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On the Horn

Page 4

That was the meaning of Khartoum in the Dinka language: two river junction. (Later one of the Eritreans explained that this was contested: in Arabic khartoum was elephant trunk.) This was the very best way to learn some geography. One of the rivers originated in Ethiopia and the other Majak incorrectly suggested Congo. Googling in the evening showed it was Lake Victoria that was the source of the White Nile.

In the Dinka language Majak was bull, a particular breed with red chest and tail and white trunk, he said. Big horns too. Majak did not know the name in English. Male cows – bulls: not buffalo. They had buffalo too in South Sudan, but these prime bulls that gave Majak his name were something else. In his family they had about ten, with many more cows. (The equivalent in old Montenegro would have meant a position of some standing.) It was only in the evening that an online photo-essay showed the captivating bulls, the pictures of the herd in the midst of grainy air, from the movement of the animals presumably. There were many other pictures that displayed the remarkable culture and way of life which Majak and the other men in their suits, ties and shoes at the café had left behind. Brilliantly coloured corsets were associated with coming of age and courtship, wonderfully artful conical thatched housing was shown, all kinds of bodily pasting with the animal dung that also served for campfires. In an accompanying video, girls, it appeared, washed their beautiful faces with cow urine taken directly from the source. The youth were especially radiant. It was clearly an extensive and wondrous culture. From ten years before the Dinka men and women had been observed in Footscray, the extravagant beauty of their lives in their homeland utterly impossible to conceive. Dale Carnegie introduced there was enough to make one weep, was weeping still possible.

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