Sunday, July 31, 2011

Life is cheap

That is, to some, apparently. This morning a small group of people
made their way through the forest on foot to take their corn to town
to get it ground into flour. On the way, they were ambushed by Turkana
cattle-thieves. A gunman jumped out from behind a termite mound only
15 feet away and shot two men to death, one Ik and one Dodoth. A third
Ik man ran back to our village to report the incident, and the women
ran ahead and escaped. The only demonstrable reason for the murder was
to steal the little corn the people were carrying. However, these bush
warriors are also known to kill for sport, because they can, with
impunity. There is just something wrong with the world when a man will
shoot another man through the throat for a few meals of maize.

Much of this violence could be stopped, but someone is profiting from
it all. 'Peace-building' is big business in this area. You can get big
bucks to hold 'peace talks' where everyone gathers for eloquent
speeches, cultural dances, and a feast. Meanwhile, the real criminals
are still in the bush, preparing or executing their next raid (see my
March blog post called 'Peace talks'). Despite the continuing
violence, things are better now than they used to be. The Iks'
neighbors used to have more guns. And nowadays the Ik have cell phones
which they use to communicate with each other and with the armed
forces. I can only imagine the fear and helplessness these people have
lived with for so many years. Imagine the possibility of being shot
and killed on your drive to the grocery store on any given day. What
if that was part of your daily reality?

Please join us in saying a prayer for justice for this entire region.
The further development of the Ik and Karimojong societies is being
hindered and retarded by unpunished acts of violence. We know that
real, lasting peace is not possible as long as human hearts are
wicked, but we also know that something more can be done.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

White Rhinos

On our way back north toward Kaabong tomorrow, we plan to do something we've never done before: stop and see the rhinos (and spend the night) at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. We've seen the sign many times but have only ever driven on by. Then, in June, we met the people who founded the sanctuary. They are a whole family of white Africans passionately committed to increasing the number of rhinos in Uganda.

A century ago there were thousands and thousands of white rhinos in Uganda. By the 1960s, only about sixty were left. In 1982, the very last white rhino was slaughtered for its horns. But thanks to this family and those who work with and support them, the rhinos are making a slow and steady come-back. The family is now looking for a new place further north to serve as a future sanctuary for black rhinos. We may have this new sanctuary quite close to Ikland!

Both white and black rhinos are indigenous to Uganda. Contrary to popular belief, both kinds of rhino are basically the same color. 'White' rhino is actually a misnomer, as the name comes from the Afrikaans word weit which means 'wide' not 'white'. The mouth of the so-called white rhino is much wider than that of its black counterpart. The white rhino grazes on grass, while the black rhino, with its narrow, almost beak-like snout, browses bushes and trees.

So much of Uganda's glorious wildlife was decimated during the long, terrible years of civil war. Now that there's been peace for some years, the animals are wasting no time multiplying. The plight of the rhino is special, though, as their horns still fetch ungodly sums of money on the black market. Some Asian cultures belief rhino horn to be a powerful aphrodisiac and pay thousands of dollars to acquire it. This belief has been debunked scientifically, but the myth persists, prompting the widespread butchery of these unique, prehistoric beasts.

We are happy to support the welfare of the rhinos by supporting the Rhino Sanctuary. Please drop by the website and see for yourself!

A parting shot...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In any case

Recently I discovered a new 'case' in the Ik language. 'Case' in linguistics refers to how some languages mark the relationship of nouns to the verb and other words in a sentence. Not all languages have case, for example, English. English usually uses word order to mark relationships, rather than case. Consider the following:

John saw Bill.
Bill saw John.

In these two sentences, the order of the words tells us who is seeing and who is being seen. Though English mostly uses word order, it still has the remnants of a once stronger case system, and these remnants are found in the pronouns:


When using a pronoun, English speakers must choose which of the two forms to use, depending on whether it is a subject or object. We can even mix up the word order and still know what is being meant (though we might start sounding like Yoda...):

I saw him.
Him I saw.
Saw I him.

He saw me.
Me he saw.
Saw he me.

Classic European languages like Greek and Latin had well-developed case systems, as do modern ones like German, Hungarian, and Russian. Case languages are actually quite rare in Africa, but Ik is one of them. Until recently Ik was thought to have seven cases, but a few weeks ago a growing suspicion was confirmed that an eighth case was lurking around! The original seven cases include:

Oblique: the basic, unmarked case
Nominative: the subject case
Accusative: the object case
Genitive: the 'of' case
Dative: the indirect object case
Ablative: the 'from' case
Copulative: the 'it is' case

And...drum roll please...the new case: the Instrumental, the 'with' case!

Okay, so to give you a visual of what case looks like, let's take the example of the words 'tree' and 'trees' in Ik (the small vowels are whispered):

CASE Singular Plural Translation

OBL dakᵘ dakwítín TREE(S)
NOM dakwᵃ dakwítínᵃ tree(s)
ACC dakúkᵃ dakwítíníkᵃ tree(s)
GEN dakwí dakwítíní of the tree(s)
DAT dakúkᵉ dakwítíníkᵉ to the tree(s)
ABL dakúu dakwítínu from the tree(s)
INS daku dakwítínᵘ with the tree(s)
COP dakúkᴼ dakwítíníkᴼ it's the tree(s)

Up to now, linguists had thought that the 'instrumental' and 'ablative' cases were one and the same. It was only in hearing Ik spoken that I began to hear the difference. The thing that really tipped me off was hearing the difference between these two:

Atsá bee deikᵒ 'He came on foot (i.e. 'with feet')
Áts'á bee deikaᴼ 'It bit (me) on the feet (i.e. 'from the feet')

Hearing the different pronunciations of the word 'feet/legs', I knew they couldn't be the same case!

Enough linguistics for now...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ikland movie

A new film about the Ik has come out, and we hope you get a chance to see it!

Read more about the film and its producers at the film's website.