This project will document the production, uses and cultural significance of the Zande ‘gugu’ (slit drum or gong) in South Sudan. These wooden drums, which can stand up to 5ft high, are often carved into elaborate zoomorphic designs. They are used in dances, as a means of communication and increasingly in Christian worship. They embody the social centre of many Zande communities. Their production takes several months to complete and requires a hardwood tree and specialist knowledge of several traditional carving implements, which are used to create the characteristic two-toned ‘voice’ of the drum. Its production is accompanied by prescribed ritual processes and is deeply rooted in the landscape and history of Zande people. However, knowledge of its production is dwindling, and transmission of this knowledge has been threatened by prolonged civil wars and extensive displacement. Our project will follow the creation of a gugu from the beginning to end, capturing the knowledge of a master carver and associated rituals. We will conduct audio-visual documentation of its current use (with a variety of players and performers) and carry out oral history interviews about past practice with Zande elders. Despite the extremely disrupted circumstances in South Sudan, the gugu survives, albeit in a critically endangered form.

Therefore, this project will also interrogate how material knowledge, such as that embodied in the gugu, can endure through periods of conflict and long term displacement.

Sangbana Vura na pa Batasa Sino: Ke pa ga Azande Gugu rogo South Sudan

Gi sunge re nika keka apangbanga se gugu, gaha asunge na wai nyaki pa gugu dagba Azande rogo South Sudan. Bakumu agugu nawira kina aanya, na abasona ha ri sende kidu wa dagba be sa watadu susihe. I namanga sunge na gugu tipa do apumbo, keda apangbanga, na rogo abambu iriso Mbori. Gugu nga hu kodatise rogo ga Azande ringara akporo.  I nase gugu rogo kparakpara angua, na gi sunge re regbe nadia kumu adiwi tipa ti nyasi. Berewe aa, tina ida kparakpara tatamana ni asino nga ga se gugu tipa ka sa woro gugu ti kuru. Sunge se gugu nandu wa sa ni kodikodihe na asinoho regbisihe kuti agu apangbanga nga ga Azande ringara. Ono tie, gu tatamana nga ga se gugu na ti budungu, na adi kumbo gi tatamana re ngba pai be avura na otoka kuari. Gaani sunge nika kparia pa sunge se gugu sirisiri ti tonatonaha da ti nyasaha, na ki de kpia gu tatamana nga ga base gugu na asino se gugu. Ani nika sasanahe na ki de woro afugo na kpia aboro (ku rogo video) tipa agu asunge aboro amanga areme na gugu (kodihe na abata gugu na ado gbere gugu), na ki dungura kuru apangbanga ngba gbinza aboro tipa gugu. Wa vura duhe nga apai nagbera kina kumbatayo rogo South Sudan, gugu naraka kindi, ono kina rogo kirima kpio.


Sidu tie, gi sunge re nika wisiga pa wai gu tatamana nga gu nakoda agu ahe du wa gugu, nakpatakara kindi ti rogo avura na okota kuari.


Dr. Zoe Cormack, Research Associate at the British Institute in Eastern Africa and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the African Studies Centre


  • El Fatih Atem, Project Collaborator, Director, Likikiri Collective.
  • Samuel Biegene Zanunga, Research Assistant, Researcher, Likikiri Collective.
  • Isaac Waanzi Hilary, Research Assitant, Researcher.

Location of Research:
South Sudan—Juba, Yambio and Bangasu

Host Institution:
British Institute in Eastern Africa


Top Banner Image: An aerial image of a homestead in Yambio, 2014 (Photo: El-Fatih Atem)