As a child being raised up in a multicultural and divers society, I always find people questioning of who you are and where do you belong. It is basically a tribal or clan based society in Africa where is known as the Sudan. Sudan is located in the northeast Africa with very complex and unique ethnic groups of both African and Arab origin. However, due to some political ideologies the country is claimed to be of Arab origin rather than African ones. Earlier in my childhood, when I am asked by friends, whether at school or in my neighborhood, of which tribe or clan do I belong to, I always find myself unable to answer or come up with a good answer. That is simply because I have not got the chance to ask my parents of their tribes.
As the time goes and the questions increased, I come to know that I belong to a clan known as the Bagirmi. This clan’s name is derived from the Arabic word ‘Bager’ which is cows! And the full name Bagirmi stems from the Arabic two words ‘Bager Meya’ which means ‘hundred of cows’! Of course, I became curious to ask why my clan had been named after cows, especially, when people ask me to explain the reason behind it. Then, I have thought that I could be asking someone who would better know the rightful answer. That was very early in my life when I was almost fourteen years old. Herewith, I come to my grandmother and she tells me the story behind giving that name to the Bagirmi which I still have not yet come with historical fact. My grandmother says “our clan was founded in the Chari Lake of what is known today as Chad in central Africa hundreds of years ago. They were powerful in the region. The Bagirmi used to worshiping traditional gods at the time the Muslim invaders stepped into their land. The reason behind that name was thought to be of giving a hundred of cows to the people of Mecca as a gift. Since then they become known as the Bagirmi.”
That was interesting story which our fathers still keep telling people about it. But, I am kind of wondering what their name was before they traveled to Mecca? Why do they remain unknown in Sudan? Why do the government officials claim that I am not a Sudanese when I wanted to get my nationality documents, my identification card and my passport years back? Why do they do the same to my elder brother when he wanted to get these documents as well? Some of the answers, probably I got them from those government officials hence as they did not heard of such a tribe by the name of ‘Bagirmi’! Considerably that in Sudan there are hundreds of ethnic groups which I personally do not know them all. I start to take things seriously by asking my family such questions who are you? Where do you come from? Who brought you to Sudan? Unfortunately, all of the answers I received from my family were that they belong here to Sudan! And that they could even tell you their far remembered fathers were born in Sudan! They do not deny the fact that the Bagirmi are found in Sudan neighboring Chad as well but my insisting questions challenged them to give a satisfactory answer of why they remain unknown in Sudan.
Years later, particularly in 2006, I come to know a new fact that I never been told about the Bagirmi from my family. As I was studying the history of Africa at college, I have been introduced to the so called ‘the Kingdom of Bagirmi” which was a powerful and dominant Sultanate from the sixteenth century up to the nineteenth century. History says that the Bagirmi was powerful kingdom and they used to worship number of gods before Muslim arrivals in their land. Later, the fourth king Abdullah (1568–1608), announced the state is an Islamic sultanate or kingdom. It is also stated that “The Bagirmi carried a tradition that they migrated from far to the east, which is supported by the resemblance of their language to various tribes on the White Nile in the current country of Sudan.”
However, when searching for further historical facts about this unknown kingdom, I once again find out that there is a huge gap in literature. From 2011, I dedicated some of my time to do some research and studies and become more interested in anthropological studies. For the sake of history, I will continue searching of historical facts discussing this unknown kingdom and would love to know more about the ancient and present practices of the Bagirmi people, my own people!