The Lost Boys of Sudan

The documentary “God grew tired of us” reaches deep into the lives of “The Lost Boys” and the Dinka culture. Through all the war and trauma, they remain a powerful and proud people. Their cultural markers include music, dance, clothing, food, and language. They also value education, family, community, faith, and hard work. The Dinka’s are a collective society that has strong uncertainty avoidance. The documentary shows how several thousand boys flee Sudan after their parents have been murdered. The fact that they travel as a community is probably one of the most impactful parts of the documentary. Men and women have distinct roles within the Dinka culture, but once the boys flee, some find themselves taking on cooking positions instead of women. One of the Lost Boys jokes on camera about hiding when he cooks because he knows that if any of the women see him, they will not want him.

As the war in Sudan continues to rage, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determines that relocation to the United States might be best for several thousand. It is an opportunity to establish a new beginning and help family and friends that they leave behind. There is no doubt that they will experience a complete culture shock because they have never used electricity and sleep on the ground. The documentary follows the Lost Boys on their journey to the United States, but they will eventually be split up and sent to different places. Splitting them up might be the first significant shock since they are used to living and communing in huge groups. Some of the other challenges include learning an entirely new culture, learning how to get around their new cities, obtaining jobs and education, and make new friends. One of the Lost Boys, named John, reflects quite often on the American cultural obsession with Christmas. Christmas is when he expresses how much he misses his family and friends back in Africa. Christmas in the United States makes no sense to him, and he does not understand the reasoning for the Christmas tree or what it symbolizes. In Africa, the people come together to chant and dance in celebration of the birth of Jesus.

They assimilate to American culture by adapting American clothing styles and slang and not holding hands in public or traveling in groups. In Pittsburg, the businesses even went as far as to complain about the large groups entering their establishments because it made them feel intimidated.  The Lost Boys also adapted through acculturation by eating American foods and listening to American music. Regardless of these new ways, the Boys still hold tight to much of their culture because it is all they have left of their homeland, but they understand adaption. One behavior consistent in both the refugee camps and the united states is their desire for family, whether makeshift or actual blood relation. A fascinating cultural trait in the Lost Boys is that they all desire to make their people back home proud. This trait drives them to work hard and make people in the United States aware of the plight in Sudan. They demonstrate and activate Sudan’s awareness, and many hope to become successful enough to return one day. Unfortunately, if war continues, they cannot do much more than sendoff money to Sudan or save up money to rescue family members.

One way Americans can bring more attention to the devastation that the war in Sudan has caused is by establishing peaceful demonstrations and spreading the word amongst family and friends within their community. One excellent example of spreading awareness is Emmanuel Jal, a child from Sudan, and he uses music and poetry to bring attention to his world. This is an amazingly effective way to infiltrate and infect people’s conscience, and everyone should discuss and share his work. Sudan’s country is still home to many people who want to survive and live like everyone else. They are just from a different culture. The trauma that they have faced would never have been acceptable in the United States. Everyone must bring attention to any harm done to another human being, and it should be the American way.

Kelly Blake 2020

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