Feature: South Sudanese youth use art, culture to advocate peace

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-07 01:55:09|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Julius Gale

JUBA, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese youth who have been torn apart by over three years of civil war, are using music, poetry, fashion, drama, comedy and dance to advocate for peace and unity.

A youth group, called Ana Taban, which means "I'm tired," brings together painters, poets, musicians, fashion designers and cartoonists who use social media, street art, and sometimes public performances across South Sudan to preach peace and non-violence.

"I'm tired of everything happening in this country. Seeing other mothers suffering, watching their children die of hunger and they are helpless. This motivated me to use my music to preach for peace and end to violence against women," said 30-year-old Varna Joseph, a pop singer.

The single mother says her music seeks to educate people about their rights and create awareness about the suffering of the people especially women.

"As much as we keep saying you are from this area and you from that tribe and you are that person. Let us not forget about unity and peace of this country," she said. "As long as we work hand in hand, we will have the country we want."

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll on people there.

A peace pact signed in Addis Ababa in 2015 under intense international pressure was shattered again following renewed violence between government and opposition troops in the capital Juba in July 2016.

The conflict has since spread to other regions, which enjoyed relative peace, forcing some 3.5 million people to flee their homes. Ensuing ethnic polarization and tribal violence has killed tens of thousands of people.

Luak Mathiang, a poet, said he got motivated to join the youth-led campaign group after seeing his country getting engulfed by violence, hatred and human rights abuses.

Mathiang said his poems touch on subjects including social rights, peace, economy and politics.

"Through pens, we can do great things, not through guns, not through fist fights, and not through hate speech," said Mathiang. "But we can write your grievances and understand the situation you are going through."

As the Ana Taban group celebrated its first anniversary last Friday, it adopted a new campaign slogan, "Kojoron Fadi", which means "empty Saucepan."

Meen Mabior Meen, singer and coordinator with Ana Taban, told Xinhua that the new slogan depicts the ongoing situation of hunger, violence and mass displacement in South Sudan.

"In South Sudan, we are aware of the killings, the suffering in many forms; be it hunger, be it rape," Meen said. "All these atrocities happening, all these things made us tired, because no one wants to see them happening in our country."

Despite the challenges facing the group, Meen said they would continue to educate people and also speak to the country through the various platforms that they are using, calling on young South Sudanese to embrace the spirit of tolerance and shun violence.

"Let the youth use their strength and power to advocate for peace. Even for the youth who are fighting now, if they deicide to put down their guns and say 'we are for peace,' I think there will be no one to be used to fight," he said.

"It is time for all youths to say 'we are for peace' and others will follow."