Tired and war-torn, South Sudan’s future leaders are taking a stand for change, turning to art, poetry, music and fashion to spread awareness and call for peace.
“We are tired of just sitting by and seeing our country burn,” Manasseh Mathiang, a gospel singer and performer for the group, told Reuters.
“We are tired of having a country with vast natural resources and yet a crashing economy. We are tired of having a starving population yet we have a fertile land. We are tired of being used to kill ourselves for the benefit of a few.”
What began as a group of 20 creatives painting murals, singing and reciting poetry around the country’s capital of Juba has turned into a nationwide movement, gaining supporters and followers with every town they visit. The group has also taken to social media, publishing their regular open-air performances on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
"'Ana Taban,' the name of our campaign, is a phrase in Arabic that people use often in South Sudan," explained Jacob Bul Buir, 28, an actor, filmmaker and radio producer.
"It means 'I’m tired.' Tired of war, tired of the conflict situation."
“Our idea was to host arts-based community events — including performances and street art — to spread messages of peace and reconciliation. No one refuses to be entertained so if you put a message in it, people will listen,” Bul said.
The movement leaders have asked the international community for continued assistance in resolving the African country’s humanitarian crisis. However, they state that first and foremost, the state of the nation is in the hands of its citizens.
“The youth of South Sudan make up over 70 percent of the population, thus the youth have participated widely in the conflict and also have a big role to play in developing a solution,” Ana Taban said.
“If we could unite the youth, we’d have enough will to restore the country,” Bul added.
South Sudan has struggled with its civil war since 2013, two years after independence was won in 2011, turning former allied tribes against each other and prolonging the country’s poor state of affairs.
Civil war conflicts broke out after the country’s newly appointed president, Salva Kiir, accused his former vice president of planning a coup.
"We are focused on bringing the country together, bringing people together. We are neutral, we are non-partisan," Bul said.
“If you speak up in a calm way, you can make change happen,” the actor explained.