Films Reveal Peace at Work in South Sudan

Majok Nyithiou is a blip on the map – a border town between war-torn Sudan and South Sudan, which relies on trade from both countries. When the borders between the two embattled states close, people on both sides suffer.

But in this bustling little trade town is an incredible example of peace at work.

The Misseriya nomadic groups and Dinka cattle herders and farmers have been forging peace agreements here for centuries. It’s very important for avoiding violence in a volatile environment, and also provides a foundation for continuing trade.

Peace organisation Build Up went into the area with cameras to see what people there had to say about peace, and encouraged local residents to film their versions of what peace looks like to them.

Here’s what a group of young Misseriya and Dinka men had to say:

“When I arrived in Majok, I found a good market. A big market, full of people, a peaceful market,” one interviewee said.

“People are open-minded, people are good. These are people of peace. Majok now has services, it has institutions. It has a school. Majok now has a hospital. Majok has a council that we have built. We have also built shops in the Majok market. And around the hafir (well) we have four or five brick-making sites. People are working to develop this place."

But it’s not just the men who had something to say. One of the benefits of participatory films is that marginalised groups are able to explain their values to their community, and speak up about what peace means to them. For women of the area, peace depends on water supplies.

"We need water to wash clothes, to wash utensils, to wash our children,” one of the women interviewed explained.

“Water is a basic need. You can give your children food, but there is no water to wash their hands. Germs in their nails can cause disease,” she said.

"If there is water, people can live freely. Majok needs a future, it needs a big future. Dinka Malual and Miseriya can live together. All of us living peacefully together."

Build Up co-founder Michaela Ledesma said she was impressed with how participatory films can empower marginalised groups and contribute to peace-building in a community like Majok’s.

"One of the women told us that on the day of the first screening she had put on the group t-shirt, which said “Our Films, Our Peace”,” Ms Ledesma said.

“Her son looked at her and laughed, saying ‘What are you doing wearing that, you can’t even read.’ To which she replied ‘I might not be able to read, but I know how to make films’."

Cover Photo: Martine Perret / UN