Water, Culture and Identity: Comparing Past and Present Traditions in the Nile Basin Region
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The research group ”Water, Culture and Identity” was part of the Nile Basin Research Programme during the spring semester of 2008 at the University of Bergen, Norway. Researchers from five Nile basin countries and Norway came together in Bergen to conduct research on cultural issues related to the Nile and the use and cultural implications of water. Academically the researchers in the group varied from archaeology to media and ethnohydrology. Subjects studied varied from traditional water management in the Congo River to Stone Age archaeology along the River Nile in the Sudan and royal myths and rain making rituals in Rwanda. The common element in the following papers is water and how water structures ideology and society as well as the role of water and rivers for the development of societies from the past to the present along the River Nile. The River Nile runs through some of the driest areas in the world but also through some of the most hospitable and lush landscapes in the world. Traditions and cultures have been shaped through a succession of migrations and the everlasting merging of cultures. This dynamic picture is evident in the multitude of cultures found along the River Nile today. The Nile Basin Research Programme is a guest researcher programme located at the University of Bergen. It is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is structurally linked to Nile Basin Initiative with head office in Entebbe, Uganda. From 2007, the programme has each year offered up to 20 guest researcher positions at the University of Bergen within different academic fields varying from semester to semester. In the spring semester of 2008 the theme was “Water, Culture and Identity”. The semester ended with a three day seminar with presentations by all participating researchers and invited guests in Gisenyi, Rwanda. This publication is based on the seminar including comparative studies from other African contexts emphasising the social and cultural role of water in society and religion.