Photos (2) While playing in waterholes and rivers, children collect water hyacinths to create fanciful masks and headdresses.Young adolescent girls wear alluring loose beaded bodices to indicate their availability for marriage. At 17 to 18 years a girl is ready for marriage, and is fattened up by her family to look attractive. A beaded bodice veils and subtly enhances her femininity. A valued gift from her mother, the bodice is passed on to her younger sister after marriage.Traditional male corsets are color coded to show the wearer’s status in life: a red corset indicates a young man is 15 to 25 years old, while a yellow one shows he is over 30 years old and ready for marriage. Dinka men often walk hand in hand. This physical touching celebrates their close bonds as age-mates.The size and beauty of a corset reflects whether the wearer comes from a family rich in cattle and can afford a high bride price. Some women from wealthy families also wear beaded corsets. The height of the corset in this photograph indicates the girl’s parents require over 80 head of cattle in exchange for her hand in marriage.In the 1970’s, Dinka men wore spectacular beaded bodices; tied onto the body at puberty, they were never removed until replaced by a corset of a different color when a man reached a new age-grade. During the 30 year civil war between the Islamic north and the Animist and Christian south, Dinka men were forced to abandon or sell their beaded corsets.A young woman’s corset is supported by two rigid wires running down the spine and held tightly in place at the front; it will be cut off and removed on the girl’s wedding day.A young woman abandons herself to the pleasure of dancing. She wears the highly valued blue beads given to her as a present by her husband at their marriage.Gathering outside of the cattle camp, Dinka men leap high in the air, competing for the attention of young girls who are eligible for marriage. The dancers leap to extraordinary heights, totally silhouetted against the sky.At puberty a Dinka male receives a namesake ox after which he is named. He believes that he and the animal are one being. From calfhood he trains its horns into beautiful lyre shapes, and emulates them with his arms as he walks. He and his ox accompany each other through life.Every morning hundreds of animals are taken out to graze. White is the Dinka’s favorite color for cattle, but they recognize a myriad of other colors with subtle distinctions and spend hours discussing them. The Dinka do not kill their cattle, but posessively guard the herds, only exchanging them to secure a bride, or sacrificing them to receive a blessing from God.Dinka wrestling matches are usually brief but very intense. When a wrestler forces his opponent to the ground for a significant period of time, he is declared the winner and will go on to fight the next contestant. Wrestling matches are never held during the height of the dry season when temperatures may rise to over 120°f and cause serious damage to the competitors.Two men from different corners of the camp, one covered with ash and the other oiled with animal fat, are chosen to begin the wrestling match. The winner of each bout then progresses to the next round until the final winner is declared the champion.Dinka men bleach their hair with regular applications of cow urine, and then powder it with ash. Reddish golden hair is considered a sign of beauty: to leave one’s hair black indicates sadness and a period of mourning.Ready for marriage, a Dinka man removes his beaded corset, dusts his body with ash, and adorns himself with numerous strands of Venetian glass trade beads, which date back to the 17th century. Each strand is worth one cow: the entire necklace of 20 strands is worth $2000. Covered with ash and up to seven feet six inches tall, the Dinka were referred to as “gentle” or “ghostly” giants by the early European explorers. They, however, call themselves Monyang which means “men of men”.A married Dinka woman traditionally wears incised ivory earrings. The scarified design on her temples follows the form of cow horns.Each year during the four month dry season, young men and women leave their parents and take their cattle down to the swamplands of the river Nile to graze. There they live isolated with their animals, getting to know one another. For a Dinka man, courtship begins at twenty years old, for a girl, at seventeen. A man however, may not marry until he is thirty years old as he must raise the sufficient number of cattle to pay the bride price.To attract the eye of the opposite sex, young people in the cattle camp cover their heads with ash and apply cow urine to their faces to delineate striking skullcap designs. Girls are often seen running to collect urine when a cow lifts its tail.Tragically, following our first visit in 1977, the Dinka were victims of a 30-year civil war between the Islamic north and the Animist and Christian south. Two million people were killed and four million displaced. During the war, Dinka men replaced their traditional spears with Kalashnikov rifles and abandoned their traditional beaded corsets. Several thousand survivors fled to America where they became known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”The Dinka believe that originally their cattle contrived to be caught and domesticated in order that the Dinka would become dependent on them. The Dinka then became obliged to honor their needs, and even to die for them, so strong was their bond and devotion to their animals.