The Nuba People Of Central Sudan

Nuba People

The Nuba people are indigenous inhabitants of central Sudan. Nuba are various indigenous ethnic groups who inhabit the Nuba mountains of South Kordofan State in Sudan.

The Nuba have multiple distinct people that speak different languages and belong to at least two hundred unrelated language families. The Sudanese government has estimated the population of the Nuba people to be around 2.07 million. This was obtained from the 2003 population census.


The Nuba people reside in the foothills of the Nuba mountains. Their villages consist of family compounds and Houlas where unmarried men sleep.

A family compound consists of a rectangular compound enclosing two round mud huts thatched with sorghum stalks each facing the other called a ‘Shal’. The Shal is fenced with wooden posts interwoven with straw. Around the ‘Shal’ is the much larger yard, the tog placed in front and fenced with strong tree branches where their livestock is kept. At the back of the compound is a small yard where maize and vegetables are planted.


As previously mentioned, The Nuba people speak various languages that are not closely related to each other. Several Nuba languages are in the Nilo-Saharan language family. Over a hundred languages are spoken in the area and are considered Nuba languages. However many of the Nuba people also speak ‘Sudanese Arabic’, the common language of Sudan.


The Nuba people are primarily farmers and herders who are keepers of cattle, chickens and other domestic animals. Furthermore, a distinctive characteristic of the Nubas is their passion for athletic competition, especially traditional wrestling. The Nuba’s passion for physical excellence is also displayed through the young men’s vanity-they often spend more time painting their bodies with complex patterns and decorations. This vanity reflects the fundamental Nuba belief in the power and importance of strength and beauty.

In terms of religion, the Nuba people are mostly Islamic adherents while a small handful of them are Christians and traditional Shamanistic worshipers.


In the 1986 elections, the National Umma Party lost several seats to the Nuba Mountains General Union and to the Sudan National Party due to the reduced level of support from the Nuba Mountains region. There is a reason to believe that attacks by the government-supported militia, the Popular Defence Force (PDF). The PDF attacks were particularly violent, and have been cited as examples of ‘crimes against humanity’ that took place during the ‘second Sudanese war’.

Kunle Ayano

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