Nuer colwic shrine

Nuer colwic shrine
43 x 54 mm | Print gelatin silver
Date of Print:
Previous PRM Number:
Previous Other Number:
02 2

Accession Number:
Looking towards a shrine to the spirit of a girl called Nyakewa killed by lightning (colwic) consisting of a shrine-stake (riek) planted in a low earth mound with sacrifical remains placed atop the stake. Around the funerary mound have been placed vessels (possibly of beer) as well as offerings such as tobacco and the remains of sacrificed animals. Nyakewa was considered to have become a colwic, a spirit taken directly by God. This specific intervention by the divine was considered so dangerous to all associated with the deceased that sacrifice is made by all relatives, and a special shrine erected with offerings. One of the sacrifical offerings visible is the head of a light coloured ox, seen in another image being sacrificed by Nyakewa's senior maternal uncle on the morning following the main ceremony. In all more than twenty animals were sacrificed over several days.
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Date of Photo:
1936 October - November
[Southern Sudan] Wahda Nyueny
Nuer Leek Karlual
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Donated 1966
Other Owners:
E. E. Evans-Pritchard Collection
Religion , Ritual Object
Shrine , Vessel , Animal Cattle
Original catalogue lists in Manuscript Collections. Additional material in related documents files. [CM 27/9/2005]
Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 98] 1966.27 [1 - 24] G[ift] PROFESSOR E. E. EVANS-PRITCHARD; INST. OF SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY, 51 BANBURY RD. OXFORD 1966.27.1-16 S. SUDAN. NUER TRIBE. Sixteen negative albums containing negatives and prints of photographs taken by donor during field-work. All listed in albums. Added Accession Book Entry - [p. 98 in right hand column, in pencil] Catalogue room.

Manual Catalogues [index taken from album book VII, ms ink] - 78.
Colwic shrine

Note on print reverse ms pencil - "02 2 col wic" & print front border ms ink - "NUER VII/78"

Other Information:
In E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Nuer Religion (Oxford University Press 1974 [1957]), page 56-7, he notes that 'I had the opportunity in 1936 to witness this ceremony when it was held for a girl called Nyakewa, the daughter of Rwacar, among the western Nuer. During the afternoon the women of the village collected in the garden of the dead girl's home to make beer, for it is the custom on this occasion for the women to work together instead of each in her own home... The ceremony began in the late afternoon in the homestead where Nyakewa was killed, that of her mother Nyaruithni and of her brother Malith, an uninitiated boy... Lat, son on Pan, the master of ceremonies of Nyakewa's father's family.. then erected a riek, a shrine-stake, in the centre of the funeral mound..' In Nuer Religion (Oxford University Press 1974 [1957]), page 59, E-P mentions that the colwic ceremony for Nyakewa took place in the same village as the possession of Galuak by the spirit nai, an event that took place during E-P's fieldwork in Nyueny village among the Karlual in 1936. [Chris Morton 16/6/2004]
Christopher Morton [6/7/2004] [Southern Sudan Project]
Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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