There are many connectors for South Sudanese


Thank you to our guest blogger Don Bosco from the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) for this amazing insight into the work of South Sudan Theatre Organization.

Despite limited fresh air at the venue, human eyes were glued to the stage to see actors portray nothing but the reality of our families, communities and society and South Sudan in general. Groups performed on issues that range from early marriages to forced and arranged marriages, land grabbing to plundering of public resources, peace negotiations/making to why war must be continued as peace would threaten the power base of some individuals.

The actors were very particular in displaying the ugliness of war. The plight of our daughters, sisters, mothers and aunties was clearly represented and their plea was genuine and calls for nothing less other than the protection and promotion of their human rights.

The South Sudan Theatre Organization (SSTO) made a better use of Nyakuron Cultural Center (September 1-4, 2015) in the 21st century a good departure from the December 2013 Nyakuron memories.

This was the week when the first inter-school theatre festival in the capital Juba was held at Nyakuron Cultural Center. Nyakuron got beautiful decorations. It looked Christmas here with school uniforms for the different secondary schools participating at the festival and costumes coloring the place for four beautiful days. Many who attended the event for the entire four days had their share of amusement and reflection on the reality presented by the troupes. Some of the bitter facts presented attracted nothing but the valley of tears from the faces of audience.

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Citizen’s Theatre Inter-School Festival – Interview with Nichola Lado Part I


This post is an interview with Nichola Lado Franco (NL) conducted by Chris Milner (CM) for the South Sudan Theatre Organization.

It is like giving a voice to the voiceless. In South Sudan culture, in traditional life, there are things that you cannot say or question. Like woman beating or (as later in that play) early marriage. This is “the tradition” and “you have to understand”. Any time I want my daughter to get married I just say, come on let’s go.

These are things only other people can discuss, those we call our Uncles (not even our fathers). So when it comes to watching this on the stage it is like … ahhhh (release)… I have wanted to say this out but I didn’t know how to say it. So the audience get a huge release.. ahhh… so this is when the audience can laugh.

The good thing about the method of our Citizen’s Theatre – which is using forum theatre – is that it gives people voice to speak and join the dialogue. When the chance for the audience comes, the first people who were laughing are the first people with their hands up, because they really want to talk: “Yes, this is happening in our community and we need to see these things go out”.

Chris Milner: What happened at the Citizen’s Theatre Festival?
Nichola Llado Franco: Yesterday was the closing day of our Citizen Theatre Inter-School Festival, which I like to call the Carnival. We just had that carnival with music (Silver X, Emmanuel Kembe), dance (Orupaap) and some official speeches as well as the drama (best schools and SSTO).

From 1-3 September we had performances from 10 schools. Each school brought a drama about issues in their community (these included corruption, tribalism, early and forced marriage and alcoholism), and used the forum theatre techniques in which we had trained them to create a dialogue.

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Citizen’s Theatre Inter-School Festival – Interview with Nichola Lado Part II


CM: A lot of foreigners like me go on about reconciliation and this idea that South Sudan needs a ‘national dialogue’. I wonder what ‘national dialogue’ means to you, what it would look like and how theatre might play a role in that?

NL: This reconciliation we hear about here is reconciliation between the parties, the politicians and the policy makers, but it is not really a national dialogue. If you talk about national dialogue it is not just you there in high positions who need to have dialogue, about who needs to share this seat…whether we need to give that seat to that political party.. No. It is not about seats.

When we talk about dialogue we need to find the real roots of our problems. Like up to now the issue of South Sudanese identity hasn’t come up. What does it mean to be South Sudanese? And these things issues cannot be addressed up there. We need to start from the roots.

NL: The thing about national reconciliation is that during the six years implementation of the CPA from 2005 nobody talked about reconciliation. Reconciliation just came up as an issue for us – booom – after South Sudan gained independence and people started thinking we need to have this reconciliation.

Unfortunately there was some misunderstanding in the idea of reconciliation and in the run up to the 2013 December crisis, the reconciliation commission was probably part of the problem because it was headed at that time by the V-P, before he was released by the government.

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Citizen’s Theatre Inter-School Festival: Interview with Nichola Lado Part III


NL: Everyone can just say anything because it is not serious, because there is no agenda, because you do not invite them to come from their political party or because they are an elder from this or that group. They come as an audience, as a citizen of South Sudan.

CM: It seemed to me that the plays were more interested in inequality than ethnicity, is that just because I saw those particular plays or is the problem of ethnicity about resources more than about identity? Anything else about the themes that came up?

NL: Yes, this is because you didn’t see all the ten plays. The ten performances brought out most of the problems we face. This relates to identity, that is who we are. In the plays you can see some South Sudanese costumes – like the lowa – which is worn by every community in different ways but is known to come from the Chollo. So this kind of identity is confused, how do South Sudanese look? When I go outside (the country) for example, how do people know I am south Sudanese? This is a big issue. And the students discussed these things through the festival – really they discussed it.

The issue of corruption came up from two schools. This is one of the bigger things in South Sudan. And tribalism came from three teams.

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Motorbike Cinema “Cineboda” Tests, Northern Bahr al Ghazal, South Sudan, Part IV, Technical Lessons and Recommendations


An evaluation of the peacebuilding impact of the exercise was outside the scope of this activity. This test was simply intended to subject the Cine-boda concept to a real-world situation. Some findings and lessons are outlined below:

a. Screen
The screen was satisfactory and could easily entertain 200+ persons. Good tension was achieved in the first two showings using the bungee attachments provided. This provided a good cinematic experience. The screen was poorly set up in the third showing, which used the Velcro attachments provided. This was primarily because the team had not been trained in using the Velcro. Lessons include:

• Provide larger screen.
• Screen risks becoming creased. Consider spandex based screen for version 2.
• The Velcro attachment system can produce the necessary tension but will rip paint off surfaces on removal, limiting its application.
• Training for team in various methods of erecting screen is important.
• Develop a fold out frame from Cineboda for rear projection to avoid the need for a surface to attach screen.
• Need pegs and more holes in bottom of screen.

b. Power
The battery unit successfully charged from the motorbike alternator, the solar panels and the A.C power.

• Solar charging: Solar system successful and drew about 11watts of charging power continuously. 6 hours of sunshine fully charged system after 2 hours of screenings.
• Motorbike charging: 12v charging system from motorbike provided up to 40watts of charging power to battery system when driving and about 9 on tickover.
• Charge still showed 90% after two hour screening.
• Screenings do not need engine running.
• Battery capacity is generous and could be reduced.
• Battery is large and heavy and could be reduced in size and weight.
• Next generation Cineboda should run both speaker and projector from single battery source.


c) Audiences of 100-250 people
Audiences were small because the activities took place within compounds and were not advertised outside of the immediate community. However, lessons include:

• System reaches audiences who do not have access to power.
• System can easily reach audiences of 250
• System can get to hard to reach communities off-road.
• Sound volume sufficient for outdoors and amidst background noise

d) Microphone to facilitate showings and discussion

• Microphone worked well.
• Bluetooth microphone would be an improvement because it would lower barriers to audience engagement in discussion (they would not need to stand and come to the front to speak)

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Motorbike Cinema “Cineboda” Tests, Northern Bahr al Ghazal, South Sudan, Part III, Test Screenings


To test the mobile motorbike cinema unit, we drove out from Aweil an hour or so north on poor roads to Wanyjok, where we spent a couple of days showing participatory films. The films were jointly created by Dinka and Misseriya participants, facilitated by the amazing folk at BuildPeace. This is how we got on.

Simon and Deng Deng set up the first screenings, using the solar powered light (included and in post featured image above).

We also screened selected clips from inside the February Dinka-Misseriya peace conference as well as a number of other films (including the South Sudan Theatre Organisation’s Citizen Theatre film).

The first night at the Abyei Community Development Foundation was a good run through, but since the venue had a generator and a TV (which kicked in half way through) it was not a good example of our target location.

However, the kit really came alive on the second night when we drove it through floodwater to a women’s training center just outside town. This place, like the overwhelming majority of Northern Bahr al Ghazal, does not have any access to electricity.

The response was fantastic.

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