Art Heritage, Resilience and Humanitarianism in South Sudan

This project documents tangible and intangible art and explore how resilience and human dignity are conceptualised by different genres.
Project status

Following the end of war with Sudan and independence in 2011, ethnic conflict has left devastation on a mass scale. Over 4 million people are dependent on humanitarian aid assistance with just under 2 million internally displaced. This project aims to reflect on what can be gained and learnt by bringing artistic concepts around resilience into current humanitarian programming.

The research team is working to investigate how art and heritage reveal different expressions of resilience, compared with how humanitarian actors understand and operationalise the concept. These insights are used as a basis to reflect on how and if programmes can be positioned differently in response to more nuanced understanding of resilience. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is increasingly fractured, with many considering it as one of the worst in the world. After several failed peace agreements, continued communal conflicts and violence, a political stalemate and economic collapse, many international observers and South Sudanese alike find themselves paralysed and confused as to the most effective next steps towards conflict resolution and nation-building.

The current situation is layered over a much longer history of enslavement, colonisation, uneven development and civil war. Humanitarian access is increasingly difficult due to insecurity, poor infrastructure and an environment seen by donors as increasingly hostile. Post-independence South Sudan has seen a sudden influx of international donors that bring the risk of what has been termed ‘donor fatigue’. This fatigue can be seen in the reluctance to do things differently and a slowness to innovative new approaches to human development. This project carries the overarching objective of generating new knowledge to drive a more dynamic and sensitive approach to community resilience and peace brokering. Secondary objectives focus on leaving a legacy in the form of practical tools based on specific genres of art, such as storytelling, that lend themselves to reflective and sensitive exploration into different ways of approaching development.

Principal Investigator: Dr Tamsin Bradley, University of Portsmouth 

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