The power of cultural dance in peace building

Group of South Sudanese local dancers dance U’dea (photo by Balla Bulen)

By Mandela Nelson Denis

South Sudan yesterday joined the rest of the world to mark the International Dance Day.

The day was created by the dance committee of the international theatre institute in 1982, the main partner for performing arts of UNESCO.

For South Sudan that it is important to celebrate the day as the country is trying to recover from the grief of five years conflict because traditional dances can play a great role in peace building.

The event always takes place on the 29th April of every year to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of modern Ballet. It is observed by All United Nations member states which South Sudan is part.

Speaking to Juba Monitor Otim Patrick, leader of Mega Independent Acholi traditional dance group, said traditional dance was the power tool to unite people

He said his groups compromised mainly of orphans from different tribes but the common traditional dance has managed to unite them together.

“Most of my dancers have either lost one or both of the parents but through coming together for dance practices many have learned to live a new life and forget about the past.  Each time they dance you can easily see smiles on their faces,” said Otim

South Sudan is blessed with 64 tribes and the country has thousands of cultural dances including the Acholi traditional dances, Azande dance, the Balanda dance, Dinka dance, Shiluk Nuer and Kuku dances.

In Acholi tradition, the Larakara dance is often played during a wedding ceremony to cement the unity.

In Juba several dance competitions had been organized across the country for the example the Alabu dance competition that kicked off in 2016. The competition often brings many youth from all walks of life to compete for prizes.

Kelly Odiek renowned dancer in Juba famous for the salsha dance (photo by Mandela Nelson Denis)


Dance also heal trauma as people take part in the practice, through dance many people forget about the past. They dance off the bad memories and look forward to a new dawn.

Oyella Pratica one of the Achoil traditional dancers told Juba Monitor that through the dance group she has been able to make new friends who have stood by her during tough times.

“To me dance is unity; it shows love and the spirit of togetherness. The members of dance group are my friends, brothers and sisters and family.  They have helped me to forget about the past,” Oyella said.

In Shirikat, Jonglei youth from Bor community often gather every Sundays to cheer each other as they grove to their local dance.

The atmosphere of peace and unity is portrayed as men, women and children cheer up their favorite dancers, said Manas Bol one of the youth.

He said the Sunday’s cultural dance often reminds them the importance of peaceful coexistence by supporting one another for the benefit of the greater Jonglei and the entire South Sudan.

“Through the weekend cultural dances we come together as sons and daughters of the great Jonglei and also remind each other that we are supposed to work hard to make our community happy and united,” Bol said.


Kelly Odiek a dancer trainer said that as the world celebrates international dance day to him the day was very important to South Sudanese because it brings them together to create friends to have a better country.

It is about fours since Kelly has been training young South Sudanese to dance for peace. He revealed that dance was one of the easiest way to forget about the reconcile community.

“Through dance you are able to forget about what might have happened in the past and you also connect with new friends to create green opportunities to brighten your future,” said Kelly.

Due to modernization dances such as Shaku Shaku, a West African dance style has become popular in the country where every young South Sudanese is pushing to learn the dance through move.

Afro Latin dance famously known as salsha, kizomba and many others have also caught the attention of the co-operate class of people in Juba city as they meet to learn and dance.

The Brazilian dance that of late has been the talk of Juba city amongst the Afro Latin and Latin Americans citizens living in Juba.

Both local and international dances have promoted peace and unity in the country as it continues to remind the citizens of the importance of staying together in peace and harmony

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