Decades of violent conflict and elite wealth acquisition have created a common rupture in shared landscapes between communities of the western Dinka and Nuer (South Sudan). Since the government wars of the 1980s, people from both Dinka and Nuer communities have participated in a myriad of cross-cutting political alliances with a lack of ethnic homogeneity. Yet, the recreation of this landscape as a militarized no-man’s land has stopped Nuer and Dinka meeting and is etching naturalized visions of ethnic divisions. This article examines how inhabitants have made use of the materiality of the landscape and imagination to contest and co-opt these visions. In so doing, they challenge central governments’ powers to rule the landscape and try to recapture power to determine community relationships. However, elite politics in times of war and peace threaten people’s ability to express this more demographic authority over the landscape, relationships and political identities.