Meet the Dinka Tribe: The Tallest People in Africa

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Africa has numerous tribes scattered across the length and breadth of the continent. As a result, the continent is more homogeneous. Wondering where the tallest people in Africa are and what they look like? 

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This article will lead you to “Meet the Dinka People: The Tallest People in Africa.”

The Dinka people are the tallest people in Africa, and they are of South Sudanese origin. They have an average height of 6 feet, or 1.83 meters, for men and 5 feet, 10 inches, or 1.78 meters, for women. 

The Dinka people are not only the tallest people in Africa, but as part of the Nilotic ethnic group, they form the largest ethnic group in South Sudan. They are traditionally cattle herders, and farmers who have a solid cultural identity. They usually earn their living through pastoralism and agriculture.

With their traditional dances and music forming an important part of their culture, the Dinka tribe of South Sudan have a rich oral history. Its a nilotic language group that lives along the Nile.

With a quantifiable diaspora population abroad, the Dinka people are an ethnic group native to South Sudan. The Dinkas are recognizable for their astounding height, and along with the Tutsi of Rwanda, they are believed to be the tallest people in Africa.

Roberts and Bainbridge undertook a study titled “Nilotic physique”, reported the average height of 182.6 cm (5 ft 11.9 in) in a sample of 52 Dinka Agaar and 181.3 cm (5 ft 11.4 in) in 227 Dinka Ruweng measured in 1953–1954.

Modern studies have shown that the present stature of Dinka males is lower, probably due to malnutrition and conflicts. For instance, an anthropometric survey of Dinka men, war refugees in Ethiopia, published in 1995, found a mean height of 176.4 cm (5 ft 9.4 in). 

This does not significantly change their status as the tallest people in Africa. Other studies have even shown that comparative historical height data and nutrition place the Dinka as the tallest people in the world.

One thing noticeable about the Dinka people is that they have no centralised political authority, instead, their society is made up of many independent but interlinked clans.

A practice is that some of the clans traditionally provide ritual chiefs, known as the “masters of the fishing spear” or beny bith, who provide leadership for the entire people and appear to be at least in part hereditary.

History of the Dinka People

Oral tradition has it that the Dinka originated from the Gezira in Sudan. The kingdom of Alodia, a Christian, multi-ethnic empire dominated by Nubians, ruled this region during medieval times. 

Through their interaction with the Nubians, and for being on their southern boundary, the Dinka people acquired a substantial portion of the Nubian lexicon. 

After Alodia fell apart in the 13th century, the Dinka started to leave the Gezira, escaping slave raids, other military conflicts, and droughts.

As Dinka and Nuer fought over grazing their animals, there was conflict over pastures and cattle raiding. Their diets are rich in dairy products and grains. Also its one of the largest ethnic tribe according to Sudan census.

The Way of Life and Belief System 

The Dinka tribe lives a pastoral lifestyle, which is reflected in their religious beliefs and practices. 

Similar to the majority of Nilotic religions, the Dinka religion is polytheistic; thus, they believe in multiple deities, usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with unique religious sects and rituals. 

Although it believes in only one creator god, Nhialic stands at the head of the Dinka pantheon of gods and spirits. The tallest people in Africa believe that the Nhialic often keeps his distance from people and avoids direct contact with them. One of the main tenets of the Dinka religion is the sacrifice of oxen. The “masters of the fishing spear” usually perform the sacrifice. 

Age plays a significant role in the Dinka way of life, as young men entering adulthood go through an initiation ritual that involves making a mark with a sharp tool on the forehead. They also receive a second cow-color name on this occasion. 

The Dinka people believe that rather than a religious book, nature and their environment provide them with spiritual force.

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Notable Dinka People 

The tallest people in Africa have left their mark around the globe. Here are some notable Dinka people worth knowing.

William Deng Nhial 

tallest people in africa
Source: The William Deng Nhial Foundation

William Deng was born in 1929 and died on May 5, 1968. He was the political leader of the Sudan African National Union (SANU) from 1962 to 1968, through an unopposed election. 

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History has it that he was one of the founders of the Anya Nya Military Wing of the Liberation of Southern Sudan, fighting for the independence of Southern Sudan. 

It is believed that Sudan’s army ambushed and killed him on May 9, 1968, at Cueibet, on his way from Rumbek to Tonj. The Sudanese government, however, denied having authorised the assassination. 

Although no investigation was conducted, eyewitnesses at Cueibet village and the SANU investigation committee confirmed the assassins to be the Sudan army.

Abel Alier

tallest people in africa
Source: Marefa

Abel Alier, also known as “Abel Alier Kwai,”  is the first southern former president of the High Executive Council of Southern Sudan and Vice President of Sudan from 1972 to 1982.

Abel Alier was born on June 23, 1933. He was a South Sudanese politician and judge who served as Vice President of Sudan between 1971 and 1982 and as President of the High Executive Council of the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region between 1972 and 1978. 

He is an internationally respected judge, human-rights lawyer, and political activist on behalf of Christians in Sudan. As a former Vice President of Sudan, he served as the first president of the High Executive Council of Southern Sudan.

Read also: The Mursi Tribe of Ethiopia, Dubbed the ‘Most Dangerous’ African Tribe

Francis Bok 

tallest people in africa
Source: Deviant Art

Francis Piol Bok was born in February 1979. As a Dinka tribesman and native of South Sudan, he became a slave for ten years but later became an abolitionist and author living in the United States. 

On May 15, 1986, Francis was captured and enslaved at the age of seven during an Arab militia raid on the village of Nyamlel in South Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Bok lived in bondage for ten years before escaping imprisonment in Kurdufan, Sudan, followed by a journey to the United States through Cairo, Egypt.

Thon Maker

Meet the Dinka Tribe: The Tallest People in Africa
Source: Yahoo Sports

Thon Marial Maker is a professional basketball player for the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). He was born on February 25, 1997, in South Sudan.  Thon attended high school at Orangeville District Secondary School and played basketball for Canada’s Athlete Institute. 

He was picked 10th overall in the 2016 NBA draft and played for three different NBA teams between 2016 and 2021. He was the tallest player, tallest NBA player.

Adut Akech

Meet the Dinka Tribe: The Tallest People in Africa
Source: Daily Mail

Adut Akech, a South Sudanese-Australian model, was born on December 25, 1999. Akech made her fashion week runway debut as an exclusive in the Saint Laurent S/S 17 show and went on to close both their F/W 17 and S/S 18 shows as an exclusive. Akech was born in South Sudan (formerly part of Sudan) but was raised in Kakuma, Kenya. 

In 2018, she was chosen as “Model of the Year” by Models, an honour that was repeated the following year. She was 7 years old when she moved away from Kenya with her mother to Adelaide, Australia, as a South Sudanese refugee. Akech has five siblings. She was known as “Mary” in Adelaide, as Australian teachers found it difficult to pronounce her name.

Alek Wek

Meet the Dinka Tribe: The Tallest People in Africa
Source: Wikipedia 

Alek Wek, born on April 16, 1977, is a South Sudanese-British model and designer who began her fashion career at the age of 18 in 1995. She has been hailed for her influence on the perception of beauty in the fashion industry. Alek was born in Wau, Sudan (now South Sudan), and is the seventh of nine children. 

Her mother, Akuol, was a housewife, and her father was an education official. 

She is from the Dinka ethnic group in South Sudan but fled to Britain in 1991 to escape the civil war in Sudan. In 2015, she was listed as one of the BBC’s 100 Women.

Her name reportedly means “Black Spotted Cow.” Alek suffered from the skin condition psoriasis from infancy until age 14. The Wek family had to flee from rebel and government forces when the civil war broke out in Wau in 1985. 

Her father, Athian, once broke his hip in a bicycle accident, and his hip was repaired with metal pins. Long periods of walking caused Athian’s hip to get infected, and upon the family’s return to Wau, he became paralysed and endured a haemorrhage. He died at a relative’s home in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

This is what the Dinka people, the tallest people in Africa, stand for, where they have come from, and how they are affecting the world today from several countries. They are a part of the numerous African tribes that have gone through the thick and thin of oppression, slavery, and civil wars but still forge ahead to record their presence on the world stage. 

What do you know about the Dink tribe and the tallest people in Africa? Please let us know in the comments section below. Their height is a matter of cultural pride.

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People also: Here are Some Traditions of the Himba Tribe, the Red People of Africa.

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