In the beginning of September in order to change the situation in South Sudan, the artists, who “are tired of having a country with vast natural resources and yet a crashing economy, tired of having a starving population yet [having] a fertile land, tired of being used to kill [themselves] for the benefit of a few” launched the campaign “Ana Taban”, or “I am tired”.
The campaign was developed in Lake Elementaita, Kenya in a workshop facilitated by a Kenyan civil society organization called Pawa 254, where a group of 20 South Sudanese creatives were invited by the facilitators to build on their various artistic skills to effect social change (Artivism). The group was comprised of Musicians, Actors, Poets, Fashion designers, Graffiti Artists and cartoonists.
African Politics and Policy thus is happy to share with the readers the unique interview with MANASSEH MATHIANG, Campaign Leader, who tells us about the situation in South Sudan and how the ANA TABAN became a cultural platform that inspires people for social and political changes.
APP: What emotions do you try to convey in your work? To what extent do you incorporate anxiety and unease in your works to address the horrific realities your country has been experiencing?
Ana Taban: We intend to inspire the Youth of South Sudan to believe in their country and to know their ideas count in the shaping of our country. We thus encourage citizenry and nationalism. The citizens of South Sudan have endured a lot of pain and horror for a long time, we thus try to balance use of horrific realities with a hope of better tomorrow through our art, we let the people know that all we are going through is not the end of the story
APP: Do you believe art can produce or instigate significant change in the world? What do you think it will take for South Sudan to reach peace, and how do you feel art can help make this a reality?
Ana Taban: We strongly believe that art is an essential tool to bring about positive change, disseminating positive information through art can easily influence individuals’ thinking. This has been evident in our work, we have encountered testimonies from different people who have been inspired, encouraged or challenged by our various art work. For South Sudan to reach a lasting peace, we need to develop an inclusive dialogue process which will allow the citizens to speak out on various issues that they find to be troubling to them. We have for so long developed a routine of burying wrongs instead of solving them, this has led to the various cases of conflict in different parts of the country.
APP: Your activities within the #AnaTaban campaign get a great support from the public. How successful you are to create a dialogue with the decision makers and the politicians?
Ana Taban: The #Anataban’s primary objective is to be a platform for the youth to speak up on various issues affecting the country, we thus engage the youth in various issues affecting the nation by getting their opinions to which we will then share with relevant authorities. We have divided our activities into seasons, where we get to cover a specific topic per season, this first season which ends in by the end of this month focuses on the topic of reconciliation. It is then that we intend to visit the politicians and decision makers with the positions of the youth of South Sudan.
APP: What does the word “movement” and slogan “I am tired” mean to you and your artistic process?
Ana Taban: The statement “Ana taban” or “I am Tired” is a general feeling we, the citizens of South Sudan, are feeling as the war has basically snatched as our joy as a people, we also see the statement as an action point to do something about it, by taking ownership of our country knowing that we as a youth have a great role in solving our own problems. The youth of South Sudan is being over 70% of the population.
APP: Storytelling and narrative are at the heart of the street art you make. In your opinion, what are the most important components to make a thought-provoking visual narrative?
Ana Taban: To make a thought – provoking narrative you need to first understand the mood and of the target audience, you need to tell the story in a way that will both awaken the emotions of the target as well as offer a direction of resorting the problem.
APP: What do you ultimately hope will happen in South Sudan? What positive changes do you hope to bring in through your art movement?
Ana Taban: Peace is what we hope for; I am looking forward to enjoy leaving and building my Country, hoping for a secure, prosperous South Sudan. We hope through our movement the people of South Sudan including our leaders, decide to change their attitudes towards seeking a lasting peace and freedom for all our people, as well as see each other as brothers and not tribes.
APP: How well or poorly do you feel the international community is handling the civil war in your home country? What do you want the international community to know about South Sudan, its people and culture that were lost during the civil war began?
Ana Taban: Since the inception of the conflict on December 15th 2013 up to date, the international community seem to show great intend to end the war in South Sudan investing millions of Dollars in the Addis Ababa peace process as well as millions of dollars in humanitarian solutions. However, I feel that the international community did not make a lot of efforts in really understanding the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan and sort to impose a foreign political solutions to solve our problem in the ARCISS agreement that then led to a return of the conflict as both warring parties did not feel comfortable with the agreement.
Secondly, the agreement has severally been broken, but the international community did not do enough in pressuring the parties to follow the agreement or discuss ways of making it work.
Finally, the youth of South Sudan make up over 70% of the population, thus the youth have participate widely in the conflict and also have a big role to play in developing a solution. The international community needs to invest in finding youth targeted solutions. And also a reconciliation is key in achieving a long term solution to bridging a gap between communities in South Sudan
APP: What are your feeling toward the current state of your country? And how do these feelings reflect in your activities?
Ana Taban: I am unhappy and ashamed of the distraction we have made in our own country, but I am still hopeful that we the people of South Sudan can rebuild our nation. In our activities we try to portray all our feelings towards our situation as well as offer solutions and hope.
APP: What projects/activities did you organize within your campaign? What is next for you?
Ana Taban: To start of our activities we engaged the communities on world peace day where we decided to go to populated streets engaging dialogue on reconciliation as we handed out white handkerchiefs branded with reconciliatory messages. We have so far organized several community dialogues and roadshows where we covered reconciliation as our topic; this activity involved spoken word, drama, music and comedy as well as discussions on reconciliation. In each of these events, which happened around crowded neighborhoods around Juba, we had questioners, which allowed the communities to contribute their ideas. We also passed our messages via street murals and graffiti all over the city of Juba with powerful messages.
We are intending to hold more events in the universities around Juba, within the UN civilian protection sites as well as refugee camps and affected towns around the country by the end of the year
APP: What is culture for you? To what extent should culture function as a mirror of reality?
Ana Taban: Culture to me is a way of life. Cultural practices should evolve with realities of the current, for instance the culture of cattle rustling has been practiced in South Sudan for centuries and is still practiced to date and thus creates a big gap between communities. South Sudan leaders should be serious in burning this practice.
APP: Following the posts you share through your social media accounts awakens curiosity, makes people know more about your movement. So, what is your role as an art movement to achieve peace and reconciliation of South Sudan?
Ana Taban: As an art driven peace campaign we first of all seek to inspire the population and also challenge their minds to leave as one. We also use our art to give hope to the helpless. We also seek to be that platform for the youth and population at large to share ideas that will pave way to a long lasting reconciliation in South Sudan, we are doing that through a questionnaire that is also online that enables the youth to share in their thoughts on reconciliation https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6NM85YJ
APP: Starting in September as a movement with very intense and diverse activities, how far do you succeed in engaging local community and in raising public consciousness? What are your main achievement and disappointments for the moment?
Ana Taban: We have managed to have our activities in the most populated and affected areas in the city, in doing so we get the opportunities to engage the population and we use the questionnaire as a starting point for the conversations that helps us revolve our conversations around inspiring and addressing the issue of reconciliation. Members of the community have also in several occasions being inspired by our street arts volunteered to help the painters in their work and that helps us engage the public.
The team of APP hopes that the efforts of your movement will bring to South Sudan and to the people long-expected peace and social reconciliation. We strongly hope that culture and art, the cornerstone of your campaign, will help to achieve the mutual understanding and will inspire people to bring positive changes to the country they live in.
Contact details of Ana Taban: