South Sudanese artists stand up for their rights to clean water and a healthy environment

Trying to foster peace in a country – South Sudan – wracked by one of the world’s bloodiest and destructive wars.

Giving a voice to those most urgently needing to be heard. And now attempting to roll back the “black tide” of oil pollution sweeping over the country

Since its founding in 2016, Anataban – it means “we are sick and tired” in Arabic – has taken on the biggest problems facing South Sudan, the world’s youngest country – and one of its most troubled ones.

The amazing thing about Anataban. It is not a political party. Nor a group of development workers.

Anataban is, rather, a collective of artists – artists who have given themselves a very big job – to mobilize their fellow South Sudanese to stand up and speak for their rights to peace, prosperity and clean water.

To that end, Anataban stages street theatre; open mic evenings; murals, sculpture and poetry exhibitions and competitions; and makes videos.

Such as “Black Tide” – which has just been released.


“Anataban was founded by 20 artists of all description. We got together for a very simple purpose: to get social justice for our people,” explains John Ador Akoy, Anataban’s co-founder and head of theatre.

Going by his artist’s name of “Long John”, John adds: “Along the way, we found another objective: creating ways for our people to express their concerns and their talents – through culture.”

The South Sudanese recently ranked themselves the “unhappiest country in the world”. Understandably so.

More than half of this country of 12 million is facing famine.

This famine and the incessant civil wars have joined with a crippling lack of clean water – caused by oil pollution – in forcing well over a third of the South Sudanese to flee for their lives.

In what may sound paradoxical, this country of crisis also has a thriving cultural scene. Many of its artists, poets and theatre people got their starts at the “Hagana” festival. Hagana means “It is ours”, and the festival has become South Sudan’s most important venue for the performing arts.

“Not a paradox at all,” explains Long John. “There have always been a large number of the artistically-gifted in South Sudan. They were crying out to be heard, to be read, to be seen. And now they have a place to do such – at Anataban’s  events.”



BBC: Painting for Peace

Die Zeit: Müde vom Krieg

United States Institute for Peace: An artists’ movement for peace catches fire


Founded in 2016 in Juba, South Sudan by 20 artists.


Anataban – “We are sick and tired”

Bloodshed Free2017

Malesh – We are sorry

Soutna – Our voice

Social Media:

Facebook:  Anataban SouthSudan

Twitter: @AnatabanSS

Linkedin: John Ador Akoy

Coordinator: Manasseh Mathiang

Assistant to the coordinator: John Ador Akoy

Contact via Skype: Longjonn2

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