Tradition in exile
South Sudanese refugees fled for their lives carrying only an embroidered sheet. Now, these stunning pieces of art could provide a lifeline for survival.
The Milaya Project is a non-profit that will connect South Sudanese women with customers who want to support their traditional art form. Thanks to the funds raised on our Kickstarter we will launch an online shop selling milaya pillowcases, bedspreads & wall hangings.
Life in Bidibidi Refugee Camp
Irene Sonia wishes she could talk to her friends in South Sudan, but she doesn’t have a phone. “I really miss them,” the 17-year-old says. School doesn’t offer the subjects she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an accountant, and often 200 children are crammed into one classroom. Without an education, what future will they have after the war? What future will South Sudan have? In 2018, Irene’s mother decided to take her back to South Sudan.
In a tarp-covered courtyard next to her house, Rose Jaun commands a group of women sewing milaya. She arrived from South Sudan with six children and two bedsheets and launched a milaya-making collective. Her knack for business helps the 60-member group earn a small income. When her village held elections she won a seat representing women on the refugee council. A year later, she’s the chairperson of a cluster of villages in Bidibidi.
Rebecca Ameri fought for South Sudanese independence alongside many other female soldiers. The wars since then have taken the lives of her brother, her husband, and six of her 12 children. “The soldiers this time are different,” she says. At 75 years old she’s a refugee again. She poses with seven of her grandchildren and explains that after they were bullied in school she sold her food rations to pay for private education outside the camp.