Emmanuel started his life as a child soldier in the war-torn region of Southern Sudan in the early 1980s. He was eventually rescued by a British aid worker Emma McCune and smuggled to Kenya where he overcame a huge number of struggles to become a successful and acclaimed recording artist and peace ambassador. He now lives in Toronto, Canada.
Emmanuel has released six award nominated studio albums: Naath The Key, Gua, Ceasefire, Warchild and See Me Mama. He has just released a joint album Naath in June 2018, an infectious afrobeats infused album with his highly talented sister Nyaruach. His live appearances have included Live 8, Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday Concert and the One Concert for his Holiness the Dalai Lama. He has collaborated and performed alongside artists such as Lauryn Hill, Xavier Rudd, Peter Gabriel, Nelly Furtado, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Joss Stone, Ed Sheeran, Nile Rodgers and Alicia Keys.
Drawing on his personal experiences and background, he speaks and performs with a strong message of reconciliation and peace, and has addressed the UN, US Congress, the Carter Centre and the very highest level of several governments.
In 2008 a full-length documentary on his life was released. The film, Warchild, won 12 prestigious film festival awards worldwide. In the same year, his autobiography, also called Warchild, was published by Little Brown.
Emmanuel co-starred with Reese Witherspoon in the Warner Brothers motion picture, The Good Lie which tells the story about the journey of four young Sudanese refugees (based on The Lost Boys of Sudan) who win a lottery for relocation to the United States. The film made its debut to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival before being released in October 2014. Emmanuel has also appeared as the adult lead in the major motion picture Africa United; a Pathé, UK Film Council and BBC Films presentation in association with Warner Bros, released in October 2010.
During his career, he has been involved with a number of global charity organisations, including the British Council, the Child Soldiers Initiative, Amnesty International and Oxfam. He has spoken alongside major players in the world of global humanitarianism, including Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-Moon and The Elders Group. Emmanuel has been invited numerous times to speak at Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite conference on Necker Island on global leadership and philanthropy. He has continued to support and work alongside Amnesty International as one of their main spokespeople and has received numerous awards for his peace efforts in South Sudan including recognition from Ban Ki Moon at the UN.
In 2010, Jal released ‘We Want Peace’, part of a wider campaign of the same name that called for peace, protection and justice for all of Sudan, as well as calling for an end to all conflicts that affect innocent people around the world. This campaign is supported by a number of A-list stars and leaders, including George Clooney, Alicia Keys, Richard Branson, Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan. Through social media and fan participation, the campaign has grown in strength and Emmanuel’s message of peace has resonated particularly amongst young people, allowing them to connect to larger social and political issues through emotional empathy. With the support of organizations such as Free The Children, Amnesty International, Ford Foundation, Humanity United and many others, Emmanuel has taken ‘We Want Peace’ on the road and spoken to hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world, touring across Mexico, the UK, the US, Africa, Canada, Australia and Asia. Often these tours include visits to community centres, youth detention centres and prisons where Emmanuel has been able to speak first hand to young people who have become disengaged with education and society.
For his outstanding commitment to peacebuilding, Jal has been awarded the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent 2018, Desmond Tutu Reconciliation Award 2017, Hero in the global campaign against violent extremism – UNESCO 2016, The Hunt Humanitarian Award, The Dresden Peace Prize and The Common Ground Award amongst others. In 2012, he was asked to be a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum, and he has performed at the G20 summit in Mexico.
Emmanuel's greatest passion is his charity which he founded in 2009 Gua Africa which supports those affected by war and poverty from South Sudan. The charity has trained and educated South Sudanese refugees to become first-class professionals in medicine, law and education.