Experiencing Sudanese culture

Austin Public School Success Coach Ojoye Akane will talk about the history of the Anyuak people at an Austin Public Library book presentation Friday night. The Austin Public Library recently bought two rare sets of books on Anyuak in Sudan.

Educator looking to share information on Anyuak tribe with Austin

Ojoye Akane wants to make sure his people’s history is remembered.

Akane, a Success Coach with Austin Public Schools, helped secure two sets of books for Austin Public Library about the Anyuak, a Sudanese tribe with many members living in the U.S. and the Austin area.

“I want the people to access it to know who we are,” Akane said.

Akane, along with Beckry Abdel-Magid of the Winona State University Engineering Program, will discuss “Anyuak: Living on Earth in the Sky” by Conradin Perner at the Austin Public Library from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 22.

The four-volume series, according to Akane, is considered the definitive work thus far on Anyuak culture. Akane first heard about the books when he was in Kenya in the mid-1990s. He immediately wanted to get his hands on the books but didn’t find a way to do so until he graduated from Mankato State University several years ago.

The books, written by a prominent Swiss anthropologist, are reportedly very difficult to order as most copies are in Switzerland. Akane said he tried for years to get the books but couldn’t. It wasn’t until he got in touch with Perner that he made headway. Perner forwarded Akane’s letter to Abdel-Magid, who made sure Akane got copies.

“It’s the most expansive [book] that is written about us in the world right now,” Akane said.

For Akane, that’s important. The books, which will eventually have eight volumes, detail much about Anyuak culture and history. It’s the stories and personal connections that Akane hopes to keep going, as there are no longer many elders who can pass Anyuak traditions down.

“These books are now like my elders, since my elders are no longer around,” he said.

Though Akane had his copy, he wanted to share his people’s history and let people know about Anyuak life. He first tried to get Mankato State University to purchase copies, but that went nowhere.

Akane finally offered his collection to the Austin Public Library, to executive director Ann Hokanson, but she declined due to the books’ rarity.

“They’re worth way too much for that kind of a gift,” she said. “We decided to purchase our own copies because we knew people would want to use them.”

Library officials purchased two sets for the reference section, and Akane said he is looking to get even more Anyuak texts in the library since Austin has such a large collection of Anyuak people. He’s also working on an online database of sources about Anyuak culture and hopes more libraries and colleges across the country will have access to the books.

“My desire is to have the public have access to these books and know us,” Akane said. “Sometimes people think we are scary, sometimes people think we are anti-social.

“If people know who we are, they will know how to [interact with] us.”

Akane will discuss the books and Anyuak culture with residents who attend the presentation. Hokanson said the event is a great time for people to come and ask questions about Anyuak and Sudanese culture.

For Akane, the books are a start to helping people get to know his people.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “It will be also a good resource for our children.”

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