No Time to Mourn, a new anthology featuring writing by women from South Sudan, launched in Juba, South Sudan on July 7, 2021.

In June 2019, FEMRITE and Oxfam collaborated to convene a week-long writing retreat for 18 South Sudanese women living in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and Australia. The retreat aimed to give participants an opportunity to develop their writing skills, so that their voices and perspectives could contribute to public narratives of South Sudan—which are dominated by the opinions, analysis, and stories of male writers. The retreat participants shared experiences of conflict, displacement, sexual violence, and physical abuse had left deep trauma, and accounts of these experiences started to emerge.

After the retreat, there was an open call for submissions for a new anthology which came to feature 41 women representing the diversity of South Sudanese women from across the country and from the diaspora. That anthology edited by Hilda Twongyeirwe and Elizabeth Ashamu Deng was titled No Time to Mourn. Here was the books blurb;

No Time to Mourn is a collection of short stories, poems, artwork and photography penned, produced and presented by South Sudanese women. It 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. 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.

The book launched at an elaborate ceremony at the Scenius Hub, Juba this past Wednesday, July 7, 2021. The event was attended by writers who had contributed to the anthology as well as members of diplomatic missions, UN agencies, renowned academics, and senior government officials. These included invited guests like Hon. James Kutiyote, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Parliamentary affairs and legendary writer and academic Professor Taban Lo-liong.

Prof Tabal Lo Liyong speaks to the audience
Prof Tabal Lo Liyong speaks to the audience

Professor Taban Lo-liong who guided the writers on how to assemble the manuscript said

“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. 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.

Juan Mule, one writer and in the book reflected on the roles’ women play in preserving cultures and their contribution to knowledge said. “Our hope is that this book, which is a collection of 18 short stories and memoirs, 48 poems, 21 artwork and photography pieces and one song, deepens readers’ understanding of the experiences of South Sudanese women, that it drives the writers and artists included to continue writing, painting and publishing, and that it inspires more South Sudanese women to pick up their pens and brushes. There are so many stories that the world must hear”

Alith Cyer Mayar
Alith Cyer Mayar

Watch the event live on Facebook below;