Maban people


Maban / Maaban / Mabaan / Burum / Chai

The Maban consisting of several independent groups they number about 110,000 in 2 countries: Ethiopia and South Sudan. (, 2023)

The Mabaan people sometimes known as ‘Burun’, ‘Maban’ or ‘Chai’ are a Nilotic people and occupy the plains between the Nile east of Renk up to the foot of the Ethiopian Highlands.

The Mabaan of South Sudan are numbering 103,000 and their primary language is Mabaan. The primary religion practiced by the Mabaan is animism, a religious worldview that natural physical entities--including animals, plants, and even inanimate objects--possess a spiritual essence.

Maban people

The Burun group (Uduk, Jumjum, Ragreg, Ganza, Mopo and Mayak) domicile in Southern Blue Nile are found in the following settlements: Wullu, Buot, Gowali, Wedega, Mayak, Mapo, Karenkaren, Kurmuk, Yabus, Jorot and Jale; while in Upper Nile the groups are Mabano, Buldid found in Maiwut district. Other main towns are Maban (Buny), Kigale and Dago. (South Sudan)


Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

The Maban land is flat-lying plains between the Nile and the foothills of the Ethiopian Highlands. The vegetation varies from poor to rich savannah and the area receives enough annual rainfall to sustain agricultural practices. The economy is essentially subsistence based on cultivation of sorghum, maize, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, simsim. The Maban keep few cattle, raise pigs and fowls for domestic use and for trade with the neighbours.


Mythology and History

The Maban are originally Luo and are said to have separated from the Shilluk in Soba near Khartoum presumably in the wake of the collapse of the last Christian Kingdom of Makkura. They arrived at their present location after returning from the Baro River area.



The different Maban groups speak different Nilotic dialects related to Shilluk, Anyuak, Dinka and Nuer.


Society, Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions

The Maban society is organised into clans based on matrilineal lineages. Being an agrarian society must of their social values relate to agricultural production, hunting, etc. The Maban have two important annual social events:
The first is the sacrifice, confession and blessing feast (kornga). Performed in October of each year the community confesses and asks God for forgiveness for the years'' sins and wrong doings. They also request for tolerance, good health for humans and animals.
The people go very early in the morning to the nearby stream and wash away all the bad things. On return to the homestead, they slaughter animals, drink sorghum beer and dance (dukka-conkon). In this ceremony people put on their best clothing and decorations with beads, (burngo).
The second is the harvest feast (Gatti) which is performed in December. In this ceremony the matured boys and girls are prepared for marriage; animals are slaughtered; food and beer served. The boys and girls appear in their smartest look, wearing necklaces (linyan).



Marriage among the Maban is for reproduction of children and for the expansion of the family. Marriage is according to age-group and a person could miss it for ever. It begins in the wake of the harvest feast and is accompanied by two ceremonies.
The 4 months spent in the wedding room (chanyo) and the small ceremony in which the groom wears a special necklace and moves a short distance within the village; the big marriage ceremony occurs in March in which the bride is given new harvest and taken to her husband’s house, placed near the maternal uncle’s home. The Maban dowry is 5 pigs, 10 goats, hoes and axes usually paid by the maternal uncle.


Birth and Naming

The new married wife gives birth at her husband’s house. If it so happens that she delivers in her parent''s home, the husband is fined apig before taking her home. The children are named after the family names but sometimes animal, birds, trees’ names may also be used. Twins are treated differently and are named Keta – Buto (boys) and Jote- Butta (girls). Naming is performed after 10 days from birth in a ceremony in which a goat is slaughtered and people eat meat, drink beer.


Death and Burial

The tradition of burying the dead in the house has been abolished. The body is buried in a grave almost 2 metres deep after shaving the head. A burial ceremony (pumko) is performed in which the women prepare the corpse and men dig the grave during which people sing songs of sorrow. A widow or widower mourns for 1 month during which he/she wears a certain plan (tanyan) on the arms and neck. After this a ceremony ''muka duran'' is performed by a woman. In this ceremony pigs and goats are slaughtered and people feast to cleanse the home.


Socio-Political Organisation and Traditional Authority

The Maban never had a system of administration before the colonial administration imposed its system. The only people with authority in the Maban society are the spiritual leaders.


Spirituality, Beliefs and Customs

The Maban believe in a supreme being (God) with whom they communicate through a medium. The sacrifice feast they perform in October is meant to confess all sins and ask God to be tolerant and grant good health to both human and animals.


Culture: Arts, Music, Literature, Handicraft

Maban culture is essentially orally transmitted through the art of making agricultural implements, hunting and other social activities; in songs, music and dance in which the body is decorated. Neighbours and Foreign Relations and Co-operation The Maban people neighbour the Dinka to the west and Nuer to the South. They are a peaceful people and their Nuer neighbours have taken advantage of that by taking over much of their land and assimilating them.


Latest Developments

A new county, Maban, was been created for the Maban people. War had displaced many of the Maban people into Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) camps in Yabous, Wedega and other parts of Southern Blue Nile as well as in western Ethiopia.



A small Maban Diaspora is found in the Bungo refugee camp in western Ethiopia.