The Shilluk prefer to be known as Chollo, rather than the more widely known term, Shilluk, and their language as dhok-Chollo, dhok being the Chollo word for mouth. The Chollo are a major Nilotic ethnic group of southern Sudan, living on both banks of the river Nile, in the vicinity of the city of Malakal. The most extensive Chollo area is located on the western bank of the Nile north from Malakal. Before the second Sudanese civil war the Chollo also lived in a number of settlements on the northern bank of the Sobat river, close to where the Sobat joins the Nile, with Dolieb Hill as an important mission station. The Shilluk are the third largest minority ethnic group of South Sudan, after the Dinka and their neighbors the Nuer.


Their history tells that they are Nilotic from the Luo speaking groups of (Anywak, Pari, Juluo, Kenya Luo, Acholi and Balenda Bwor). They share in common of their cultural identities and they have myths that tell about their origin.However, each group has its own explanation on how they were related to one another in the past. According to the Chollo History, they traced their origins to the Nyikango, the founder of the Chollo nation. Their History has it that Nyikango and his followers split from their parent stocks of the Luo who were then inhabiting the part of the North Bhar El Ghazal the place called (wij pach) in the Awiel area. The fallout between Nyikang and his brother Dimo was about the bead. It is said, that one of Dimo’s son swallowed the Nyikang’s bead and demanded that, he needs his original bead. If the Chollo history has it as true about the Nyikang action then the Dimo’s son stomach was extracted in order to get the Nyikang’s original bead. After that conflict, Nyikang and his entourage went northward wandering and conquering as they go along. Reaching the present land of Chollo, he was strong enough to establish the dynasty and the Chollo nation. Nyikang assisted by his son Dak, they managed to convert different tribes who were then living in that land and later were assimilated into the Chollo culture. The Chollo people believe in Nyikang as a true historical, cultural and political hero of Chollo nation. They regard him as having divine power because he did not die but vanished in the great wind. His disappearance has been honoured with belief that he has spirit that empowers the Chollo king to have supernatural power over the land. In each Chollo king, the spirit of Nyikang is supposed to be immanent, that immanence is the reason behind the king’s prerogative.



The initial start of the new life among the Chollo people begins when a woman conceives. Chollo literally calls it “dhenhdhaac ayit ki dhaanho”; it is from that period onward, when the preparation of welcoming the new life begins. The pregnant mother (ayaac) is treated with special respect and addressed in kindly vocal tune. Apart from that, she is exempted from heavy duties, however, on dietary feeding; she is to eat special food prescribed by cultural norms. When the baby is born of either sex their umbilical cord (byeer) is buried, however, there are special procedures to follow in burying. If it is a male, the umbilical cord is buried on the right side of the doors exit, while a female's on the left. The right or the left side hand in Chollo tradition describes gender social allocation of hierarchies and or seniorities. According to Chollo belief, the right hand (wij cing kyeej) is always reserved to men (Jog Chow) in social gathering while women (Tyeng Maan) take the left hand side. The midwives (gam) in Chollo birth tradition are assumed to be the older women and no middle age men or women are considered to perform such exercise, except in times of emergency. After delivering the newborn, his/her well being is checked for any noticeable physical deformities which may lessen the child's chance of living. The mother stays in the house for a period of three months in order to gain her healing process.


According to Chollo culture each newborn is given a name that may relate to conditions parents or close relative had experienced. For instance, if the parents named their child Ngino or Nyangino, that indicates the parents or relatives were in hardship during or before the pregnancy. The name of the child sometimes among the Chollo people can be a father expression of himself to the community. For instance, the name Buwaar is a father message to the community that he had no fear in himself. In addition, the newborn may be named after their ancestors’ names which Chollo people called “dhaanho nying akaalo”; in this case special rituals are performed to thank the ancestor of blessing the newborn with a name. Occasionally, the newborn could be named in accordance with circumstances or events that coincided with the childbirth. When the child is born during war, parents may call the boy Oliny and girl Nyaliny and that denotes the circumstances of war.

On the other hand, if the child is born when there is installation of the chief the father may name the boy Laaw or Jaag and the girl Nyalaw.

Chollo tradition prohibits the naming of a child with the name of a living person. Finally, Chollo tradition has fixed names of twins and three children born after them. If the twins are born boys they are called “Ngor and Chan” and if they are girls they named them “Angar and Nyachan”. If the first child born after the twins is a boy, the parents name him Bol and a girl Nyibol. Achuil is a name given to the second born after twins for either a boy or a girl while the third child is named Otuk for a boy or Nyatuk for a girl.

Initiation into Adulthood

Among the Chollo people, the initiation into adulthood is marked with ceremony of the daytime dance called “Cong ki bul di cyang”. It is done for the initiation of the boys while for the girls no ceremony done to mark their adulthood. The boys who dance on the first time in this special dance, they wear regalia made of the leopard skin and it is tied on their waist. They also wear the beads made from the shell of ostrich eggs (reek) and the necklace they wear made from the giraffe’s tail mane called “winn wir”. The young boys who were initiated on the same period form a group of mates (ric) and after that, they move to the men mess (Dipac). In that place, they will have their daily meals and chat with other men of the first graduates who help them to learn about the community issues and other related responsibilities.

Traditional Dance

The dances among the Chollo people form the core tradition of the Chollo culture. Chollo have four types of the dances where they express their happiness. The first one is cong ki bul di cyang literally mean the day dance. It is called like that because the other three types of the dances are occasionally played at night. In bul dance, men wear regalia made from the leopard skin or sack material cut in special way called yoor which they tie on their low back. The women wear (lani bul) made from the cow skin. In addition, both men and women wear necklace beads on their necks. The women put extra beads style on their arms and foreheads. Nevertheless, the men and women decorated their bodies in different special way with dots of the chalk on their foreheads and different kind of the feathers (okon) on their heads. Every one is trying to make him or her self to look unique and different from the rest of the dancers. Thom is the only Chollo dance where the women do not dance in front of the men. The women form the circle around the beating drum and on the other hand, the men form their own lines behind the circle of women. The dance style of the Chollo (Thom) is that, people run in stylistic way with song sung by one or two people exchanging their voices and the rest pick up the song. All dancers both men and women wear beads and (Laawo) the Chollo known attire during the Thom. Kemb is narrowly close to the bul dancing style. However, their differences are that, in kem no beating drum. There is only one song sung by every body while for bul every man sings his own song. Chollo used (kemb) dance in the marriage ceremony. The wearing style of kem is similar to those of Thom and (Amagaak) dances. The laawo and the beads are the basic core of these three dances among the Chollo people. Amagaak dance look unique. In the (Amagaak) dance people have to sit down in circle with wide open space in the middle where the chosen men dance with the women who had picked them up. The dance is performed through clapping of the hands and people sing the song that match the rhythms of the hands clapping and the foot thumb on the ground. The girl selects the man she wants to dance with and if the girl does not choose you, you are suppose not to go in the middle of circle and dance without girl in front of you. It is a shame for those who attempted to dance when the girls do not pick them up.

The Significance of Songs

In chollo traditions, songs are the most specific way of communicating the cultural values, norms and so forth. It is through the songs where people learned not only the cultural values or norms but also the past, especially about Nyikang and his successors’ deeds. Generally, Chollo people used songs as an educative means to inform or warn the people on issues that are likely to have negative impact on the community wellbeing. On the other hand, they used songs to appreciate or give praise to the people who had done or are doing great things.

marriage Marriage among the Chollo people is a final goal for every grown up man and woman. It starts with courtship that involves intimacy, which can last for a year or more depending on the suitor wishes. When the man proposes to the girl that he wants to marry, she will tell her mother which in turn informs the father. If the father accepts, then the process of marriage will begin. Before marriage takes its course, the bride’s family will launch an enquiry about the groom’s family background to find out if they share the same totem. For example if both families have the same sacred totem as monitor lizard (Ngweeji) then they are considered relatives and no marriage is allowed. However, if the bride’s family finds no such a link exists then the man is considered suitable to marry their daughter. They will tell her to let the man to proceed with his proposal. The first step to make marriage official is that, two families have to appoint a messenger (jal dhok) from each side. They act as mediators and help to bring the families of groom and bride together in order to discuss the marriage arrangement. If the two families agree, the official stocks of the dyek dhok and ngyenyi kwaco are paid. Dyek dhok are either three goats or three sheep while ngyenyi kwaco is the money given to appease the parents of the bride to accept the request. However, ngyenyi kwaco may vary from family to family. Among the Chollo people, the dowries of ten cows and thirty goats or sheep are paid to seal the marriage. They are paid after the marriage ceremony (Cong nywom).The groom can pay them all or sometimes part of it depending on the groom’s economical position. Chollo tradition has no ceremony to handover the bride. The groom and his friends have to find their own ways on how to take the bride, which some times can be by force. Chollo people called this process “ting nyandhaac”. The marriage relationship among the Chollo people binds two families together making it hard for divorce unless there is a good reason to nullify the marriage. In case of divorce, the dowries are returned and if there are no children born during the union of the couples.
Concept of Death

Universally, all human beings know that the ultimate end of life on earth is death. Chollo people acknowledge that fact, and they believe that everyone would die. With that belief, they encourage themselves to accept and celebrate death if one of the community’s member dies. However, the celebration is carried out depending on the age or the importance of that person. When a person dies, his or her body is washed and thereafter the head is shaved. The dead body is dressed up in white cloth before burial. When the body is lowered into the grave, it is laid on the right side of the grave with head facing East direction. If the deceased is already initiated into adulthood, the men will take their shields and jump besides the grave. Chollo called it “wuji ki kot ki kom oor”. The funeral rites among the Chollo is celebrated twice, the first one is Kwooc which is done few months after the burial. The last funeral rite Ywok follows one year later or some time can be a couple of years


The Chollo kingdom is one of the well-survived and known kingdoms in the whole Sudan and his king is most respected across the country. There are conditions which one has to meet to become chollo king. First, you must be a prince (Nyireth) born during the reign of your father and should not have a scar and must known to be brave, courageous, full determined and above all wise and fair. When the new Reth is chosen, his coronation is done in Pachod the Headquarter of the Chollo kingdom. Chollo people call Pachod (Pari ben) meaning our home. Pachod geographical location falls in the middle of the Chollo Nation; it is convenient and accessible to the all Chollo people from South to North. The King reigns in Pachod and has ultimate authority and decisions in the Chollo land. He is the ultimate judicial proceedings, political and spiritual leader of Chollo people. At the time of war, the king acts as a commander in chief. Chollo people respect and believe that king (Reth) is “Nyajwok” which means the child of the God. They regard King as a person representing the spirit of God in the Chollo land and when they greet him, they sit down on the ground with their legs folded. In addition, they open their palms faced down saying “Wuo Wuo” which mean your lordship, lordship. Under the king command there are paramount chiefs and villages’ chiefs who actually implement the king policy among the Chollo people. Although Pachod is a political centre, where his majesty king rules and conducts his political functions. The Chollo Kingdom is geographically divided into two regional zones the Northern region “Gar” and the Southern region “Lwaak”. The two regional Zones are further divided into fifteen provinces known as payams “Amadiyat” and each province headed by paramount chief who is answerable to Reth (King) in Pachod while at the same time they act as ambassadors of Reth in the terms of modern conventional government system. The other important hierarchy in Chollo land are chiefs in charge of villages called “Jag” or “Kwanyireth”. The word Jag refers to any leadership title. According to Chollo Kingdom protocol, Jag is a chief who is not by virtues a descendent of Nyikang while Nyikang descendent chiefs are referred to as “Kwanyreth”. Also follows that hierarchy is Beny, Nyireth and clan elders. Beny is like a military guard commander who plays a key role during the war. He lays out the tactics and the ways in which his followers confront the war successfully. Beny has spiritual power, which helps him to deter or predict the war outcome. Nyireth is son or daughter of the King “Reth” not enthroned or installed to become the chosen King. The Chollo people respect Nyireth because some of their political fortunes are unknown. In addition to that, they deserve the respect because of privileges derived from their fathers’ status. Clan elders are the head of the clan; they play crucial roles, helping young people on how they should adhere to cultural functions. In addition, they keep historical trends of Chollo legends through stories tellings by passing them to new generation. In fact, they are key informants used by the community as reference about their background.


No capital punishment by death is carried out by Chollo people. Every life is considered sacred and worthy of living. You can not kill a person whatever your justification might be, instead you are advised to seek justice and not retribution. Chollo people believe strongly in dead person’s retribution from the grave known as “cyeen” or Karma. Compensation of accidental or intentional killing is ten cows paid by the family’s murderer to the family of the deceased. Settlement is usually done through the paramount chiefs’ court mandated by Reth. In Case of the Clan’s chief, feuds involving losses of lives are referred to the Reth for final resolution. Bulls are killed and bones are broken by both the feuding parties to symbolize unity. Any one who would seek revenge or vengeance after the ritual is considered to bear the wreath and the blood of those killed, would be upon his family. However, in the interim period before unification of the two warring parties, raiding and lynching “lyeb” or “many” of each other can still go on unabated, mainly by night, thus, resulting in an endless loss of more lives from both sides. Nevertheless, there are periods when Chollo peoples seek revenge for their lost loved ones. The period arrives when the reigning Reth passes away and the kingdom is in disarrays. For the fear of lawlessness, the Reth’s death is usually kept absolutely enigmatic until another king was enthroned. This transitional period is known as “wang yom” which translates to: the opportunity where law is taken by people into their own hands.

list of chollo rulers ==

S/No Name Place of Reign Period 1 Nyikang wad okwa Niwal 1545-1575 2 Cal Wad Nyikang Dinyo 1575-1590 3 Dak Wad Nyikang Palc 1590-1590 4 Nyidor wad Nyikang Nyliec 1605-1615 5 Okol wad dak Ditang 1615-1635 6 Diwad Wad Ocol Obhudiang 1635-1650 7 Bwoc Wad Diwac paroo 1650-1660 8 Abudok Nya Bwoc thwor 1660-1670 9 Dhokoth Wad Bwoc Adhokong 1670-1690 10 Tuga wad Dhokoth Nyimong 1690-1710 11 Akon was Tugo Palab 1710-1725 12 Nyadaway Wad Tugo Dibour 1725-1745 13 Mugo Wad Nyadaway Pabo 1745-1750 14 Wak Wad Nyadaway Biwo 1750-1760 15 Dyelguth wad Nyadway Panyatho 1760-1760 16 Kudit wad akon Palab 1770-1780 17 Yor Wad Kudit Kiec 1780-1820 18 Aney Wad Yor Nyiwud 1820-1825 19 Awot wad yor Dibalo 1825-1835 20 Awin wad Yor Okonpi 1835-1840 21 Akoc Wad Awat Anyango 18401845 22 Nyidhok wad yor Duo 1845-1863 23 Kwathker wad akwot Opathiwan 1863-1869 24 Ajang wad Nyidok Recilep 1869-1875 25 Kuckon wad kwathker Aputh 1875-1882 26 Omer Yor Wad Akoc Babo 1882-1892 27 Kur abdalfathil Wad nyidhok Akwajkwan 1892-1903 28 Papiet Wad Kahker Twongmer 1903-117 29 Papiti Wad Yor Akoc Abuktho 1917-1944 30 Aney wad Kur Nyidhok Ganwat 1944-1945 31 John dak wad patiet Kijo 1945-1951 32 Joseph Kur Wad patiti youd 1951-1974 33 Ayang wad Aney owikel 1974-1992 34 Kwong Wad Dak Alak 1992

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