Clay & The Holy Bull

Written by Prof. Osman Elamin Shibir

My early childhood has a remarkable impact on my present constitution, I used to construct of clay an intimate fanciful world. The various forms fascinated my imagination while building up the bull, the holy creature among the Nilotic tribes especially the Shuluk in Malakal. Those childish works still gain vitality in my contemporary artistry, flavored with considerable abstraction.


The bull, among these communities, is the focus of spiritual value. Even their dances of various social occasions reflect the tendency. The shape of the horn on the head of the dancer, and the impression created and the movement are tokens of various suggestions. The obtuse angle, the spiral curve and the tiny circum France are all of traditional indications for various



The Shuluk tribesmen spray ash on their lean bodies. They mix it with some aborigine ointments to dye their hair crimson or orange. The oily skin are the colourful hair are sources of beauty. The bull resided and early imagination to pop up in my present achievement, carved or painted.


I have hardly any finished performance that lacks the greatness of an. It is worth nothing here that in Sudan plastic artists scarcely reflect any wood relief or clay depictions like neighboring Africans. Silt sculpture is rare save in sporadic trials like the tobacco hose with the spiral pipe ending in a miniature animal at the front, where they stuff tobacco. It was the first time for me to discover that these people have noted the nicotine devil. They set a filter of palm leaves, soaked for some day and struck to fibers between two wooden pieces. They stuff then fibers in then outlets of the smoke passage. This little animal resembles a lion. The phenomenon is still too difficult for me to decipher. It could be attributed to the vast prevalence of clay depictions in the neighboring African countries.


Since my early boyhood I was haunted by the animals that have always been frequent in the area, appearing and disappearing in herds or individuals. As for the cow and the cattle, the sheep and the goat, they survive within me as domesticated. The cows were caged to be treated as intimate kids of the breeding families. They penetrated souls that were haunted by the animal, its milk and blood. It strikes my memory of Berlin that professor Felix Yacob thought it an exceptional marvel that Africans lived with the animals without writing a book on the phenomenon of drawing such animals of direct coexistence. He requested me to go to the zoo and set a book on the inhabitants. The result was my reference on animal painting.


My trials of sculpture treated the animal in herds especially the bull. Various colours, and shades thereof, with different shapes and texture are employed. The shapes are contrasting in

evacuated and incinerated. The groups are inseparable as available in natural environments.


My treatment of the bull addresses deep dimensions, intrinsic within my spirit, reflecting of my childhood and aesthetic attitude to clay, silt and the animal. My favourite construction in

sculpture started to develop a phenomenal human face of the bull.


The bull has adopted the life of the man. Therefore, such an adoption shall be manifested even in a similar countenance. The Shuluk tribesmen and women conduct their lives in a peaceful coexistence and a sincere harmony with the surrounding natural environment. It is fabulous with cattle herds in countless villages. They punctually operate a consistent system of life

similar to any well established civilized community. It is therefore, unfair to consider them primitive Social norms are well organized. Society is promptly distributed as a shared



The 7-17 year old boys urge the cattle into the fences. They collect the dung to dry and set fire to the material by night to scare away the flies and other harmful insects. The 18-35 chaps are charged with the responsibility to rear the cattle and protect them against wild animals. They bear spears and canes for defense. The 40-70 group are the grown up reservoir of wisdom. 

They the village council have to advise and decide the public opinion to tackle communal difficulties and organize coexistence in the tribe. There is an inviolable feeding pattern of priority. The fathers eat first. The children come after them and the women feed east. 

This is a firm tabaco. The food consists of fish and milk, fresh or sour. There are two meals, the first in the morning; the last in the evening. Nights are brimmed with chatting and dancing between the grown up girls and chaps in a merry atmosphere of love and the a amicability that shades that well established community. The proposed outcome is marriage. After pregnancy, then tribe will be happy if the baby is a female. When old enough she will attract bridegrooms to compete and donate the precious cattle dowry. A Shuluk girl is 2 potential treasure. But if divorced, the father shall return all the cattle. He shall pay the price if they were dead or present the hydes to document the casually. 

It is a norm that the groom shall offer more than five cows. The nearest of kin shall contribute. Beside the 5-7 cows the groom offers some sheep and goats. It is a tribal system among the Shuluk that the eldest son inherits all then wives of the dead father. He mates with all except his mother. The Shuluk, like the other Nilotic tribes, treat the girl tenderly. On the boys they impose a harsh treatment to develop strong characters of will, decision and dignity. A man is entitled to makeup like the ladies. He soaks his hair in really developed materials. 

These are normally formed of the early morning cattle urine, being rich in salt constituents. They mix it enriched with the silt of termite  colonics due to the prevalence of gum and salt therein. The hut is painted with bull dung mixed with ash to form a coal like plaster of fresh cement, being rich in materials of gum constituents, The wife, consequently, honors the husband intimately. She never present food or water except in a respectful attitude. She bows, which is also a tradition in some Asian countries. Art has globally developed cultivation of human life. Things in nature remain practically stagnant till art intervenes. 

It changes attitudes by addition and subtraction to promote living situations and venerate handling among contemporaries. Southern Sudan has a tropical to a rich Savannah climate. The soil flourishes by thick trees and rich grass. The jungle feeds various animals with spectral colours. The atmosphere blossoms in listless groups of fruits that submit warmth and fuel. There are several cycles that are complementary to provide food for man and the coexisting plant and animal life. After long years of departure, there docile environments are still fresh in my memory with the shady trees and their human inhabitants among the animals and the moons with their intimate apparitions. 

The Nilotic tribes retain amicable habits and taboos to enrich like for these beautiful faces with well set tecth, like the milk of their cows. Note please, that to brush teeth they use the ash of cattle dung and plant coal. They use the same material as an ointment to scare away insects like mosquitoes. The rhythm theme of nostalgia coupled to romantic poetry, form their best sinning combinations. They play the harp skillfully in sad tunes. The voice is heavy with a loving simple language to urge the loved ones. 

They decorate wrists with brass bracelets to ward off the evils of the damp weather. The attitude to the makeup is globally recognized. By mere instinct those tribes utilize deep responses to the consvulidated life of a southern citizen. As one of them by breeding, I still bear their features and innocence, their colours and physical forms, all in genuine combinations. Their powerful impact is easily recognizable in my works of sculpture, painting and engineering designs.

All texts, photos and graphic designs used on this website are protected by copyright. If you want to use parts of it, please contact the site operator. If necessary, he will then establish contact with the author or authorized user. 
© Prof. Osman Elamin Shibir, 2021