Priscilla Ayuen

Priscilla Ayuen is 22 years old, she studies Business and Management Science at the University of Juba. Her pen name is Wingless Bird, a name she cherishes and means a lot to her, although she doesn’t use it when introducing herself on stage, where she is always and  completely herself. A stage she wants to use to give voice to her generation, trying to emerge in a world dominated by the choices of men.

In this interview Priscilla tells about the challenges of being a young woman and a poet in a unstable country as South Sudan  but also of her first achievements and her commitment to change the society in which she lives.

Priscilla Ayuen AfroWomenPoetry

Tell us a little about yourself: when did you start writing poetry and performing? What kind of message do you try to convey?

 I started writing in 2019; I was in a music dance and drama club and I was part of a school poetry group reciting poems written by our tutor. In 2021, I saw a link on social media; it was about a poetry slam competition and I thought I should try my luck. Fortunately, I got shortlisted. I wasn’t the best but, surprisingly, I won the award for best poem. This is how I kicked off performing in open mics.

Whenever I’m on stage, I try to perfect myself. I want to be a lioness on stage and I focus on condemning social injustices. I love it when my pieces get to the audience.

What does it mean for young people in South Sudan to live in a country with frequent socio-political crises?

Living in a country with frequent socio-political crises has a profound impact on young people in South Sudan. They face numerous challenges, including limited access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. Many have been displaced from their homes and communities due to violence and conflict, and struggle to rebuild their lives in often-hostile environments. The constant state of uncertainty and fear can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Additionally, the lack of trust in government institutions and the prevalence of corruption can discourage young people from engaging in civic and political activities, further marginalizing their voices and perspectives. Despite these challenges, many young South Sudanese remain resilient and continue to work towards building a better future for themselves and their country.

You were recently appointed as a youth representative for your country at the African United Nation Youth Delegate Program. How will you carry out this role?

The organization supports me to work with young people on peace building, finding ways to create employment opportunities for youth and also gives them a ground to raise their voice and participate in the national decision making process as well as internationally. I love my job as I believe youth have capabilities in changing every narrative. I’ll ride until I achieve my goals.

How much do young South Sudanese people manage to make themselves heard, to have a say in the leaders’ decisions? Or is their voice totally unheard?

Young South Sudanese people have limited opportunities to make themselves heard and have a say in leaders’ decisions. The country has a history of political instability, violence, and corruption, which has led to a lack of trust in government institutions. However, there are some youth organizations like the African UN youth delegate program, Youth of next generation and more and also activists who are trying to raise their voices and advocate for change.

They participate in protests like the ongoing protests on price inflation, social media campaigns, and community events to express their concerns and demands for better governance, peace, and development. Despite these efforts, their voice remains largely unheard by the government and decision-makers, who often prioritize the interests of elders and powerful groups.

What achievement are you most proud of in your artistic career?

Becoming a second runner up at the East African Poetic Hour Battle makes feel so happy about myself. And also being a winner at the international African Writers Drama Writing Competition. I love how I am growing.

A large and interesting group of slam and spoken word artists is emerging in South Sudan. What are the main themes addressed by these young people?

It varies, mostly, they  write about social and political issues, gender equality, education and even culture. Integrating our culture in the artistic work makes it unique and stand out.

What is your favorite poem, the one you think conveys the most important and clear message of who you are?

Nya ku toc is a piece that lives in me. It is a saying of the Dinka tribes meaning “A girl is like a pond“, where basins are fundamental to rural communities for fishing and watering animals. So, according to the Dinka tribes, a girl is beneficial to them as a pond because men are willing to pay a bride price to the family and because daughters are devoted to their parents and always ready to help them. 

My poem is about the fact that both girls and society have interpreted this saying wrongly. Is society really doing its best to empower young women? And are women doing their best to attain what they really want?

This leads us to the condition of women in South Sudan. What do you personally stand for?

I am a passionate activist for women rights and have my own believes of why it is very hard for equality to be attained. I fight hard to change the perception most women have in not trusting themselves thinking they are inferior. I stand to show women that we are strong and amazing.

Interview by Antonella Sinopoli

Link to the interview in Italian

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Read Nya ku toc

Read A Deceptive Devil

Read An Exposition Of My Fate

Read The Ebony of Africa

 

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