NUBA (OTORO NUBA: 2+,2+,3,3,2+,3;4,2;D2) (Sudan; Egypt)







IndexAfricaSudan → Nuba

(Nuba, Shilluk, Bari, Dinka, Baja, Dogons, Yoruba, Mandari; ®Zande)


Abbadie[1] found that men bought Nuba girls and sleep with them “long before menstruation”. According to Nadel (1947)[2], Koalib girls were betrothed at eight or nine years of age, and at twelve or thirteen the marriage was consummated. It was said that they slept together without having intercourse. She removed her bangles and necklaces before sleeping, but did not remove her pubic bracelets. Her fiancée was content with petting. This sleeping together and platonic petting of the betrothed lasted for several years until the bridegroom, without consulting either his or her parents, decided that his girl was sufficiently mature for consummation. There was no waiting for first menstruation or other signs of sexual maturity but many brides refused intercourse to her future husband until he paid the bride price in full.


Among Otoro and Heiben communities, girls at the age of puberty (and before, should they wish so) went to a girl’s hut (kur, luru). Nadel (ibid.): “The prospect of receiving these visits and indulging in sexual play which forms part of courtship is indeed the acknowledged reason for this segregation of girls. Shame forbade them to receive their lovers in the parents’ house, while in the kur they were free from all supervision”. Boys of thirteen to fifteen looked around for a bride among the eight to twelve years old girls. They got to know one another out on the fields or at the various dances and ceremonies that united people of different communities. When the couple found one another they kept the arrangement private for a couple of months. The boy visited his girl at night in the girls’ hut where she slept for chatting and sex play. The conventional petting included squeezing the breasts, even when undeveloped, of the girl, and what the Otoro call “petting of the pubic apron”.

Hawkesworth (1932)[3] stated that the various groups of Nuba were divided by their attitude on intercourse before circumcision. Men begin courting at age twenty and generally get betrothed to a girl child[4], in which case sexual intercourse awaits puberty.


“As regards the institution of the parallel age-grades its practical value seems to be that it prepares the ground for the first experiences of sex relations. Or rather, it aims at circumventing, and dulling, this unsettling first experience. Enabling the sexes to meet in the critical age, between 13 and 16, as it were on neutral ground, openly and respectably, it tends to remove some of the secrecy and unhealthy curiosity that is part of the mental transition from the self-contained experience of early youth to the new awareness of the new polarity of sex” (Nadel, 1942 [1970:p204])[5].











Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. Volume I. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1]Metschnikoff ([1910:p117]), op.cit.

[2] Nadel, S.F. (1947) The Nuba: An Anthropological Study of the Hill Tribes in Kordofan. London: OxfordUniversity Press

[3] Hawkesworth, D. (1932) The Nuba of southern Kordofan, Sudan Notes & Records 15,2:159-99

[4]Cf. Faris, J. (1972) Southeastern Nuba Age organization, in Cunnison, I. & Wendy J. (Eds.) Essays in Sudan Ethnography presented to Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard. London: C. Hurst & Company, p

[5] Nadel, S. F. (1942) A Black Byzantium. London: Oxford University Press. Critical passages reprinted in Middleton, J. (Ed., 1970) From Child to Adult. New York: Natural History Press, p173-206