On a cool starry night, thousands of people have gathered at Juba's Nyakuron Cultural Centre to attend the sixth annual Miss Malaika New Sudan beauty pageant.
Twenty-two young women from the country's 10 southern states stand on stage nervously awaiting the announcement of the winner.
In the wee hours of 5 December, a 20-year-old contestant from Unity State named Rachel Angeth is crowned the most beautiful woman in all of Southern Sudan.
Five days later, hundreds of Eastern Equatoria residents have converged on Freedom Square in the state capital of Torit on a hot, dusty afternoon. They have come to watch men, women and children dressed in traditional animal skins and body paint sway to the songs and thundering drums of the Madi, Tennet, Acholi, Latuka and Toposa tribes.
"Today we have the freedom to practice our traditional dances at whatever time we want without fear," said dancer Magadeline Aya. "Nobody can prevent us from dancing."
The era of peace in Southern Sudan has witnessed both a rebirth of traditional cultural practices and the adoption of modern entertainments imported from the Western world.
Dancing is seen as a vital link to the past in many local communities. "(Dancing) is important because we want to pass on our culture to the young generation," said Ms. Aya, 46. "Our culture defines who we are and what we do as a community, and we don't want our culture to die during our generation."
The displacement of an estimated four million people during the country's second civil war did not promote the practice of traditional arts like dancing.
"During the war there was no time to dance traditional dances, so many of our youths forgot it," said Odit Denis, an Acholi practitioner of the Larakaka dance that involves vigorous swinging of the waist.
Enter the beauty pageant
As a renaissance of traditional culture began to develop inside Southern Sudan, the first Miss Malaika beauty contest was held in Nairobi in 2005, the same year the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in the Kenyan capital.
Envisioned as a celebration of African beauty that would promote the cause of peace through culture, the event was also something of a novelty for the region.
"During the pre-CPA period we (did not) have competitions like the Miss Malaika," said Lam Tungwar, the chief organizer of the beauty pageant and head of the Nyakuron Cultural Centre. "What we had was informal gatherings in the villages where both men and women gather to dance during celebrations."
The second installment of the Miss Malaika competition was moved to Juba in 2006, and the beauty pageant has become one of the regional capital's premier cultural attractions.
"The competition has been improving every year," said UNMIS Radio Producer Brando Keabilwe, who has been training the contestants in dance and movement.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for South Sudan to reflect how diverse the region is and to show their talent, and do away with the tribal issues because to see various girls come to compete can be a unifying factor."
The freshly crowned Ms. Angeth will be expected to provide a positive role model to young Sudanese women during her reign and advocate the rights of women.