South Sudan has been an independent nation for five years, and has been engaged in civil war for over three of them.
A group of young, creative activists are calling for ceasefire, and are promoting peace through art with their campaign ‘Ana Taban’.
A mural in Juba with the message ‘fire bullets of peace’.
Jacob Bul, a South Sudanese creative, is a co-founder of the campaign.
“Ana Taban, the name of our campaign, is a phrase in Arabic that people often use in South Sudan. It means ‘I’m tired’. Tired of war, tired of conflict situation. Our idea was to host arts-based community events – including performances and street art – to spread messages of peace and reconciliation. No one refuses to be entertained so, if you put a message in it, people will listen.
We settled on the theme of reconciliation… we started training other artists. Now, there are 47 of us: artists, musicians, spoken word artists and painters.
A mural, described on the Ana Taban Facebook page as the following: What are the people ‘Taban’ of? Poverty, tribalism, violence, hunger, corruption, oppression, injustice, ignorance. Photo: Ana Taban Facebook page.
We recently put on a show in Jebel Suk [‘market’ in Arabic], an area where fighting was really intense in July. A lot of the houses were burned down and the market was looted. Many people lost everything. We set up in an open space and put on a show including comedy, music and drama. Slowly by slowly [a local way of saying bit by bit] more and more people came to watch what we were doing. I would guess we had almost 1,000 spectators.
We performed a song that we wrote called “Malesh,” which means “sorry”. It’s not in our culture to apologize, but, to move forward, we South Sudanese need to accept the fact that we have done a lot of bad things to each other. So we said sorry for the loss of life, for the children sleeping under trees, for the women who’ve been raped and for the babies born in the PoC [Protection of Civilian sites, refugee camps on UN premises where an estimated 200,000 people are living]. The country doesn’t deserve this. When people listened to that song, I saw smiles on their faces. The healing process starts with moments like this.
Riya from Ana Taban sharing a touching, personal story on tribalism at Ana Taban’s open mic night. Photo: Ana Taban Twitter account.
Another of our projects involves a series of murals across Juba. People stop to see what we are doing and it gives us an opportunity to talk. These conversations plant seeds for people to think differently about our country and each other.
Our particular aim is to change the minds of young people. In South Sudan, the youth represent 70 percent of the population. Such a small number of people are messing everything up. If we could unite that 70 percent and get them to take responsibility, we’d have enough will to restore the country.”
The campaign was launched last September, at a time when the number of South Sudanese refugees seeking shelter in neighbouring countries reached over 1 million. The art around the capital city, Juba, is tangible proof that civilians are deeply unhappy with the state of their country and are fighting for change.
As a result of this ongoing conflict and violence, parts of South Sudan have been declared in a state of famine. 4.9 million people are dangerously hungry. Oxfam is providing emergency food, and water and sanitation services to help people avoid diseases like cholera and diarrhea, which can lead to malnutrition and prove fatal. Oxfam, working with local partner organisations, provides emergency food and works with vulnerable people to produce their own food and other income, claim their rights, flee violence, find safety and access aid. Oxfam and others are working to preposition supplies ahead of the rainy season as the weather will make it even more difficult for vulnerable people to access aid.
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