Culturally Symbolic Gifts that South Sudanese Catholics in Kenya Gave Apostolic Nuncio

Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan receiving culturally symbolic gifts from South Sudanese Catholic women residing in Kenya on Sunday, October 6, 2019
Credit: ACI Africa

In a gesture aimed at demonstrating different life situations that characterize the world’s newest nation, South Sudanese Catholic women residing in Kenya last Sunday offered a variety of gifts to the Nairobi-based Holy Father’s representative to their country and explained to him the cultural symbolism of each of the presents.

“Each gift has a meaning,” the leader of the South Sudanese women living in Kenya, Lucy Juwa said as she invited the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Bert van Megen to receive the six items her compatriots had settled on.

The Catholic women from South Sudan decided to offer the Nuncio a hat, sandals, a t-shirt, a belt, groundnuts, and groundnut paste, their representative explaining the meaning and value of each of these gifts.

“This hat is going to give you a shade because South Sudan is very hot and that sometimes you don’t have (a) vehicle,” Mrs. Juwa explained referring to the hot weather that characterizes the landlocked East African nation.  

“Since our visitor is going to work in South Sudan,” Mrs. Juwa said, addressing the hundreds of South Sudanese who had gathered for Sunday worship at the Jesuits’ Hekima College Chapel and amid ululations from her fellow women turned to the Nuncio and spoke about the sandals saying, “You need to put something that is (open) but if you put closed shoes, it might be hot, South Sudan is usually very hot.”

She further explained the symbolism of the sandals telling Archbishop van Megen, “You are going to advocate peace for us, we want you to be comfortable, wherever you will be giving your speech.”

The T-shirt offered to the Dutch Prelate had the South Sudan flag, interpreted as an invitation to keep world’s newest nation in prayer.

“What we need from you is that wherever you are, just continue to pray for us so that we will be able to get peace,” Mrs. Juwa said.

The women invited the Nuncio to remain strong in the face of the challenges he might experience in his diplomatic role in South Sudan by offering him a belt.

“We are giving you this belt to put on as you move around from place to place, when advocating for peace in South Sudan. That is why we are giving you this belt,” Mrs. Juwa explained.

“We have roasted groundnuts, when your son or daughter is going to a very far away journey, you put groundnuts in his bag and tell him to pick some and drink water if you feel anything so that it will push you,” Juwa told the Archbishop as a signal for not giving up in his ministry to South Sudanese.

“And then finally, out of groundnuts, we have produced a peanut butter whereby if you are living your room and sometimes breakfast is not ready, you can just take a spoon and swallow it and then you drink water and leave,” Mrs. Juwa concluded and presented the six gifts parked in a box to Archbishop van Megen, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]