The Gulu Project/Lady Sharia

A tale on the aftermath of civil war in Northern Uganda and some of its protagonists. Supported by a grant of VG Bildkunst. 2012-2014

Lady Sharia (26) is a well-known musician in Gulu. In her songs she sings about the equality of men and women, the dangers of ‘sugar daddies’, and female empowerment in the otherwise male-dominated Acholi society: “ If you are a musician you also have to be a teacher”, she says.

She was not always so lucky though. She was abducted by the LRA at the age of 13 to serve as a child soldier, and upon arrival she was asked to pick a T-Shirt from a pile on the floor. “This is how you found your husband, the owner of the T-shirt”, she recalls, and she immediately fell pregnant with her first child in the bush. “There is no morning, there is no evening. There is only moving, you never stop. You have a gun. You pray. And pray and pray.”

After her escape three years later she felt out of place at home and had suicidal thoughts. She was hearing voices, had flashbacks of killings and felt like she was going insane. She joined the army for some time, as it was the only place where she thought she could feel normal somehow. But her new commanders were unhappy at the thought of keeping her, seeing that she was young and fragile and not made for soldiering, and she was sent back to finish school and get training in tailoring. She later joined the army band where she learned to play music and returned to Gulu in 2009 with the goal of becoming a musician.

“Music is going to save me, because very many people like my music. Not that I want to be rich. I want to do something good and I do not eat money alone.”