More than 12 years ago I met a young South Sudanese refugee called Apa Manyang. We grew up in the suburbs of Newcastle and it was in his backyard in 2010 when I took the first photo for my project Stories of the South. You can see a full edit of the work here on my website.
Since finishing school Apa has focused pretty intensely on his music. Spending time with creative mentors as well as studying at some of Australia’s industry leading institutes and now he is out there producing some exciting stuff. Below are some examples and I suggest you follow him on soundcloud to keep connected with what he does next. I am sure it will be exciting!
Last night after landing just back in Sydney, Australia, I decided to attend South Sudan’s 4th anniversary celebrations in Blacktown. Celebration, is hardly an apt word to describe the current political landscape or harsh reality for many in the worlds newest nation. The sadness felt by many of the younger generation in Australia’s diaspora is really evident, all you need to do is ask. One young man I know well told me with a sigh, “it wont end, until one or both of these two leaders die (Kiir and Machar)”. A similar sentiment is shared by many of the younger generation I talk to who have now lived longer in Australia than they have in Africa whether it is South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt or Ethiopia etc.
The celebrations got underway late but eventually the Bowman Hall in Blacktown started to fill up with members of Australia’s South Sudanese community. A number of my friends when asking how long I had been waiting for events to start joke with me to stop working on kawaja (foreigner) time.
For anyone wanting to follow current events in South Sudan I would recommend reading this Al Jazeera article from Australian journalist and author Antony Lowenstein who currently based in Juba the capital of South Sudan. While the current state of politics in South Sudan is very bleak I have found inspiration and hope in the younger generation of South Sudanese living in Australia. These portraits of a Dinka Agaar group before they sung and danced last night at the anniversary event are examples of a demographic of young Australian South Sudanese whom I have been documenting for the past 5 years. Shortly, the work, Stories of the South, will be published online and will also be available to buy as a zine. In the mean time I hope you enjoy these.
It is two years since South Sudan gained its independence and became the worlds newest nation. As I prepare to fly out for South Sudan via Kenya once I have a visa, I cant help but wonder what changes will be noticeable.
South Sudan, officially the Republic of South Sudan is a landlocked country in east-central Africa. South Sudan split from Bashir’s Sudan two years ago following a referendum vote for independence under a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war. Since independence relations between the Republic of South Sudan and Sudan have been strained particularly in relation to disputed territory along the border as well as ROSS oil export through Sudan.
Below are a few of my pictures from the independence celebrations in 2011.
As part of an ongoing personal project in late 2012 I attended the National South Sudanese Basketball Competition in Canberra. The 2 day competition was brimming with talent and the finals lived up to expectations. The role of basketball for young South Sudanese Australians is just one aspect of what I am looking at with my project Stories of the South. More aspects of this project will be featuring on my blog in the coming months.
Below are three pictures featuring Akolde Mayom, a friend and great basketball palyer. I first met Akolde in 2006 when he along with his siblings and mother moved to Newcastle. Akolde and I first connected around music and sport. We hung out making mixed cd’s featuring Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Glen Washington and other reggae musicians and played daily football games in the park across the road.
Akolde and I also studied together at university and would regularly catch the bus home at the end of the day. It was during these many conversations and time spent pouring over online news that I started to learn more about South Sudan and the nations push for independence. Independence finally came after a referendum in early 2011, bringing an end to the long and brutal civil war which lasted 28 years in which 1.5 million people were killed.
When independence was declared on July 9th 2011, I made sure I was in Juba to document the birth of the new nation. To see my work Birth of a nation which is on my website. The two months I spent in South Sudan were fascinating, challenging, colourful and overall an utterly tiring experience. Life let alone shooting in Juba was tough going, but overall I left with a deeper understanding of why independence is so important to South Sudanese people world over.
One event I covered that symbolises the hope and expectations of the new nation is South Sudan’s first basketball game. There is no doubt that many of the South Sudanese ethnic groups are naturally built for basketball, tall, lean and incredibly athletic. Case in point Luol Deng who was born in Wau, South Sudan and is now playing in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls. While Luol Deng is a stand out, I know a number of young South Sudanese basketball players in Australia dreaming to follow in his footsteps. With greater opportunities and more talent scouts on the hunt I don’t doubt there will be more success to follow.
Below are a few crowd moments from the finals.