[and back again; long, good road trips.]
Lira, north-central Uganda.
The camps started emptying in 2008, but the region was in a condition of genocidal, terroristic war for 20 years or so, 200,000 dead, vast poverty, hunger, radical insecurity, and the archive of cultural memory horribly decomposed by the direct assault on kinship. The villages now are filling back up; the town of Lira, all business, is steady with energy: fat traffic. Even the rain seems to be coming back. The historical damage (damage to history itself) is such that there may be ultimately only adaptation rather than restoration – although the will to remember is strong and the web of connectedness broad.
George Ongom (River Blue) put together a dance contest… Seven hours without intermission, team after team. This is the first time these groups have performed at a festival like this since the camps closed. It’ll take substantial writing and time to get at it, but – astonishing. The dances were principally the Akoshe and the Okeme… The teams sometimes ragged (smaller, older than they used to be, pre-war), but deeply vital. Political and personal, funny and shocking, they put theater for development (in its script/character/explanatory forms) to shame.
There was a small group of elderly widows who danced in a microscopic Akoshe troupe – the form is marked by its panoply of tuned drums… They had not one drum. The lead singer/dancer dropped to her knees after an a capella stretch and played the earth the with full flats of her palms. This is the same dirt under which the LRA hid its weapons; also a massacre site; also the site where the war in the region ended (when the weapons cache was surrendered). She beat the poison out of the earth; she beat the dirt to a dance floor.