An Anglican Church liturgy book telling contemporary histories

An Anglican Church liturgy book telling contemporary histories

By Atem Yaak Atem

I have one of my precious collections, a copy of the manual- in Dinka language- for use by the congregation of what used to be Anglican Church in Sudan, later to become Episcopal Church of the Sudan after the enthronement in 1976 of its first native archbishop, the Right Rev Elanana Ngalamu.

The book which is the subject of this article carries the title: KITAP DE DUƆR. First, let me present the physical outlook of this antique kind of a book. It is a pocket size hardcover 327-page book. The white lettering is within two rectangular and concentric boxes on a rose background. The spine is broken. It was in recent days when my wife- who has realised the importance of the item- that she reattached the broken part with a glue that the book now looks more useable. It’s first two pages and corners are not as elegant as they used to be during their youthful days; they have become an eyesore with yellow smudges. That the book has passed through several hands or overused by its first and last owner (I got this book in 2012 from a member of the Emmanuel Jiëëng Parish Church, Juba.  I have since forgotten how I came to be the owner of this treasure, only that I recall, a few if any, saw any value in what appeared to be a junk).

The title deserves a brief, if a passing, comment. Kitap de Duɔr in Dinka1 means Worship book, “kitap” being a loan Arabic word for kitaab or book and “duɔr” is Dinka for “worship”. The loan word should have been the Dinka possessive “kitam de” or “the book of” while “duɔr” is Dinka for worship. Again, something here is not right with the spelling of this word which should have a long /ɔɔ/ instead of short /ɔ/. Since the book is a product of the days before the marking of “breathy vowels” had been introduced by Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL, in late 1970s- an orthography that helps the reader with pronunciation and meaning- today Dinka word for “worship” is written “duɔ̈ɔ̈r”.

The title which is in white on a rose hardcover. Although there is no subtitle, the book is not a novel or a biography; it is or used to be a manual for senior clergymen (those were the days when the role of women in Church leadership was very marginal).

Printing history

The book production has a long history. The following are the dates of the years when the book was published and the information is in English:

  1. Shortened Prayer Book with Hymns: Dinka, Bor, dialect2

Published in England, 1930

  1. Prayer Book with Hymns: Dinka, Bor dialect

Published in Cairo, 1946

  1. Prayer Book with Hymns: Dinka, Bor dialect, modified3

Published in England, 1956. The addition information is that the publishers (in London) were Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

  1. KITAP DE DUƆR, New Day Publisherd [sic], Khartoum, Sudan, 200. (New Day Publishers is affiliated to ECS).

The book is 327 pages long, the final page, gives the reader of the name of a famous and one of the oldest (established in 1803) publishings entities in Britain: MADE AND PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES

Church prays for temporal leaders of the time

Members of the younger generation from South Sudan may not be aware that the Church leaders of the day conducted church services that included the congregation praying for temporal leaders, who before independence of Sudan were British, Egyptian and Sudanese. They also prayed, as they do today, for peace, relief from pestilence and mitigation of natural disasters such as drought. Here is an extract typical of such prayers for leaders- civil administrators in particular.

Lɔŋ [lɔ̈ŋ]4 de Thudan

Nhialiny nɔŋ riɛr ebɛn [ebɛ̈n]

ku ye dunyiny [dunyïny] de kaŋ [käŋ]

kedhia, yin [yïn] laŋku [läŋku] ba pinydɛn

de Thudan ya thiei [thieei]. Ku cɔk kɔc tɔ [tɔ̈]

ne [në] kɔc nhiim [nhïïm] ne [në] riɛr de Miriida

k ke [kë] ye piɔndu [piɔ̈ndu] kɔɔr

ku piath de kɔc kedhia. Ye Medook [mëdöök]

thiei [thieei] kene [kenë] Gabanai

kedhia, agut mapatic ku banykuɔk [bänykuɔk] ke Miri kedhia

this is on page 29.

The title- in bold above- is “Prayer for Sudan”. It addresses God, the omnipotent and omniscient to bless “Sudan, our land” and to let leaders in government (Miri) do “Your desire” (or will) and bless “the Guides- probably a reference to top leaders such as Governor General-   and all Governors (provincial), District Inspectors (mapatic) and “all our (traditional) chiefs of the Government”.

Prayer for parliamentarians

There is also a prayer called “Lɔŋ [lɔ̈ŋ] ne [në] ɣoot [ɣööt] ke Parliament nyiny [nyïny] wel [wël] or “Prayer for the houses of parliament guided by wisdom. Since the word plural, “ɣööt”, is used, this must be referring to the lower House of Representatives and the Senate, which were established before and after independence in 1956,

There is also a prayer for the day when people had been elected to parliament or “Lɔŋ [lɔ̈ŋ] de akol [aköl] lɔce [lɔcë] kɔc ne [në] Parliamentic”.

Among other things, the second part of the prayer says the following:

k ŋɛk ne [në] keyiic ye rɔt puol [puöl) ku tɛɛu [tɛ̈ɛ̈u] tueŋ a piath de raan ebɛn [ebɛ̈n].

k tuŋ kedhia mɛt [mɛ̈t] ku kɔrki [kɔrkï) man [män] yiic bi [bï] kɔc ke Thudan kedhia ceŋ ne [në] dɔɔr [dɔ̈ɔ̈r] ku miɛt de piɔu [piɔ̈u], ku rieu [riëu] de wuot [wuöt] kɔk [kɔ̈k] ku piɔn [piɔ̈n] piath ya yok [yök].

Because the content of this part is important I have to quote it at length. It goes this way: “Let everyone among them- the legislators- sacrifice personal interests and put first the welfare of everybody. Let all the parties seek unity (of purpose) so that the people of Sudan will live in peace and happiness, and respect by other nations and to find good will”.

This is on page 30. 


Glossary and endnotes

1The Dinka people of South Sudan call themselves Jieeng and their language Thong e Jieeng (Thoŋ e Jiëëŋ- Thong e Jieeng, and is always with a long “breathy” /ee/ not short /e/).

2 dialects: The Dinka language consists of many dialects. Some linguists put the figure at 12. This is an underestimate. For example, the population of the former Bor District alone, speak four main dialects, namely Bor (Gok and Athoc), Twi, Nyarweng and Hol. The status of the dialect spoken by Thany is debatable; some people say it is an occupational rather than “ancestral” dialect. Those committed into written form- mainly scriptures- are Rek, Bor, Padang (Padaang) which is rather a collection of dialects than one. Others are Agaar (Agar is the plural, people, while the dialect and a person is Agaar), Malual, Ngok, Abiliang, Ageer, Ciec and so forth. One of the foreign missionaries who made immense contribution to the writing and development of the Dinka language was Fr P. A. Nebel, a Catholic priest based in Kuajok of the former Gogrial District. Among his notable works is his Dinka Dictionary of Rek-Malual dialect which also contains text and vocabulary. He also wrote Dinka Grammar in 1947. Despite the fact the book was published in 1948, the work is still a useful reference for the students of language.

3modified: The first missionaries of the Church Missionary Society, CMS, which founded their mission at Malek, 11 miles south east of Bor town, in 1905 and a school the following year, began translation of the scriptures into Bor dialect. The leader of that pioneering Christian missionaries of the Gordon Memorial Sudan Mission, was Archdeacon Archibald Shaw. “From about 1911 Archdeacon A. Shaw took time from his preaching and teaching to supervise the translation of the N.T. (New Testament) into the Bor dialect of Dinka, publishing it book by book during the 1920s and 1930s, some trial editions at least being produced on the mission press at Malek… Philip Anyang Agul, Gordon Apeec Ayom and Daniel Deng Atong were his Dinka co-workers”- (From Janet Persson’s In Our Own Languages: The Story of Bible Translation in Sudan, Paulines Publications Africa, Nairobi, 1997, p12).

Shaw’s interactions were mostly with the Guala people, whose area is close to Malek and whose dialect belongs to Gok (Gɔ̈k) cluster which is a very close variant of Athoc (Athɔ̈ɔ̈c).

However, the use of the word “modified” attached to “Bor dialect” came about after the scriptures- mainly the Book of Common prayers, the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament were being used by the Christians in the former Rumbek and Yirol Districts. To accommodate some aspects of the dialects those areas, some changes in spellings of some word made. Two examples out of those words are: piath in which the sound /th/ is shown in italic, meaning that in Bor dialect as well as Twi and Nyarweng (Hol excluded) the equivalent is not appreciably similar- more of an /h/ than a /th/. The same applies to cɔk, when it means “let” in English. In Bor and other dialects spoken in the area, a keen listener will not hear the /k/ sound; but a sound similar to an /h/.

4Words appearing in square brackets are written to indicate “breathy vowels”, which were not in use in those days. Application of diacritics or umlauts, helps in deciphering pronunciation and meaning of a given word. Dinka words appearing in square brackets have been written with diacritics- to help in pronunciation and meaning especially in reference to the so called “breathy vowels” which are not in the original. The symbols serve as guides to pronunciation and meanings.

5Miri or Miir: this is a foreign word for government. It is said to be Egyptian in origin. (Some Dinka translators prefer this word to Arabic akuma {Hukuma} on the assumption that it is Dinka, rather than a loan word from Egyptian Arabic).

7mapatic, plural mapatiic: Dinka corruption of Arabic “mufatish” or inspector in reference to a District Commissioner or DC, who in those days wielded great authority over many people and ran extensive territory unlike today’s county commissioner who heads an equivalent of a rural council or mostly inhabited by a clan, not tribe.

Part two of this will follow.

Atem Yaak Atem is a South Sudanese journalist, translator and full time writer currently living with his family in Australia. Among the books in Dinka he owns and which he uses for the purpose of comparison are copies of books- three of them scriptural: Nebel’s Dinka Dictionary of Rek-Malual (including texts and stories); Lëk Yam, New Testament in Rek dialect (it is designated as a language in the book); Jam de Nhialic Löŋ Thɛɛr ku Löŋ cï Piac Mac, Old and New Testaments in Padaang (Jieeng de Padang) and Lëk Jöt, Bor dialect.


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