Joba, or Am-Amina, is an Arab woman and a
nomad. My friend Geeska and I pedalled our bicycles into an
isolated savannah region to find her camp. She was sitting
outside and was waiting for us; after she welcomed us, she invited us
to enter into her tent. Her tent was made of long poles and
straw mats. We sat on her bed which was spread lengthwise on one
side of the tent. As we spoke, the chickens and the goats
entered and left the tent, running as they went. She offered us
some fresh yoghurt and later prepared us some tea on the fire in her
Although she was elderly and had white hair,
Joba had clear, brilliant eyes as she spoke to us clearly and
courageously. She wore a small ring in her nose as do the
majority of the Arab women. Not being too timid, she readily
answered all our questions. She spoke in Arabic, her mother
I am from Kunjaru. Normally, I live
nearer to Mongo for two months, then I travel with my family between
Ati and Mongo (a distance of about 80 km (50 mi)). I have four
sons and three daughters. They are all alive. My husband
died eight years ago. We all travel with the cattle during the
rainy season. We also have a field of small millet (beriberi) on
the road to Abéché. When we harvest the grain we keep them in
traditional granaries built out of clay. We do not sell our
I do not know how many cattle we have.
We do not count them. We milk the cows in the morning and in the
evening. One cow gives us about one litre (0.21 gallons) of milk
in the morning and one litre in the evening. We bring a little
of the milk and butter to the market to sell it. We use the rest
of the butter for our hair. With the money from the sale, we buy
sugar, tea and millet. We also have herds of camels but they are
very far away from Mongo at this time..
We eat millet and drink milk for our
breakfast. We have boule (millet paste) and milk for
lunch. We do not eat meat unless we buy it at the market.
We sometimes buy beans and peanuts at the market. We do not eat
eggs. We sometimes eat chicken or goat meat. We mostly
receive our nourishment from milk.
When we move from one place to another, I
ride on to a cow. This year I stayed in Mongo during the entire
rainy season because I am receiving treatment for leprosy. I
have this sickness for five years now. It rained one day and
there were fish coming from Am-Timan. And this is how I fell ill
with leprosy, because I ate some fish (This is one of the traditional
theories among many others concerning leprosy). I once went to
see a doctor in Ati. Then I came here and went to see the white
doctors. I have three months more of treatment to go. They
gave me pills and I feel better. People here are not afraid of
I got married when I was very young. My
husband was also young. Our mothers were sisters. We had
three days of celebration and dancing. We slaughtered a cow and
ate boule, rice and pastries. We set up a huge tent where the
men and women could sit down to fire shots as they pleased to
celebrate our wedding day. My husband paid the dowry: two cows,
10,000 CFA (US$40 or 43 €), perfumes, soaps
One year later, I gave birth to our first
child. My two sisters were with me when I had my children.
I never had any problems. Here is how a delivery takes place:
the midwife stays in front of the mother to deliver the baby. A
rope is tied to the top of the tent for the mother to hold.
After the umbilical cord is cut with a razor blade, the mother and the
baby are washed with warm water. The mother begins to feed the
baby immediately. The placenta is buried. The mother
remains inside her tent, on her bed, for seven days. The seventh
day is the day we give the child a name. The people bring flour,
sugar and a gift. We organise a celebration. Our first
child was a girl. Whether a boy or girl is born, we are happy.
We pierce the ears of the girls when they are
five years old. We pierce them in three places: on top, on the
side and on the bottom. The left side of her nose is also
Our children do not go to school; they only
go to the fields. The little girls and boys go two by two to
watch the goats. They leave in the morning and do not return
until the sun sets.
We are Muslims. We observe Ramadan and
the daily prayers.
We go to see the doctors when we are
sick. We vaccinate our children. We do not buy traditional
medicines and we do not consult the traditional doctors. Our
children do not suffer from diarrhoea or measles.
It was very difficult during the
famine. A bag of millet cost 15,000 CFA (US$60 or 64 €.
A bag of millet normally costs US$12 or 13 €). We were forced
to sell our cows to buy grain. But at that time, a cow was
valued at 10.000 CFA (US$40 or 43 €; normally a cow sells at double
that price). We were forced to sell many of our cows to buy
millet. No one in our family died. We were lucky. We
had enough cows to spare.
We have little to do with any of the other
people in the other nomadic camps here. Our children sometimes
play with their children but we do not mix with them. We will
not marry any one from the other nomadic camps.
We are in good company with the people of
this area. There is no problem between us. The soldiers do
not bother us. We have nothing to steal.
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