Sunday, August 17, 2008

War Dance

What I am going to talk about here is not the war dance of our Igorot tribes but a documentary film I recently watched, a movie about the Acholi tribes of Northern Uganda. It’s about the lives of the people in a war zone torn by unending wars between the rebels and the Government. I wanted to watch the film to learn better documentation coz it has won several awards and was even nominated for Oscar. I learned more than just documentation here.

I was supposed to title this entry “The God Forsaken Land” but I don’t believe God would abandon those people even though that’s what some people think of them. Listening to the children’s stories would make your tears fall. In this place, common people are killed by rebels for no reason at all. They would hack them mercilessly and force their families to bury them. In some cases, body parts were just scattered and families have to locate the corpses’ heads to identify their kin. Raping of women are common stories. Old enough boys are forced to join the army of rebels. For the rebels, the more children they abduct for their army, the higher their ranks will be. These children are ordered to kill or be killed. There are about 200,000 children orphaned by the war.

But despite of this cruelty the Acholi people have kept their love for music. Playing their songs and dances can make them forget even just for a while the cruelty and make them feel as if everything is just how it used to be. In 2005, in the farthest and most vulnerable government protected school in a camp in Patongo emerged a group of Acholi orphans who aspire to present their musical talents in a National Musical and Choral competition. First time to attend such a big competition, the group traveled for two days on rugged terrains under armed escorts to the capital City of Kampala. To many of them, just going to Kampala is a big enough dream. Coming from the north, they were insulted by other competitors as people from the bush, rebels and murderers. Most of the other competitors believed the first time contestants will finish last. The inferiority feelings made it hard for them to compete.

Yet where most of the news are killings and fighting, the whole City is excited to watch what these people from the north are to present. People are keen to observe every time they’re onstage. In the end, they have exceeded everyone’s and perhaps even their own expectations. They have proven that they’re more than just children of war. They are musicians. Although they don’t have the freedom and resources like everyone else, they brought home the trophy for their country’s traditional dance called Bwola. The very first time the Acholi tribe brought home such a trophy in a National competition.

This event inspired many of them that despite of growing in a cruel environment, they can still do great things. This group did not just win for Patongo, they won for the entire Acholi tribe and the people who live like they do. Like what one of the teachers in the documentary said, the war has taken their parents, brothers, sisters and relatives and left them a lot of scars. But that’s not where their story ends; they still have the chance to become the best.

This story has also won my heart. It’s more than just an excellent documentary where I learned a lot. It’s an inspiration.

If you want to help the people of Patongo or other people like them, visit