The Unseen beauty of Fifteen Wives

by Nyakan Manynag Agoth

 Life in The Village

“I am the seventh wife out of my husband’s fifteen wives and I couldn’t be any prouder”- Adual Jang Arok

Adual Jang Arok, was born on May 11, 1943, in what was once known as Africa’s largest country, Sudan. Adual came from a clan called Hol Ajang Majok Awulian, situated in Mading Bor Jongali State. With Adual’s background, her family are widely known as the Monjang meaning Man of Man, also known as Dinka.

AdualAdual grow up in a typical Monyjang (Dinka) family where her father had two wives, her mother was the first wife who had six children and the second wife unfortunately passed on.

Its is the norm in Adual’s culture for a man to have multiple wives, this is how life was and still is at present.

Adual grew up and spent most of her life in the village, that was a life completely different to the way of life here in Australia.

Adual said that life in the village was great, as long as you looked after your farm and cattle, life was great.

“If you don’t grow your own food and guide your cattle than you can’t eat,” she says.

Living in the village was always an independent lifestyle, you do everything for yourself.

We grew our own food, pounded the grains and cooked for ourselves, this was especially the woman’s job,” she says.

“Even if you were pregnant, you still continued with growing, harvesting and preparing your own food, your child will always be protected in the womb until you give birth, than someone else can help you.”

Adaul and grandson

Adual and her great grandson Deng.

Woman were the backbone of the household, they did everything, men only helped with harvesting. You only got help once your daughter grows up, in Adual’s culture men were not allowed to do tasks such as cooking or washing up around the house.

Male’s jobs were mainly to guide the cattle when taken out to graze.

“Paan da ka pieth agut ca mani” (Our home is great until this day).

Adual had not had the opportunity to attend any sort of education, only her children had to the chance to attend school.

“Back then girls were not even allowed to go to school, only boys could, we didn’t think education was good,” she says.

The culture of multiple wives

Adual’s culture contains many traditions that seem to be strange according to people from other cultures. In Adual’s tradition, the man is always expected to give the brides family a bride price, this bride price is paid with cattle.

In the Monjang culture, the amount of cattle a man has determines his wealth. The more cows one has determined how rich he or she is. In order to marry, the man must put as many cows as he has in order to marry another man’s daughter, if one doesn’t have the cattle than he can not get married.

The process it takes to marry many wives can be difficult as you lose most of your wealth, but once all your wives have daughters and it’s your daughters turn to get married, then all that wealth comes back to the father,” she says.

Adual explains that the reason for marrying multiple wives in her culture is to build a wealthier and stronger family.

“We marry many wives so that we have a lot of people in the family, the larger the family the wealthier and stronger it is,” she says.

Adual also comes from a large family of 15 wives, she is the seventh wife out of fifteen.

“We never had any problems in our house hold, the man was obligated to keep his wives in line and we the women also kept ourselves in line too,” she says.

Adual loves the idea of her husband having many wives as it is her culture which she feels strongly about.

“Acin ke pieth chi be meth e mony du” (there is nothing greater than your having your own step/ half children).

Adual and her husband’s other fourteen wives had many children.

“The first wife had six children, the second wife had six children too, the third wife had five, the fourth had seven children, the fifth wife had five children, the sixth wife had six of her own, the seventh wife which is Adual had eleven children, the eighth wife had one child, the ninth wife had seven children, the tenth wife had two children, the eleventh wife had one child, the twelfth wife had six children, the thirteenth wife had one child, the fourteenth wife had five children and the fifteenth wife have five of her own children,” she says.

Adual’s entire family lived in the same compound with each wife assigned to their own house to share with their children. Some wives lived in the village some went to the city.

Adual’s husband’s father was the chief and leader of Dinka Bor, when he was still alive, hence why his son had married fifteen wives.

“We always listened to what we were told by our parents, that was our way of living. When your family wants you to marry someone, we listened to them,” she says.

Now days things are very different, young South Sudanese women are not allowing their husbands to marry nor are the men too interested in this polygamist tradition.

Out of all Adual’s children and her step children, only three married multiple wives.

This generation may not be able to see the beauty in a polygamist culture but Adual knows and will forever admire the peaceful, respected and happy home she once lived in the land of Kush.