Nguendelengo

Korbo

Korbo / Dangaleat / Guera / Hadjarai / Hadjeray

 
Population & Ecosystem

5.000 live in 5 villages at the feet of Korbo Mountains in Guera region in South Central Chad. Until the 1960s most Korbo lived on top of the hills but progressively have descended and live now is the fertile plains near the rocky mountains. They are part of the Hadjarai cluster of mountain tribes living in South-Central Chad.

 

Economy & Society

Korbo are subsistence farmers and shepherds. The main crop grown is millet; but some cotton, okra, beans, and corn are also grown, along with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Their main diet consists of a millet paste, eaten with a sauce made from wild leaves, meat, or dried fish. The Korbo receive income from selling surplus millet and from transporting goods for others. They trade with the nearby Arabs on a regular basis in order to purchase items they cannot otherwise obtain. In these trades, millet is given for milk, meat, and items made by Arab blacksmiths. The Korbo make only a few handicrafts, most of which are for their own use and not for sale to others. Some of the crafts include woven palm leaf mats, clay jars for transporting and storing water and grain, and cotton thread and fabric.

The term Hadjarai, which means ‘of the stones or mountains,’ is a collective term used to describe a group of mountain peoples living in the Guera region of South Central Chad. They are descendants of peoples from the surrounding plains who fled to the mountains in an attempt to escape the invasions of neighbouring tribes.

Though never united in the past, the Hadjarai people share a strong spirit of independence, forged in pre-colonial Chad by their repeated clashes with slave-raiding razzias in their territory, and supported in particular by the Ouaddai Kingdom. This tradition of independence has led to frequent clashes with the central government after Chad gained independence in 1960, at first largely because of attempts to force them to move from the hills to the plains. They were among the staunchest supporters of the rebels during the Chadian Civil War.

Korbo society is divided into a number of villages. Most villages have several clans, each of which lives in its own neighbourhood. Each village is run by a chief or headman, who is primarily in charge of settling disputes between the villagers. Every village also has a ‘chief of the land,’ who holds the ‘religious power’ of the village. 

The Korbo are rural and live in round, mud-brick huts with cone-shaped, thatch roofs. In town, the dwellings are also made of mud-brick, but are rectangular in shape and have flat roofs. The villages consist of several compounds. Each compound contains a number of huts belonging to an extended family.

 

Culture & Religion

Most of the Korbo women wear colourful print fabrics, which are either wrapped around their bodies or tailored into dresses. Head coverings are worn by the women when they are outside their own compounds. The men wear Western-style pants with shirts, or long robes with or without pants.  Korbo have lost most their original culture due to Islamization. Despite this they still gather in the village main square to dance. During the dancing and singing women (mostly the older generation) will wear beautiful and quite unique raffia helmets and metal anklets. The generation over 50 years old shows pierce lips (beauty mark back on those days) and a distinct hairdo.

Although a majority of the Korbo have completely converted to Islam, pre-Islamic beliefs, however, are still practiced by the older generations and some traditionalist families. Therefore, the clans remain united in religion. All of the groups belong to what is known as the Margai cult. The Margai are believed to be invisible spirits who live in nature's formations and control the natural elements. This belief has survived the rapid conversion of most Korbo to Islam during the colonial period, despite attempts by the French colonial authorities to avoid Islamization through the promotion of Christian missions.

 

Source: Joan Riera - Anthropologist (LastPlaces.com)