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.

The forum theatre troupes got a fair share of rounds of applauds for the creativity, innovation and inspiration let alone the talents displayed by the ten secondary schools taking part in the event. History will judge some of us harshly for denying these talents the opportunity to use their space – Nyakuron Cultural Center.

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 event revealed the potential and capacity the country has in art. The old boys and girls in the field were handy to adjudicate. Moments of silence were offered for colleagues and teachers who have fallen asleep.

Journalists and writers were visible during the occasion with their cameras, recorders and notebooks. Certainly they should be able to produce something to last a week at least. Even ordinary ‘me’ is just jotting something for reference.

Unnoticed in this event were the criminals and crime preventers. Nyakuron is known for attracting these categories as well. Despite the congregation of the over two thousand secondary school students and members of the public there was no noticeable presence of security personnel in the event. The petty thieves of Juba forgot to break into cars which kept some of our many phones; cash and other valuables as it was exciting inside the theatre despite the heat and lack of fresh air as the air conditioning was out of order.

The Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, USAID and TRANSFORMEDIA made this event happen. The donor logos were made visible on banners, promotional materials including T-shirts for beneficiaries. Some donor representatives had an opportunity to smile and wave to the public as it was the ritual here. The South Sudan Theatre Organization made use of the youth. Here is another example of using the youthful energies positively. People danced the different traditional dances and looked for the similarities that connected them.

The Inter-school Theatre Festival ushered in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). AFCON was played here for the first time. South Sudan played their first ever AFCON match. South Sudan walloped Equatorial Guinea a goal to nil and the country celebrated. The country celebrated the short and long legs that played.

This win was celebrated and continued to be celebrated in style and civilized manner. If you are unfamiliar with celebrations here, just note that death announcements, ushering in the New Year or indicating happiness is best done by firing some rounds of live bullets into the air. No; not this time. No single bullet was fired. People naturally sang their throats hoarse, gave free lifts, applied hazard lights of cars and blew horns in happiness. Despite the known fuel shortage in town, many forgot to turn home until all the passengers alighted.

The two events in the country kept it connected and united. The twitter and Facebook accounts of the rival groups exchanged congratulatory messages. The South Sudan media had something new to report apart from war and misery.

I just forgot to ask when the next theatre festival or football win is due and I hope it’s soon to keep our smiles on.

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Chris Milner

Chris is a conflict transformation specialist and producer with substantial political, research and creative experience with both communities at the grassroots and policy processes at the highest level.

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