National Geographic : 1966 Nov
KODACHROME9 N.G.S. Flailing millet with flat clubs, farmers thresh the crop of a neighbor in a community endeavor. The host spends most of his time passing food and beer, his hospitality the only wage he pays. Next day, the men move on to another neighbor's land. good, Koishe-Tutu served a spicy sauce pre pared from sour fruit. To this she added a little bembe, a variety of hot pepper. At hand stood a jar of water for the children and cala bashes of marissa for the adults. Soon the Masakin became accustomed to us, and we began making documentary films of their life and culture. We filmed, for in stance, the making of a bowl from white clay mixed with cow dung. (The dung is light and tough, and its elasticity makes the bowl break resistant.) The molding and firing of clay pots, the making of sandals from cowhide, the shaping of a clay flute-there were more sub jects than we could cope with. The people seemed to enjoy getting togeth er with us in the evenings to sing and to hear our songs. We would often play back record ings of these gatherings. At the sound of their own voices, the delighted singers would laugh and tease each other-and we would record this banter and let them hear it, too. The remarkable integrity and independence of the Nuba stem partly from the remoteness of their homeland, which is off the main trade and-travel routes. The Nuba Mountains rise from the arid plain between the true desert- the Sahara-and the swampy Sudd region of the upper White Nile (pages 660-61). Here, a few degrees north of the Equator, rain falls 684 between April and October. Heaviest in Au gust, it averages thirty inches a year. Our visit coincided with the dry season, and temperatures at midday soared above 100° F. At night, we had welcome readings in the 60's, sometimes even lower. March and April bring the most intense heat, as high as 111°. The coolest months are July and August. Two or three times thermometer readings fell to 48°. We were grateful for our warm sleeping bags, spread out on the roof of our truck and inside the bus. A Pinch of Snuff, Then off to Work The Nuba, tough-skinned and acclimated, disregard temperature. It made us shiver to watch them marching to their fields at dawn without a stitch on. Usually they passed close to our vehicles, called out "Guten Morgen" one of the German phrases they had picked up from us-and placed the backs of their thumbs to their noses, signaling their willing ness to accept the usual pinch of snuff. Our native hosts imitated our Swabian dia lect quite easily. "Hock na!" is the sharply accented south-German slang for "Sit down!" It came as a shock, when we stooped to enter the keyhole entryway of a Nuba hut, to hear the woman of the house exclaim "Hock na!" in greeting as she pushed log seats toward us.