Poets In Juba, South Sudan

"The editor of the anthology makes a further misleading assertion: Juba, he says, is a city without poets. (Can there be such a thing? A city without poets?)"

By John Ryle , London, 4 July 2017 
An article in the Times Literary Supplement on 23 June, apropos a poetry anthology called Capitals, states that Juba, the capital of South Sudan, was founded in the 1920s by Greek traders. This isn’t the case, though. The Bari, one of the main ethnic groups in South Sudan, are the indigenous inhabitants of the area where Juba is located and established a settlement of this name much earlier.
The editor of the anthology makes a further misleading assertion: Juba, he says, is a city without poets. (Can there be such a thing? A city without poets?) Times are hard in Juba now and many things are lacking, but it’s safe to say that there is no lack of poets.
I made these points and others in a letter published in the TLS the following week, reproduced below.
 Sir, – Abhay K’s comments on the history of Juba—as quoted and elaborated on by J. C. (NB, June 23)—are misleading. Though Greek traders had a key role in the development of the town as a trading centre from the 1920s onwards, they were not the founders of Juba. The Bari people – the indigenous inhabitants of the area—have a prior claim, having established the first settlement of that name (and asserting to this day their collective rights in the land where the town is situated).
A mission and school were established in Juba in the early 1920s; and in 1929 it became the administrative centre of Mongalla Province (sub­sequently of Equatoria Province). From that time up to the 1950s Greek traders dominated commerce in Southern Sudan, but after independence in 1956 they were progressively displaced by Sudanese Arab traders from the north. Thus Hai Jalaba—the part of Juba mentioned by J. C. as having been “left behind” by the Greeks—means “the jalaba quarter”, jalaba being a pejorative South Sudanese term for Sudanese Arabs
Re the supposed absence of poets in Juba, did Abhay K consider the work of Taban lo Liyong? Or Severino Matti? Or Sirr Anai Kelueljang? Or Victor Lugala? Or any of the current flowering of South Sudanese hip-hop artists—Mr Lengs, Crazy Fox and other members of the collective known as Ana Taban (“I’m tired”)?
Though they may not be of global stature, they surely bear comparison with J. C.’s favoured poet, William McGonagall. 


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12/07/2017, 3:14 PM
 - Posted by Jacob Akol
1. The War of Love:

Oh, what war is this?
A repeat of the olden days?
Why not care a little more
In this time of peace?

Is this the love
Our peace accord has brought?
Then why send these barges
Full of stones?

An indulgence to erode nationhood?
Do you not see
The growing spirit of change
In our national life?

What war is this?
A repeat of the olden days?
Provoking trouble
When there is no need
For the war of hate
More than the war of love?

2. The coming storm:

an enormous starred sky
appeared over the South
and I made ready for a voyage...

under a long moving cloud
I poetised black gold find in lightning
and painted
the picture of the darkening sky
on a flickling moon ray...

Like a winged-ghost
I was the unseen poet floating in mid-air
where there were only windswept clouds
that had slowly turned
into war planes...
I laughed
only at the rhythms of words
of a man writing
a poem
while floating in space
and revealing
and warning
about the coming storm
just flogging
to uproot the growing seedlings
on the delicate Unity Soil!

3.When patience is over:

Inconceivably solemn
And strangely enough
History may so soon repeat itself
Now that we're again
Experiencing hardships

Alas! how easily our adversaries threaten
For in this period of calm in our national life
They play sabotages of all kinds
To make us resort to gun again!

But when our patience is over
Who will stop things coming to a head?
Who will insist we should go on forever
Tightening our belts and waiting in vain
For our share of the national cake?

"Afro-Arab nation" we genuinely wish Sudan to be
And let bygone be bygone
Yet our "Africaness in all aspects
We shall preserve and uphold without fear.

Those three poems are from THE MYTH OF FREEDOM and other poems, by Sirr Anai Kelueljang, a Juba poet of the 1970s. Current Juba poets, please forward your poems to jacobakol@gmail.com or editor@gurtong.com There has been a challenge out of thin air!
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