A Voice for Peace
08 Sep 2009
Emmanuel Jal’s unique style of hip-hop, combined with messages of peace, reconciliation and hope, has brought him to the attention of former South African President, Nelson Mandela.
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Emmanuel Jal: the Incredible Journey
Emmanuel Jal is an international star, rapper and a human rights activist, with three critically acclaimed albums. His unique style of hip-hop, combined with messages of peace, reconciliation and hope, has brought him to the attention of former South African President, Nelson Mandela. His music has also featured in the Oscar-nominated film Blood Diamond.
What makes Emmanuel’s achievements even more impressive is the adversity he has overcome in his life. After enduring several years as a child soldier in Sudan, he escaped the horrors and was rescued by British aid worker, Emma McCune.
Against the odds, he has survived the trauma and channels his emotions and experiences into his rhymes, as a way to ease the pain. “I believe I survived for a reason,” he sings, “to touch lives.”
His first album, Gua, meaning ‘peace’ in his native Nuer tongue, was broadcast by the BBC across Africa and earned a slot at Live 8 in 2005. In some of his lyrics, Emmanuel begs his listeners to stop the fighting in Sudan and strive for peace, while in others, he advocates education for women. There are further plans to release a new album in the coming year.
However, it is Gua Africa, a nonprofit organisation that he founded, which remains Emmanuel Jal’s biggest passion. The project began informally when he used the money earned from his music, to support and educate a small group of boys from the Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya.
Now, a registered charity, Gua Africa’s mission is to work alongside individuals, families and communities, to help them overcome the effects of war and poverty. “All our projects focus on providing an education to young adults and children,” explains Kate Gumm, the charity’s UK co-ordinator. “We feel this is the most powerful weapon in breaking the cycle of poverty and aid dependency.”
The organisation’s “Survivors of War” project supports 15 young men and two women in Kenya and Uganda, in their quest to receive an education. One former child soldier is now completing his medical studies at Kampala University and a sponsorship scheme at Kariobangi Primary School, in Nairobi, is currently supporting a further 20 children.
Another area of Emmanuel’s focus is The Emma Academy — established in memory of Emma McCune, the aid worker who rescued him. The project is working to renovate an existing primary school in the town of Leer, in Southern Sudan, which on completion, will be able to educate around 500 children.
When asked if he saw himself as a role model, Emmanuel humbly replied: “I am trying to make myself to be one. I keep watching what I do, so that other kids may watch and get inspired to be positive. I don’t count achievements; I just do things, hoping to make a difference.” His ambition is to “make more music, build more schools and to keep up the fight against evil by doing good.”
Soon to be launched, Emmanuel’s new ‘Lose to Win’ campaign, will be asking supporters to give something up each day and raise money through sponsorship. He, himself, has been fasting for the past six months, living on one meal a day. “I will continue to do so,” he states on his Facebook group, “until we have raised 300,000 US dollars.”
Emmanuel was recently described by musician Peter Gabriel as an artist with the potential of a young Bob Marley
Photo: courtesy emmanueljal.org
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