South Sudan youth harness arts to promote resilience, cohesion

Thursday, November 7th, 2019 00:57 |
A South Sudanese poet recites a poem in Juba, capital of South Sudan. South Sudanese youths have embraced visual arts and storytelling to highlight their plight and promote resilience, peace and cohesion in the strife-torn country. (Xinhua/Daniel Majak)


South Sudan youths have embraced visual arts and storytelling to highlight their plight and promote resilience, peace and cohesion in the strife-torn country.

Recently a group of young poets and artists have used their talents as a means to build communities' resilience in the wake of devastations wrought by civil strife and natural calamities.

Theresa Nyalony Gatwang Riak, a poet and a student at the University of Juba, who is also pursuing medicine said the spoken word plays a significant role in peacebuilding citing one of her poems titled "Patience" which depicts the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons who have faith and hope that their motherland will achieve lasting peace in the near future.

With crystal clear sound pumping from the music hall's state-of-the-art equipment, Nyalong said that her poetry motivates the elderly as well as youth to act as peace agents and role models that can restore hopes in the world's youngest republic.

"The art gives me the confidence and opportunity to speak to the leaders, stakeholders and youth that this is the country our ancestors fought for. This is the country our fallen heroes and heroines died for," Riak told Xinhua during an interview on Wednesday.

She has authored her first book called "faith book", which depicts the religious subtext approach with the aim of encouraging war-affected communities to read the gospel as an alternative to despair.

John Adoor Akoi, whose nickname is Long John, honed his talent while he was in Kenya where he pursued his formal education as a refugee, said that stories connect to visual images as people can easily bend a meaning.

"Myself as a storyteller, I have come to realize that it is good to tell stories that can be able to influence people's minds, hearts. South Sudanese like stories and we will continue to listen to stories," said the 32-year-old Akoi.

He said the revitalized peace agreement was aided by storytelling as a means to resolve conflict, adding that poetry and the visual arts have the power to console the suffering. "So if we continue believing in stories then surely we can make a lot of changes in South Sudan. We need our people not to see things as if there will be no solution to the current crisis," said Akoi.

Mandela Lual Mathiang, a group leader under the umbrella initiative of Ana Taban, a youth-led moment, literally translated as "I am tired", said the team paired seven poets and seven visual artists to use graffiti, theatre, and poetry to disseminate their messages of hope and resilience to the public as parties gather steam to form a new unity government next week.

"Visual poetry is one of the ways we use to express our messages to the leaders, stakeholders of the nation the citizens want," Mathiang said.

Ana Taban was established in September 2016 by South Sudanese artists and activists to bring an end to the violence that ravaged the country since 2013. The members of the group include painters, comedians, rappers and singers, all brought together by the desire to infuse political messages into their art.

"Our purpose of the messages is to add the voice of the voiceless into the ongoing process of the implementation of the peace agreement," said Mathiang.(Xinhua)

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