Arts, Culture & Media

South Sudanese culture is at risk, but this Lost Boy wants to protect it

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Credit:

Courtesy of Dominic Raimondo

Dominic Raimondo was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. They were a group of young boys (and girls) displaced or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

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Raimondo now lives in Salt Lake City, but even from that long distance, the culture of his homeland is always on his mind.

That's why he visited the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya last year, where hundreds of thousands of refugees from South Sudan have settled. 

Read more: More refugees entered Uganda last year than crossed the Mediterranean

"The situation is not good in South Sudan," Raimondo says. "Women and children are running out of food. There is no water and there is insecurity. So they are all coming to the refugee camp in Kenya."

He went to Kakuma on behalf of the Association for Cultural Equity, a nonprofit founded by the late musicologist and producer Alan Lomax and now run by his daughter, Anna Lomax Wood.

Raimondo wanted to see for himself how Sudanese culture is surviving, in particular the culture of people who belong to the Didinga tribe.

He took recording equipment to document the current songs and dances of Didinga people in the camp.

Raimondo says he doesn't want to see this culture disappear. He encouraged the community at the camp to keep practicing their dances and music. "Without practice the culture will not be the same," he says.

But he saw signs that it is already endangered. There's a generation gap, as is common in many cultures. Raimondo noticed "the small kids ... [are] not interested in practicing the culture anymore," he says.

No one from the United States had ever recorded the camp's residents before, but the men, women and children were receptive to being recorded. "It was amazing how they responded," Raimondo says. "It was something new ... so it was welcoming and very good."