While the world’s media attention has been on the celebrations in Juba, in Rumbek have also been bringing the new nation in in style, so I want to give a bit of run down of what has been going on
Celebrations here started on Friday night…at midnight there was a candlelit vigil on Freedom Square (the main square in town). At the house I am staying in, just before midnight the party atmosphere began properly, music went on and everyone started dancing and waving South Sudan flags in the air (amidst the sound of ululating and guns being fired into the air, apparently in celebration, all over town). We danced till dawn, because frankly, if you are not going to dance all night when your country becomes Independent, when are you?
After maybe an hours sleep, all the primary school children got up to join their schools marches, and the rest of us got ourselves dressed to head down to Freedom Square for about 9am
I arrived with one of the young men in the house and Freedom square was packed full of people. Students from Rumbek’s different school marched into the square. They packed it completely full of people, if you know Rumbek then you will know that Freedom Square is very big (really more of a field than a square). There were also marches from the army, the police, the churches and cattle keepers leading decorated bulls into the square
At about 1pm the flag raising began. For me, by this point the day had turned into half celebration, half heat endurance test. We had managed to fight our way to near the front and were jammed in with other revellers. It was a very hot day on Saturday and everyone was desperate to see the flag of Sudan come down and the flag of South Sudan go up. When it was finally raised, there was a perfect moment when the wind caught the flag and it displayed perfectly. Huge cries from the crowd. It was an amazing moment.
Celebrations are still continuing. On Saturday and Sunday evening there was dancing and wrestling on freedom square. Cattle keepers also brought there song bulls into town and led them around Freedom Square singing songs and showing them off.
I want to share some pictures from the day. I conducted a small research experiment with these photos. I gave my two cameras to two young men in my house, aged 18 and 24 (nephews of my host) and asked them to capture images of the day. Both men were born and brought up in the war and I wanted to see how they would choose to photograph the Independence celebrations. So, all of these photos were taken by them. Some of them are nicely composed, see for yourself.