Body-Mapping in Uganda

There are a range of tools, both verbal and non-verbal, that assist survivors in coming to terms with past conflict and atrocities. Art methodologies provide an alternate language for survivors to capture the trauma of their experiences and creatively engage with the past while envisioning a new future. Through its Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation, the Coalition led a week-long training in Uganda in November 2016 on “body-mapping” – a technique in which one tells a story through a life-sized drawing of her or his body. Led by South African activist and oral historian Shirley Gunn –Director of the Human Rights Media Center in South Africa, a Coalition member – the workshop brought together twelve survivors of the civil war in South Sudan.

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An in-country needs assessment conducted by the Coalition in Spring 2016 revealed that while discussions are underway surrounding the establishment of a Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing Commission, there is a strong need for more inclusive, grassroots transitional justice mechanisms to support ordinary South Sudanese citizens who are struggling to come to terms with the loss, displacement, and destruction caused by the war.

Body-mapping and similar community-based programs can help fill this gap and bring relief to victims by providing them with platforms to share their experiences, acknowledge those of others, and build empathy among a diverse and often-divided group of survivors.

“Body-mapping walks participants through a process of storytelling, self-examination, group conversation, and self-expression,” explains Braden Paynter, Program Associate for Methodology and Practice at the Coalition, who attended the training. “It is a hard process, full of deep revelations, challenging moments, and painful stories, but also one that participants found deeply rewarding and frequently said ‘freed’ them and ‘removed a weight’ from their chest.”

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We are pleased to share quotes and photos from the workshop. For more information, please reach out to Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman, Senior Director of the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation at: