Poems, short stories, artwork and photography by S. Sudanese women

Book cover. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • No Time to Mourn was among the books, documentaries, podcasts, musicians, and media honoured by Oxfam America in March 2021.

Forty one South Sudanese women have penned a collection of 18 short stories, 48 poems, 21 artwork and photography pieces and one song titled No Time to Mourn. 

The anthology reflects the lives of the women writers and artists, and at the same time gives voice to the very real lived experiences and lives of every woman of South Sudanese heritage. The ideas and experiences in this book span decades. They straddle borders, they cross continents and describe events that are hard to imagine, even with some knowledge of South Sudan’s history. 

The 268-page book that was published by Femrite Publications in 2020, and divided under seven themes captures the effects of war, including homelessness and the mistreatment of refugees and the challenges of living in foreign countries, family separations, love, fear and tension, disease, starvation, death and destruction, hunger and thirst, the unending wars, and the gloom that has befallen the land. 

The title of the anthology is derived from Bigoa Chuol’s poem ‘Birth water’. The poem is to the children whose birth water is broken by whizzing of shrapnel. 

“…We know war in sunken eyes/We know it in the jabbing hunger pains/We know it in our callused, blistered feet,” the poem reads in part.

“…We know the reeking smell of almost, entirely well/We cannot hold it to our cracked lips/So, we bite down on our children and our kind bleed.”

“There is time to perish/But there is no time to mourn/There is time to rot/But there is no time to bury…,” the poem runs further. 

Lydia Minagano Kape’s poem ‘Run’ is about a young woman who is no longer afraid of death. When the bullet was shot and they shouted run she instead stood still and watched as gunpowder filled the lonely air. She is not ready to run from death because she has died countless times already. Her body is a tomb, a walking dead, and a ghost. She has buried enough pieces of herself to form a cemetery. She dies every time a bullet cuts a branch off her family tree. 

Nyakoda Joak Mundit’s short story ‘Here, chickens are not vegetarian’ revolves around the traumatised life of a young South Sudanese girl called Nyajuju and the sad events of December 21, 2013, when she and a few other relatives reached home in Malakal, fleeing the hell that had broken out in Juba. 

Juan Evalyn Mule’s short story ‘Darkness in Kaku’s Diary’ is about a father who always beat his wife but then advised his children not to fight or hurt other people. He ends up in jail for domestic violence.

According to the editors of the anthology, Hilda Twongyeirwe and Elizabeth Ashamu Deng, “…It is hard not to be moved as you read what many of these authors have lived through as they strive to achieve those basic of human rights: life, liberty and security. Through this book, we learn more about the cost of war and the value of peace, and how they affect women’s abilities to found a home, bear and raise children, stay healthy and safe, secure education for themselves and their children, seek professional fulfilment and even fall in love, all while navigating society’s often narrowly defined gender roles.”

In her review of No Time to Mourn the Ugandan author of A Girl is a Body of Water Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi writes: “These memories of home, these intimate conversations with sisters from South Sudan, are at once familiar and strange: the stories are raw and heart-breaking, the poetry is earnest and honest, the photography surprising and the art stunning.” 

On his part the South Sudanese author of Another Nigger Dead, Taban lo Liyong, writes: “The truths, the facts and the fiction, in No Time to Mourn are so skilfully woven that they bring tears to our eyes.”

No Time to Mourn was among the books, documentaries, podcasts, musicians, and media honoured by Oxfam America in March 2021 (Women’s History Month) who have led us, inspired us, and worked hard for us in the fight for gender justice around the world.

Title: No Time to Mourn
Authors: Anthology by South Sudanese women
Publisher: Femrite Publications
Release date: 2020
Reviewed by Bamuturaki Musinguzi