Monthly Archives: February 2010

Slave – Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis


“In our tribe, the groom has to pay the bride’s family a dowry -usually a number of cows and goats and some sacks of sorghum. This is the ‘bride price’, the amount he pays to marry their daughter.”

“The one side of Musa and Kunyant’s hut there was a crowd of women. They were chanting, and pointing at a sheet that was hung on the fence. My mother had spent the previous week weaving Kunyant and Musa a beautiful new raffia mattress. The night before the wedding, she had put a special white marriage sheet on their marriage bed. Now it was hung on the fence and there was a large red stain halfway down it, which looked to me like blood. What could it mean? I thought with horror that maybe Kunyant had died in the night.”

“My mother took the baby’s body, washed it, wrapped it in a tiny burial shroud and took it away. After the baby was buried, she was all but forgotten. There was no funeral ceremony and it was almost as if she ahd never existed.
‘Why did the baby have to die?’ I asked my mother later, in a sad little voice.
‘Allah decided that she should be born and He decided she should die,’ she said calmly. ‘It’s His will.’

“Goats eat anything.”

“Some of the girls in our tribe died after their circumcision, due to infections. Still more died in childbirth, because their vaginal opening was too narrow to allow them to give birth properly, but it was even more common for the baby to die in childbirth, for the same reason. That’s probably why Kunyant’s first baby died. It took me at least two months to forgive my parents for allowing me to be circumcised. I knew that they allowed it to be done to me because they feared that if I wasn’t circumcised, I would never be married. No Nuba man will marry a Nuba girl unless she is ‘narrow’ -which proves she is a virgin. My parents really, really believed they were doing the best for me.”