Learn more about Jurchol
Jo-Luo, also known as Jur Chol, are an ethnic group in Sudan numbering between sixty to seventy thousand. They live in Wau, Tonj and Aweil districts. Their main settlements (towns) are Wau, Mapel, Udici, Alel, Thony, Barmayen and Umbili.
 Environment, economy and natural resources
The land is rocky, fertile and covered by thick forests. The Jo-Luo society is sedentary agriculturalist, but individuals keep few cattle, goats, sheep and fowl. Important economic activities include bee-keeping, fishing, hunting and crop cultivation.
The main crops are sorghum, simsim, groundnuts, maize, cassava, sweet potatoes and beans. In the past they used to produce iron products: hoes, spears, arrows, etc., which they traded with their neighbours.
Tradition has it that the Jo-Luo are part of the larger Luo family made up of Shilluk, Anyuak, Acholi and the Luo in Kenya. The Jo-Luo are descendents of Dimo, a brother of Nyikango and Gilo. Feuds within the homestead triggered by power struggle led to split and separate history of the three groups. The Jo-Luo remained in Bahr el Ghazal while Nyikango and Gilo migrated to Upper Nile.
 Society, social events, attitudes, customs and traditions
The Jo-Luo are organised into agnatic lineages and clans which are related through blood and marriage linkages. They organise and identity themselves by age-set i.e. a group of boys who were circumcised at the same time. On attaining the age of eighteen the boys go into a two weeks seclusion period in a forest where they acquaint themselves and learn the art of fighting.
Jo-Luo marriage is arranged according to seniority at birth. The eldest son marries first before others. The boy and girl enter into an oath [otoya] vide which they pledge to remain together in good or bad times. They two exchange their beads.
A ceremony is performed in which the ear of the goat, brought by the parents of the boy, is cut and with a bead is tied round their necks. The Jo-Luo pay dowry according to the capacity and ability of the suitor. In the past it used to be in form of beads, hoes, spears, axes, and other iron products. But in recent times it varies from sixteen cows, thirty goats and about five hundred thousand Sudanese Dinars.
 Birth and naming
At delivery the girl [women] is required to confess [kwano] all the sexual relationships she had as a girl. The reason being that the child could die if the father doesn’t know his wife’s ex-friends. Naming of the new born is performed with a ceremony three [boy] and four [girl] days after birth.
In this ceremony the elders feast and shout some important traits they wish the baby. For the boy they would wish him courage, valour, hard-work, good hunting, cultivation signified by hoe, spear bow and arrow.
For the girl they wish her good house keeping, caring for the children, taking good care of husband and relatives, etc. The first born is named after the grandfather [boy] or maternal grandmother [girl]. Other names describe the situation of the parents or the environment of birth.
Death is mourned and this differs with age. For a young person people may mourn for three days. The relatives slaughter a goat and the old women come to tidy-up the grave. In the case of older persons, the people beat the drum of war. They dance for three days praising [mwoch] the departed and his ancestors.
After four years the family conducts funeral rites and a bull is slaughtered as a sacrifice. A widow co-habits [lak] with any of the close relatives she chooses until the children have come of age. The Jo-Luo people have ghost fathers probably adopted from the Dinka.
 Socio-political organisation and traditional authority
In the past the Jo-Luo used to have kings [Ruot] and the strongest persons [ker] in the village. Now they have executive chiefs, sub-chiefs, group leaders or elders whose function in society is for conflict resolution and keeping harmony in the community.
 Spirituality, beliefs and customs
The Luo people believe in God [Jwok] to whom they make sacrifices once a disaster has befallen a homestead; at the beginning of the cultivation season and at the harvest of crops. They believe the spirits of the departed relative stay with God and therefore act as inter-mediatory between the living and God.
The Jo-Luo people also believe that spirits stay in the river and hence a sick person would be taken to the stream to be cleansed [lwok naam]. They also believe in the power of the witch doctors [kwir] and other spiritual leaders.
 Culture: arts, music, literature and handicrafts
The culture of Jo-Luo is essentially oral. It is transmitted in song, music, dance and other bodily expressions. Dance and songs are very important in Luo culture and one distinguishes oneself through them. They perform funeral/war dance [gumo] for the departed elders.
The Luo have several dances, and have perfected the art of making whistles and their sounds for different occasions. The Jo-Luo people are famous for iron smelting and they produce hoes, axes, spears and arrows. Their handicrafts include baskets, mats, pottery, chairs, etc.
 Neighbours, foreigners, and relations and co-operations
The Jo-Luo people neighbour the Dinka [Tonj and Aweil], Belanda Bviri, Bongo, Ndogo and Bai. They have peaceful relations with their neighbours except very recently and in the context of the war when the Fertit under instigation of the government of Sudan burnt Jo-Luo villages and killed many people. The conflict with the Dinka centred on destruction of their crop by Dinka cattle.
 Latest developments
War has devastated Luo land and caused humanitarian disruption, displacement and economic impoverishment of the Luo people.
 Further reading
S. Santandrea, ‘Minor Shilluk Sections in Bahr el Ghazal.’ SNR XXI, 1938 pp 266-287.
Seligman, C. G., and Seligman, B. Z., ‘Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan.’ George Routledge & Sons Ltd., London, 1932.
Collins, Robert O., ‘Land beyond the Rivers, the Southern Sudan, 1898 – 1918.’ Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1971