inserted right under the peeing cow. I witnessed this over and over again. I declined the offer to participate.
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