Tribute: Loi Deng Nai - Passing of a cultural icon

Category: Diaspora
Published on Monday, 20 June 2011 00:34
Written by Jok Gai Anai & Akol Aguek Ngong, The New Sudan Vision (NSV),
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After last week's sudden passing of Loi Deng Nai, an actor, founder & moderator of Bor Globe and a cultural icon in the Bor Community, The New Sudan Vision wishes to publish the following tributes in honour of a young man whose work touched thousands of South Sudanese.  


Uncle Loi Deng's funeral. Courtesy of Bor Globe.

(Vancouver, BC) - Last {week}, I had the unfortunate experience of logging on to Facebook and greeted with the sad news of the passing of the man famously known as Uncleloi Deng Nai. The recklessness with which some people take it upon themselves to break news of death with no regards to the effect this could have on relatives and close friends of the deceased is a more dangerous phenomenon. Etiquette, even by modern standards, dictates that greater sensitivity must be attached to how information of this nature is disclosed. I spoke to Uncleloi three days before his passing and he was in jovial mood and I hanged up to give him more time with guests at his hospital bed. But I was never to speak to him again. Such is the irony of life.

The suffix ‘Uncle’ that precedes Loi is an acronym for fun to many people. But to me, it has real meaning for Loi Deng Nai hails from Gol of Cueikeer township in Bor County, the sub-clan of my mother. Although he is a year or two younger than myself, I address him as uncle in the Dinka norm of addressing male members of one's maternal lineage. In the summer of 1987, shortly after the exodus of the Red Army to Ethiopia, my mother took me to Mathiang Cattle Camp just a boat ride away from Goi Cattle Camp on the other side of the White Nile. A month later, the cattle and people moved to Gokthon and split, some going to Dabiook and the other half to Gutmakuur, and eventually crossing over to Aliap. Although I do not remember seeing him during this time, this was the trip that brought me into my first contact with Uncleloi.

Later during the rainy season when the Nile overflows and people move back to the villages, our cattle camp perched in Anemrot, a few miles West of Yaradou. It was here given the close proximity of our ?Dhien? (Cattle Byre) to theirs that I took note of the ever smiling Uncleloi. His elder brother Aciek Deng Nai [Aciekdit] was a great friend of my immediate maternal uncle, Deng Mac Jok. They were fond of calling each other "Wen diite" translating to big boy or big guy!

Uncleloi, his other elder brother also called Aciek Deng Nai [Aciekthii] and myself did what every other kid did: Looking after calves, digging up palm roots and all sorts of wild fruits and playing defense in our honor as future defenders of society. In these escapades, Uncleloi stood out as remarkably exceptional.

In August 1989, shortly after Bor fell under the control of the SPLM, I left the cattle camp to start school. I didn?t see Uncleloi again until New Cush and Kakuma. I cannot recall exactly what year I saw him in Kakuma. But when I did see him, he was always radiant and showing leadership to his Gol youth in particular and Abii youth in general. It was during this time that he was involved in an ugly Abii intersectional fights that left him badly wounded. Like any normal human being, he got his fair share of blame for putting aside his nationalist stature and getting involved in such small conflicts.


Bor Globe photo.

One day in 2005, I was scouring through the internet and came across Something told me I could know the guy but then part of me didn?t believe that a regular Kakuma kid (and one that I left behind in the cattle camp for that matter) who just resettled to the US could have anything to do with a website. To my amazement, it was Uncleloi indeed! I later found out that he also founded Bor Globe as well. Such was the genius of Uncleloi Deng Nai: From the cattle camp to the refugee camp to a web presence, all in quick succession. And all this, while dancing stress away and doing things everybody else does.

To the many fans of Uncleloi, I have only scratched the surface to show you a bit of the many facets embedded in Uncleloi. It feels insufficient to write these words and I have only done so to make my grieving heart lighter. May God rest him in eternal peace.

*Jok Gai can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tribute to Loi Deng Nai


Bor Globe photo

(Vermont) - The passing of Loi Deng Nai has left a huge void in Bor Community and South Sudan at large but his contributions and wisdom will always shine among us!  A few days before his passing, Loi left a message worth reiterating for the sake of those who will read this tribute. Less than 21 hours before his passing, Loi wrote a three word sentence on his facebook page, of which my wife who happened to have logged into my facebook page, alerted me of as she was concerned about his condition. I stopped what I was doing and just took time to read and think about these words. I was not even aware he was sick let alone leaving behind a message I am referencing today! He wrote, “Chol Dakbai: Children.”

For those who may not know Chol Dakbai, he was Loi’s best friend from Abii clan whom he lived with for a long time and he was on his bedside when he passed away.

These wise words speak volume because they underscore his nature as someone who always thought about others even at the time of his death. He challenged Chol Dakbai and all of us not only to take care of his children but also to always take care of others and especially the generation following us. Let us always remember those wise words wrote by him while still alive on his hospital bed at a time when he sensed he was not going to live long enough to serve his community and his nation.

But let me talk about when and how I met Loi Deng Nai. I have to admit that, unlike Jok Gai Anai, our paths did not cross in Bor even though we (Gwallei and Gal) have been together at different cattle camps such as Makuur (Awan’s), Gok-thon (Gal’s), Mabuor-Ageer (Gal’s), Daabiok (Abii’s, Dielnom (Gal’s), Goi (Gal’s) and Yupayeth (Gal’s) at different seasons from 1984 - 1987. Of course, I happened to see his older brother, Aciekdit Deng Nai (Lonh-Ajer) who stood out at a Bor festival conducted one afternoon at Dielnom cattle camp, I think two months before our departure for Ethiopia in 1987. But I never had a chance to run into Loi and I guess he may have been at those cattle camps as well.

It would take years before I met and got to know Uncleloi really well. I met Loi Deng Nai in August 1995 when I took my one month off from school to stay with relatives at New Cush Internally Displaced Persons’ Camp. At the time, Loi Deng Nai was a young boy attending a primary school founded and funded by Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) for displaced children languishing in New Cush Displaced Camp. It happened that the SSRA managed primary school had its classes taught under trees near my uncle’s (Malwal Bol Deng’s) home where I was staying during my one month vacation.

I soon developed interest in just walking over to those classes to watch these kids taught under trees. I was blown away by the enthusiasm, love of knowledge, and dedication to learning by these kids and even though I was just completing 7th grade, I thought my time would be better used if I volunteered to teach at least one class for just that month I was staying in New Cush Displaced Camp. I went to the school director, a legendary educator, Apeechdit e Kucha who gladly accepted my offer to volunteer teaching and assigned me to teach 3rd grade science class. It was during my assignment as an untrained volunteer teacher that I met Loi Deng Nai, and others such as Thon Kuany and Daniel Awan Mach, and others who stood out in that class (Thon and Awan [who later ironically became student at my alma mater, Katilu Boys’] are now WUSC students or college graduates in Canada). Uncleloi’s love for knowledge was beyond measure. He loved learning and helping his peers to complete their assignments.

Years later, Loi relocated to Kakuma Refugee Camp to pursue his education. He excelled at school as well as at Bor community festivities and managed to establish his brand as one of the respected rising stars in Bor community. He continued with his innovative skills here in the US to establish websites already alluded to by Jok Gai Anai.

Last year, Loi and his peers impressed all people who came to watch Michigan Bor community festival by putting together what turned out to be a more authentic Bor community dance ever comparable to what young men at cattle camp always do. I took his picture during the festival; a picture he loved so much that he made it his facebook profile picture (of course with full credit attributed to me).

Beyond Bor Community festivities, he has completed his education, went back to Sudan to get married and built a very successful career in human resource profession. Last year, he was tapped by Deng Lueth Mayom to lead the IT team for Greater Bor Community of the United States because his innovative and IT skills were deemed instrumental to the successful foundation of this organization in the world of IT and cyberspace competition.

Loi Deng Nai will always be remembered as a respected Bor young man and South Sudan professional who had lived a life worth emulating. He overcame adversities, stood out among his peers, started and supported a family, dedicated his life to serving Bor community and South Sudan. He was a wonderful human being who made friendships with all and enmity with none. May Almighty God rest his soul in peace and bless his widow and kids he left behind.

Akol Aguek Ngong, MBA, is Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA. He can be reachedThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..