Down to a place to a place where the White Nile snakes its way from the northern border down to the southern border, segmenting the tropical forest and swamp covered land in half. The borders of Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Congo, and the Central African Republic enclose this newly minted country within the confines of Central Africa. This country is new, having only gained its independence in 2011 from its northern neighbour, Sudan.
We are in the swamps of South Sudan and it is here that we find the language of Acholi primarily being spoken. Acholi is a Western Nilotic language which is a part of the Nilo-Saharan language classification. It is a language of many different names as it is spoken by many different tribes within the country and these tribes are growing in number and spreading the language. With this growth the language has developed a number of different dialects including Dhopaluo and Nyakwai along with a number of others.
The current population of speakers sits around one million two hundred thousand and is growing. Today it has spread into a number of other countries such as Uganda and Kenya. Furthermore, with the separation of South Sudan from Sudan the people who speak the language will have more stability then what used to be the case.
Acholi also has a rich past with one of the most successful African literary works, The Song of Lawino being originally published in the language. The 1966 epic poem penned by Okot p’Bitek describes the destruction of African society and culture during its colonization by Europeans. It was soon translated into many other languages and is viewed not only as an incredibly important work but as culturally iconic of the entirety of Africa.
Acholi will rise as Africa does and will continue to grow and spread across central Africa in the years to come. The people who speak it are proud and will remain loyal to the history that the language embodies and because of that it will not be going anywhere but up.
Thank you for joining us on this journey in language.