Sunday, September 30, 2007

wimunu pe cek

we went to a re-settlement site called wimunu pe cek to meet with youth. diana was going to try out a brand new project called "video voice" inspired by the film born into brothels. (julie resnik did a similar project with cameras in southern uganda called zoom uganda). diana explained to the youth that she wanted to give them the video cameras, train them how to use them and let THEM tell their own story through their own eyes by interviewing different people in their community. it was so fun to see them light up with the new knowledge of how to use the cameras. they picked up on everything amazingly fast. we had the meeting to discuss this opportunity with them under a tree. we sat in a big circle and i think they felt respected by the gesture. it was very cool to see their reaction and pride in telling their own story. and being trusted with the well being of the cameras. we left them with the video cameras and went back to obolokome.

when we got back to obolokome we were greeted by some of the same leaders as before. it was fun to re-connect with them and know some of their names. they are so welcoming! we all gathered by a large tree and waited for our "cultural exchange". this was such an incredible experience! as we waited, i tried to play some soccer with the kids. with their paper bag ball... it got confusing because there were so many kids. we unfortunately interrupted their school, so a bunch of the kids were with us instead of class. there were 3 groups that performed for us as their community of a couple hundred gathered around us in a big circle. these female dancers began with a loud song; i think it might have been a rain prayer. some of the ugandans we were traveling with were joking with the dancers that the prayer must be working because of all the flooding in the area... then there was a male band playing all sorts of instruments i don't know. one was called the hand piano and was a small piece of carved wood with strips of metal that were different lengths (for different pitches) and they were tied down in such a way that when you flicked them, a tone rang out. also tons of drums. and instruments that sounded (but didn't resemble) like an upright bass. they danced as they sang and they were my absolute favorite. really great melodies. the women pulled us into the circle to dance with the group. one of the women, alice was her name, would demonstrate a dance move that involved the shaking of one butt cheek (!). she motioned for me to try it as well and i could hear a huge group of people behind me explode into laughter so i stopped trying out alice's suggestions... alice and i spoke more later (with the help of our advisor, betty) and it was awesome to connect with her. she was very intense and kind. she showed me which ones were her kids, one of them in a spiderman sweatshirt. when we did say goodbye she voluntarily pulled me in for a hug which meant the world to me.

after dancing and trying to sing along with them... i pulled out my guitar and everyone made a (tight!!) circle around me. it's hard to know the right songs to sing for their community, but i knew spirituals would work so i did amazing grace, let it be... i think for most if not all of them, it was their first time seeing/hearing a guitar and our style of music so it was a big hit. they knew the melody of amazing grace and sang along in their own language. betty began dancing with one of the elder men and everyone cheered. they kind of waltzed together in the middle of the small circle.

then we all sat down and they asked us if we have any questions about their culture. this part was awesome. betty had been informing me of all the song meanings so i asked why the melodies and spirit of their songs sounded so positive when the words were about such sad things as loss, grief and hardship. they said it's because the songs are all about hope. their hope for better futures.

the devastation that has happened in this region is so hard to fathom. these families had lives full of culture, lots of land to sustain themselves, schools, small communities spread out with room to grow...

they've lost ALL of that. they've lost family members, they've lost their freedom. being at the idp camps they lost their ability to celebrate culture to the full extent they were used to. they lost their schools. many kids missed years of school while they were abducted by the lra, and when they finally did rejoin their community, they were too old to continue where they left off... so they lost their education. they lived in huts in idp camps completely crammed together. this resulted in so much gender violence, disease, alcoholism...

but the amazing thing is how resilient they are. for one thing, i think life has become better in the resettlement sites. they have a bit more room now to spread out even if it doesn't compare to what they had before the war. you can feel mercy corps' presence in the camps. there's hope and joy even through all the devastation. i imagine how our community would respond in a situation like theirs... it's been inspiring to see.

...we said our good byes and went back to wimunu pe cek to see how the youth did with the filming. when we walked up, we saw a group of men standing around a hut interviewing a hunter who was surrounded by resting hunting dogs. a little boy walked by with a rabbit he had just caught. it was awesome to see them completely in to the filming. there was a narrator, a videographer, and the person being interviewed. when we watched some of the footage later, many heads were cut off; they seemed to be drawn towards necks and down. but all in all their footage was amazing and so informative!!! they showed their garden, their nursery, the school and a ton else that i don't know about because i have yet to see it.

i got to connect with one man in particular named michael. michael is 30 with 2 kids and finished his secondary education (meaning high school). he studied sciences and was a farmer, although he had other desires. he talked about his kids and how he didn't want them to be farmers. when we met with everyone under the same tree as before, michael presented a very comprehensive report of exactly what the groups filmed with descriptions of the interviews and everything. he just wanted to do this on his own and presented it to us. such a great guy to connect with. its amazing how formal they all dress. crisp clean shirts that and you wonder how they keep them so clean given the huts they live in. they take pride in so much order and cleanliness it made me feel so sloppy by comparison. i was so impressed with michael. i wished i could've met his wife and 2 kids... more later.... i'm off to the market right now here in kampala...

No comments: