Project: Testimonies of cooperative care: Socioeconomic system of the maintenance of the oldest mosque in Sudan

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Tomomi Fushiya


    Project collaborators:
    • Mohamed Hassan Siedahmed, co-investigator, Northern State Supreme Council of Tourism

    The Small Grant (8th Edition) awarded by the Center for Research on Ancient Civilizations of the University of Warsaw (CRAC)

    Project term:

    December 2022-November 2023


    PLN 14 380

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  • Testimonies of cooperative care: Socioeconomic system of the maintenance of the oldest mosque in Sudan

    Keywords: Local community, socio-economic system, oral histories, historic building, mosque Old Dongola, Sudan, Africa

    This project seeks to incorporate oral history in the investigation of a micro-level socio-economic system dedicated to the maintenance of a religious building in Old Dongola, Sudan. The Old Dongola Mosque is the oldest preserved mosque in Sudan. Originally constructed as a church/throne hall in the early 9th century, converted into a mosque in 1317, and functioned as a place of worship until 1969.

    To maintain and continuously use such a monumental building requires an established system and know-how. While the agency of a central power was crucial for the building’s upkeep especially in earlier periods, the role of local communities remains to be investigated. Written sources record major maintenance works in the 20th century, but they do not provide sufficient information to understand the local socioeconomic system behind it. Faced with the paucity of evidence and previous studies, the project employs an ethnographic method and collects oral histories regarding a communal system, cycle, participants, and financing of maintenance work on the mosque.

    The outcome of the research will contribute to understand the socio-economic environment of Dongola, which was the most important regional centre in northern Sudan during the Funj period (16th–18th c. CE) on micro-level. Recent studies of material culture and written sources related to the period at Old Dongola have highlighted a strong cultural continuity between the past and the present. Oral histories have proven to be of paramount importance for the understanding of not only the recent past, but also for learning about social systems and practices that survived several centuries. The study will also shed light on the values and meanings of heritage within Muslim communities, which will facilitate the development of a method for site preservation and management in the sociocultural context.

    Associated events:
    Lectures and conference presentations:

    4-6 July 2023, a paper presentation at the “Nile’s Earth International Conference”, organised by the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Grenoble (ENSAG-UGA) in collaboration with the UMR 5189 Histoire et Sources des Mondes Antiques (CNRS), UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée (CNRS), the International Centre for Earthen Construction (CRAterre), the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo (Ifao), the Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Étude des Temples de Karnak (CFEETK, CNRS/MoTA), and the Section française de la direction des antiquités du Soudan (SFDAS).

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