“Another burning hut collapses and the villagers jump. One of the rebels laughs. He looks barely older than me, not by more than a year. Now I see that a lot of the rebels are just boys. All of them are wearing army clothes, some tattered, others really new, but all a few sizes too big. A lot are dirty. I think it might be blood. Maybe the rebels make the younger ones cook, so they get goat blood on their clothes. Their faces are all shiny with sweat and ash from the burning huts.” (p10)
This is the voice of Obinna. An eleven-year-old boy whose simple, happy life has just been smashed apart by the presence of the resistance soldiers. He lives in South Sudan, in a region that has spent decades in civil war. Like so many children before him, his village is invaded by soldiers from one of the resistance armies on a mission to terrorise and recruit. Both intentions are achieved with the utmost violence and horror one can imagine. And Obinna watches this unfold from the tenuous safe place of the limbs of a tree. Eventually he is found and along with all of the other children of his village he is lined up and measured against the height of an AK47. His brother Akot, himself and many other children are taken as recruits for the rebel army.
Darfur has been tormented by civil war for decades. The Sudan Armed Forces have been at war with a number of militia groups, including the Sudan People’s Liberation
Army (SPLA) fighting for independence. The recruitment of child soldiers is a practice that has continued throughout the violent period. A fragile peace deal in 2005 did little to stop this, although the past twelve months have seen significant pressure from the United States to abandon this practice.
Majok Tulba came to Australia as a refugee in 2001. When the rebels came to his village, he was lucky enough to be one inch shorter than the measure of the AK47 and was thus spared a life as a child soldier. He has written Beneath a Darkening Sky to show what may have happened to him, and certainly has happened to tens of thousands of other Sudanese children.
Please click onto the cover image (above) to access the full and printable version of the Teachers’ Notes for this title, written by Laura Gordon.
‘Tulba presents a compelling account of how little humanity has changed since that time; in fact how we may have become worse, resulting in a brilliant novel that will not be easily forgotten.’ The Weekend Australian
‘Seen through the striking simplicity of a child’s eyes, and told through a voice gripping and strong, Majok Tulba’s powerful novel resonates long after the last page.’Alice Pung
‘It does what great literature can, which is to make something beautiful out of terror and truth. Beneath the Darkening Sky is a meticulous and noble examination of violence and evil, and of how the most innocent people anywhere can be broken and, possibly remade.’ Anna Funder