The Shilluk Kingdom was located along the banks of the White Nile river in modern South Sudan and the kingdom was founded during the mid-fifteenth century CE by its first ruler, the demigod Nyikang. The Shilluk king is currently not an independent political leader, but a traditional chieftain within the governments of South Sudan. The Shilluk are a part of the Luo nation. The Chollo nation comprises of about 100 different ethnic communities and clans:
Tradition has it that sometime in the 15th century, Nyikango, the founder of the Chollo nation, quarrelled with and separated from Dimo and the other Luo groups in wic pac, somewhere in Bahr el Ghazal.
Nyikango and his entourage of close relatives and friends chose to move northwards along the Nile in rafts and canoes searching for a suitable place to settle until he arrived in the land of Otango Dirim. Through war and diplomacy he conquered and through the course of time, assimilated Otango Dirim, giving each and every tribe therein a name and a ritual to perform. Tradition has it that his son Dak was the most influential in the establishment of the kingdom.
The Shilluk is a nation with a common territory, a common language, a central authority to which all citizens pay allegiance, have an elaborate system of customs and traditions which inform on the attitudes of the people, the exercise of power and all other social relations. This Shilluk kingdom was occupied by the Turko-Egyptian regime in 1837 and since then it has not been free except for a brief period between 1881 and 1898 during the Mahdiya. The Shilluk number about 500,000 and live on the west bank of River Nile between Lake No in the south and Kosti in the north. Some Shilluk settlements are found on the east bank of the Nile and extend as far as Anakdier in the east.
Shilluk Political Organisation, Traditional Authority
The Chollo kingdom is made up of two principal political divisions : the north (Gar) and the south (Lwak). It is divided into 15 provinces each under the administration of a paramount chief directly responsible to the Räth, believed to be the incarnation of Nyikango and is sovereign combining political, administrative, judicial and spiritual power. The chiefs of Tungu (south) and Mwomo (north) are the most senior positions as they considered the fronts’ guards. The paramount chief has under his authority village or clan chiefs (jagi myer or, jagi-nyiräth). There are chiefs of special functions e.g. the chiefs of the hippo called kwa-wang situated in Tungu and Mwomo ; the chief of Nile called lechwe (jangi gyek) in Panyikango. In each province, a military commander – bany – emerges by virtue of military prowess and valour but has no administrative functions or authority.
Coronation of the Räth
The Chollo system does not tolerate a prolonged power vacuum (wangi-yomo) following the passing of the sovereign. He is the law and order and therefore must be immediately replaced. The process of installation of the new Rath begins immediately once the council of chiefs (jagiwipadiwad) have met and decided on a choice.
To be chosen, the prince should have been born during the reign of his late father; should not have scars whatsoever on his body; should not be known to be a coward as he grew up under the supervision of the chief of the village in which he was brought up. The Räth elect – ororo – prepares for wowo (last funeral rites) of the late Räth and embarks on his own installation process. Once all the ritual items (Jami kwer) have been procured and Nyikango has accented to the choice of jagiwipadiwad, then the final stages of coronation (kwer rony) begin in earnest. It could take up to three months until the last day of the ceremony when all the chiefs pay their allegiance to the new Räth, assures the Shilluk nation, and then begin his reign throughout the Chollo Kingdom. The royal regalia include: throne (kwom), skin of Nile lechwe , giraffe mane (yar wir), 2 silver bracelets (ateg), ostrich feathers (okwon wudo), royal spears, royal stick, beads made from ostrich shells (rek), and many others some of which remain in the special room (kaano). Räth Kwongo Dak Padiet is the reigning sovereign. He was installed as 34th Shilluk Rath in 1992.
The Räth reigns for life from Pachodo – established in about 1690 – 1710 as the kingdom’s headquarters and site for coronation of kings by Tugo wad Dhakodh. However, the reigning sovereign is expected to found his own village; and comes to Pachodo only when major decisions affecting the kingdom have to be taken. There was only one woman Räth in Shilluk history – Abudhok nya Bwoch who reigned from Thworo village. She is said to have decreed that no woman should ever be installed Räth since women did not respect her court.
Shilluk Culture: Arts, Music, Literature and Handicraft
The Shilluk society has evolved a material and political culture expressed in the institutions of the kingdom and the daily life activities, notwithstanding its oral nature. The kingdom rests on an elaborate system of traditions and practices that go back more than 500years. The royalty are addressed in a separate vocabulary. The Shilluk are very particular about body cleanliness; the hair is constructed into two structures that give the impression of plates of hair on the head. They wear beads, and other decoration which include cutting dots on forehead and tattooing on the body. The Shilluk have developed music instruments: a kind of guitar (thom), flute made fom the horns of kudu (kang), (adalo), and drum (bul).
The Shilluk control and defence of the Nile channel promoted the evolution of a navy that used dugout canoes. They imported iron from the Nuba Mountains and Funj Kingdom for making spears (tong), axes (doro), knives (paalo) and hoes (kwer). The Shilluk have developed several and different types of dance: bul, thom, amagak, aya, etc., to mark different occasions. Their folklore is rich with fairy tales for children, quizzes, riddles, etc. Neighbours and Foreign Relations and Cooperation The Räth has had a moderating influence on the Shilluk and the cordial relations and mutual respect they have evolved with their neighbours: Salem Arabs in the north, Nuba in the west, Nuer in the south and Dinka and Funj in the east.
Information relating to Shilluk Kingdom has been summarized to include