Lual Garang is a Civil Engineer and founder
of Afrocreative Center for Entrepreneurship,
He currently resides in Perth, Australia.
I want your thoughts on how we can best support young men and boys in their journeys in the diaspora. Your perspective will be helpful. Thank you once again for being available to be interviewed.
You’re welcome, thanks for having me.
Getting to know Lual,
What is the meaning of your name in your mother tongue?
Ha! You got me on this. I know Malual is a colour of a red bull and if I have to reason along that line by removing the prefix Ma- then Lual will mean red. But then again kethith means red or best translated as ‘the red thing’. But to digress from your question, I was told that Lual means ‘a sunset party’ in Portuguese which still makes sense as you can still see the red in the sunset hues.
What kind of upbringing did you have as a young man?
I was born in Sudan and shortly the family moved to Itang, Ethiopia. We spent a short time there until Mengistu was overthrown in 1991. So the family came back to Sudan and we spent some years in Central Equatoria. I used to keep goats a young man while going to school at the same time. But then dad got a good job in Yei and he moved us to Arua in Uganda where we did most of our studies.
So to answer your question my childhood was a mixture of running from war, hiding from Antonov in Yei to some peaceful stay in Uganda.
Who were your masculine role models?
My dad was my biggest inspiration although I later realized this view was biased as most of it was because he did provide mostly to the family and he paid the school fees. He was a great man and he had the respect of his clansman which culturally is a good thing in the way people treat you. Other people I looked up to from a young age were John Garang and Nelson Mandela.
How was your educational experience as a young South Sudanese man?
I started school in the IDP camp in Central Equatoria. We later moved to Uganda. I spent most of my youthful years in Ugandan boarding schools. It was a tough gig as an outsider. I depended largely on making friends through having good grades but I realized fairly quickly that wasn’t effective. I then opted to be the class clown and it then diverted people’s attention from me to my jokes. This worked pretty well because you can’t laugh at someone’s jokes and beat them up at the same time.
What motivated you to stay consistent?
Believe me or not, I was a chief procrastinator. Well, in primary school, I was fairly disciplined but that all changed in high school when I discovered girls and booze. It stayed with me throughout my University studies. But in my final year of university, I had to wake up to this disease and I took charge of my life. I have been using books and attending seminars to help me with this problem. I can say right now I’m in a good place.
What is the inspiration behind Afrocreative Center for Entrepreneurship?
ACE is pretty much me trying to correct the mistakes of my past in young Africans. I have seen over and over again that our problems stem from lack of integrity to one’s self, lack of self-discipline and having no one to look up to. I would love them to have a shortcut to get to their dreams by providing them with an environment where they can grow and meet like-minded people to network with.
Once these young people get the basics right, they can have a platform to stand on to face life. Our main vehicle for them to achieve their goals is entrepreneurship and we have no problem with them applying their acquired skills in other areas to better themselves, their families and their communities.
How do we build healthy masculinity and identity in our young boys and men?
I’m not sure whether I understand the meaning of ‘healthy masculinity’ but the basis of building a sense of self in our young men is teaching them to think for themselves, to ask big questions as most of them are growing up in environments that were built without them as the priority.
Our young people fall prey to ‘group thinking’ and rarely question most of the decisions they make whether they are their own or influenced by their friend, family or the external media. Thinking is an art form, what I see commonly is information recycling from what is popular. Our young men need to start loving the discomfort of life; things like reading, being okay with rejection by their friends when they decide to walk the unpopular path and being people of action that start initiatives.
What’s your advice for a young man or boy that has lost their way?
I would say if it is a mental breakdown, they should seek professional help. Most of the time, these young people haven’t lost their ways, most of them are misunderstood. They might need to find a young adult whom they admire and comfort to talk to to share their difficulties.
Most young men are searching for a sense of identity, if the community can’t provide it, they will go to Hip-hop, consumerism and maybe end up doing some unpopular acts.
How can we best support healthy masculinity within our families, communities and nation?
Life is a yin and yang, if we have toxic masculinity, it’s also possible that we also have toxic femininity. What we need to look at is the question of why are people behaving this way? What are the triggers? Is there fear fueling this behaviour and where’s it coming from?
The western texts are full of man this, man that. Even the wisest of men had their book titled as ‘As A Man Thinketh’, ‘Man’s Search for meaning’ and the biggest one of them all ‘God our father’. History was generally written by men for men and this is slowly changing. The effect of this positive change is causing bitterness in some men who are resisting this change and it expresses outward as anger.
Again you don’t expect African men to change overnight, it took centuries for western men to embrace the feminine energy. There’s still more work being done up to today as domestic violence is still prevalent in western society. We must start the conversations as families which will eventually translate to how our young men treat their future spouses. I openly refer to myself as a feminist because of how this energy is needed today more than ever if humanity has to survive leave alone the Sudanese community.
Nyabuoy Gatbel is a South Sudanese Canadian currently living in Calgary, AB. She was born in Ethiopia in 1993 and moved to Canada as a refugee in 2002. She's currently a undergraduate student at the University of Calgary. Besides her studies she's a social entreprenuer focusing on the, ''Paarman Centre project,'' a fashion model, writer and author of the book, ''The Fire Within poetry in Thok Nath and English.''