The Block

The embroidered symbols featured in this block, made by Justin Laku, reflect various aspects of Sudanese life. In Khartoum, the capital city, the White Nile and the Blue Nile join together to become the great Nile River. The river, symbolized on the block by a boat upon water, is the main source of the nation’s irrigation as well as its lifeline. It connects not only the north and south regions of Sudan, but also links it to other African countries. The right oval depicts a dwelling commonly found in parts of the country. This kind of hut, round with a conical roof, is constructed from mud and grass.

A palm tree, the only variety to survive the dry Sahara environment, fills the bottom section, while cowrie shells, believed by some to be a means of predicting the future and used by others for jewelry and fashion, embellish the centre. On either side of the shells are pieces of copper bracelet. This type of bracelet, worn as a sign of adulthood, represents Sudan’s rich mineral resources. Elaborate gold stitching frames the inner design in a pattern typically embroidered on men’s clothing. A piece of Justin’s, which was created in the popular art-form of tie-dye, was used for the background.

Piramidoj en Meroe (Sudano) 006
At the Meroe pyramids
Women sellers (3180106550)
Women at the market
Nuba village
Houses in the Nuba mountains
Nuba woman Kau
A Nuba woman
Sudan Meroe Pyramids 15jan2005
Man and woman in front of the Meroe pyramids
Sudan Culture Woman with Jabana
Woman holding a jabana

Cultural Profile

The third largest country in Africa, Sudan covers more than 2.5 million square miles. A country with a rich history, it was the seat of pharaonic kingdoms during the Antiquity, during which rulers built pyramids and temples that can still be seen today. Christianity was introduced in the 6th century, followed by Islam in the 15th century, with ancient churches and mosques still standing under the desert sun.

Sudan is primarily a farming nation where over 80 percent of the world’s gum arabic, used in inks, adhesives, candy and soft drinks, is produced. Large, government-operated farms also produce long-fibre cotton, famous for its softness. Petroleum was discovered in the late 1970s; however, the burgeoning industry has been hampered by an unstable infrastructure and the ongoing civil war. Arabic is the official language although Nubian, English and over 100 other languages and dialects are spoken as well. An ethnically diverse nation, there are more than 500 different groups in Sudan.

The focus for Sudanese families has traditionally been the local village or nomadic community. Hospitality is important and guests are offered chai or a fruit drink as a symbolic gesture of welcome. Coffee, brewed over coals in the jebana ceramic pot with different spices, is also served to welcome guests.

Sudanese are known for their beautiful ebony and ivory carvings, metal and leatherwork, and decorative items, in a variety of textiles, that women often make for their homes. Fabulous horse costumes used in ceremonial displays are also widely recognized. The Fulani horse armor is made from quilted cloth stuffed with kapok, the hairs that surround the seeds of the silk cotton tree, and the bright cloaks worn over it are distinctively embroidered, making each unique.

Sudanese have been coming to Canada since 1946 as factory workers and trades people, settling in Ontario, Québec, the Maritimes, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Leaving behind all things familiar to them, they came for economic and educational reasons, but also to escape their homeland’s ongoing turmoil, one of the longest, most devastating civil wars in history. As of 2011, there were 16,000 Sudanese living in Canada.

Sponsor: The Foster family | Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons