By Patrick Opio
Senior Communications Officer/Lira University
Lira University successfully organised its 5th Public Lecture on the impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) massacre in Abia in the Lango sub-region, Uganda, through the aesthetic afterlife of the tragedy and the vehicles of music and dance.
The LRA launched the attack on Abia community on the 4th February 2004, killing several locals and wounding others.
The presenter, Assoc. Prof. Okaka Opio Dokotum reveals that they have been doing the project, “Performing Pain: Mnemotechnologies of Remembrance in Abia and its impact on informal (music) education, memory, peace and recovery.” The Public Lecture was conducted at SET/SRHR Seminar Hall, Lira University Main Campus on 14th September 2023, attended by several guests and students.
Prof. Okaka Opio Dokotum, also the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Lira University explains that the personal narratives in music and dance contain a wealth of history about the war. “Abia is the dance capital of Lango and the attack on Abia was also an attack on the most celebrated artistic community of language,” Prof. Okaka Opio reveals.
He adds, “Our project seeks to establish how the deep scars of war embedded in the individual and collective psyche of the community and the visible traumas in their bodies can be transfigured into narratives of hope through trauma aesthetics.”
Prof. Okaka Opio notes that they are investigating how the community of Abia, who experienced a horrific LORD’s Resistance Army massacre, perform their pain through mnemotechnologies of remembrance, and its impact on music education, memory, peace and recovery.
“This project examines counter-memory of the war in a space dominated by hegemonic state and foreign narratives,” he observes.
Prof. Okaka Opio indicated that the project aims at assessing the impact of the LRA war on the cultural ecology of Lango, how the communities perform their pain.
“We wish to examine the impact of these performances on memory and remembrance, recovery and justice, as well as informal music education, with expected outcome of encouraging the artistic community of Abia by amplifying their voice,” he says.
He underscores documentation of the Abia massacre is a critical part of understanding the past and the present in order to shape the future we want, adding that they plan to promote indigenous knowledge by contributing to the larger body of ongoing research in memory studies, peace justice and reconciliation.
Prof. Okaka listed the project deliverables as a published academic article, mini-conference to disseminate findings, dissemination meeting with Abia communities, showcase dance festival in Abia and processing of the video clips of the dance sessions.
The two powerful discussants of the topic were Dr. Ocen Laury Lawrence and Dr. Amir Kabunga, both Senior lecturers at Lira University.