Sunday, August 23, 2015


See the Murle On Safari with Bahr El Jebel Safaris

The Name

The people call themselves Murle.
The Anyuak call them Ajibo, while the Dinka and Nuer call them Ber.

Demography and Geography

The Murle number about 300,000 to 400,000 and inhabit Pibor County in southeastern Upper Nile (Jonglei).
The plain Murle (Lotilla) are predominantly agro-pastoralist, while the mountain Murle (Ngalam) living in Boma Plateau are predominantly agrarian.

Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

Large parts of Murle country are flood prone plains dissected by numerous perennial streams drained from the foothills of the Ethiopian highlands. The topography suddenly changes to the Boma Plateau as does the rainfall regime and vegetation. This environment has influenced the social and economic activities of the Murle.
The plain Murle are predominantly pastoral and their socio-economic activities centre round the herding of cattle. They practice subsistence agriculture; they also fish and hunt extensively. The Murle are extremely skilful in the arts of hunting and stalking game. In Boma where there is high rainfall the Murle practice agriculture cultivating maize, sorghum, simsim, tobacco and coffee.

Mythology and History

Tradition claims that the tribe was created at a place called ''''''''Jen'''''''', somewhere beyond Maji in Ethiopia. The Murle have a number of myths and songs about Jen.
Another tradition claims that the Murle was part of a larger group that migration from around Lake Turkana. The memory of the separation from the Didinga, Lorim and others over soup of a gazelle is vivid in the minds of most Murle.


The Murle language is spoken by both the Ngalam and Lotilla Murle. This language is closely related to the Didinga and Boya languages.

Society: Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions

The Murle society is primarily inclined to and interested in their present rather than the past. However, the respect for their traditions and customs (ker ci Murlu) is so great that many of these customs have the force of law, which can be taken also for custom. The Murle social structure is explained in terms of drum-ships, clans, lineages, homesteads, and households.
A group of households combines to form a homestead; a group of the homesteads form a ''''''''tatok'''''''' or minimal lineage, a group of tatok form a lineage, ''''''''bor''''''''.
A clan, ''''''''bang'''''''', is formed of a group of lineages, and each drum-ship consists of a branch of the chiefly Bulanec clan and its attached commoner-clans.
The Murle social and cultural life is centred round their cattle. They breed them, marry with them, eat their meat, drink their blood and milk, and sleep on their hides. The Murle compose songs full of references to the herds captured in battle or raids from their neighbours. Raiding and stealing of cattle is a question of honour and valour. Every important social event is celebrated by the sacrifice of a bull in order to ensure the participation of the ancestral spirits as well as to provide food for the assembled guests and relatives. Kinship obligations are expressed in terms of cattle.
The Murle language has a considerable vocabulary of cattle terms. There are special words for every colour and colour combination; for cows and calves, bulls and oxen, at every stage of their growth; for different kinds of horns and for all the conformations to which their horns can be trained to grow. Every young man is given an ox by his father or uncle when he reaches man’s estate and spends hours singing to his special ox from which he takes his bull’s name.

Murle Dance at Pibor

No comments:

Post a Comment