we are nilotic nykhor paul s

“I’m Nuer, but I’m not a tribe, I’m South Sudanese. I know the resilience of the tribes, but I believe that when the South Sudanese come together, our resilience and determination will be greater than what divides us. I’m stepping out with fellow models from South Sudan, representing various tribes, to show that on the world scale, the tribe you come from doesn’t matter. Hopefully this shows the unity and pride that we should have in ourselves; the peace that can be formed if we put down our weapons and ancient hostilities, we can move up and progress. We are not Nuer or Dinka, we are  South Sudan, we are Nilotic (of the Nile).”

This defiant statement comes from supermodel Nykhor Paul who has recently launched a campaign to turn the world’s attention to the crisis in South Sudan.

Working with world class photographer Mike Mellia, she has given voice, along with a few of her fellow high profile South Sudanese, to the plight of their beloved country.

For an exhibition on April 10 in New York, Mellia has produced a portrait of the anguish that haunts the lives of those South Sudanese who have managed to escape, and through them, of the lives of those they left behind…born of a desire to tell the story of South Sudan by moving beyond the limitations of the media through the raw and emotive power of art.

Nykhor’s heart is to inform a global audience and raise awareness of the war currently happening in Sudan.

“I want to inform the youth and the world about the situation, because it is so important—it has parallels with the genocide that took place in Rwanda. The fighting is between tribes, the two biggest being the Dinka and Nuer. South Sudan was fighting for their independence from the North, for generation. To fall back into this type of conflict against itself, is disheartening and tragic.” “I’m trying to help them see past their tribalism and the fighting, to become more aware of the current issues that are effecting the entire planet, not just a small minority. They need to understand that the world is larger than their tribes. When I travel around the world, to Paris, Germany, wherever, people just notice that I’m a tall, dark skinned girl and wonder “Are you from Sudan?” I don’t have to mention my tribe, they really don’t care about that.” “My message to the tribe is that we are one, we are Nilotic. We are people that came from an old civilization, we are smart, and we are resourceful.”


Nykhor Paul: Supermodel (Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, DVF), activist, and refugee. Fled South Sudan to an Ethiopian refugee camp, immigrated to America at age 9, entered Nebraska foster care & adopted by an American family. Nykhor’s South Sudanese family was unable to escape due to its large size. Her dream of unity among all tribes in South Sudan is one that will end the circle of violence and exile. Nykhor has a strong passion for uniting South Sudanese women and people of all backgrounds to build a better South Sudan.


Ajak Deng: Supermodel (Louis Vuitton, Vogue, Lanvin), activist, and refugee. At the age of 14, Ajak fled the violence of the Sudanese civil war with her 7 siblings and parents to a bordering Kenyan refugee camp. Her mother passed away from malaria before they were able to ultimately obtain refugee status in Australia. Ajak’s brothers and sisters are her inspiration for achieving progress in her country.


Ger Duany: Actor (The Good Lie- 2014, with Reese Witherspoon by Ron Howard & Molly Smith, I Heart Huckabees- 2004 with Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, & Dustin Hoffman), humanitarian, former child soldier, and “lost boy” refugee. Founder and executive director of the Pibor Foundation Non-Profit organization. Ger returned to South Sudan in 2011, on a search to reunite with his family, vote for the first time, & rebuild his nation.


Athiey Jal: Son of Emannuel Jal and the future.


Emmanuel Jal: Actor (The Good Lie- 2014, with Reese Witherspoon by Ron Howard & Molly Smith), World Music Icon, Founder of Gua Africa Charity, endured a 661-day hunger strike, former child soldier at age 7, spent several years fighting at war, “lost boy” refugee. Emmanuel shares his emotions and powerful feelings about his country through his everyday speech & his art, drawing the entire world towards unity for South Sudan.


Ataui Deng: Supermodel (Dior, Lanvin, Lacoste, Hermes) and activist. Ataui was born in Sudan before immigrating to San Antonio, Texas, at the age of thirteen. Ataui is passionate about raising awareness for unity among all tribes, and uses her magnetic personality to inspire others to become involved.


Nyamuoch Girwath: Supermodel (Elle, Obakki), activist, and refugee. Nyamuoch’s family fled on foot from South Sudan to Ethopia in the early 1980s, where she was born in a refugee camp. Nyamuoch is touched that in South Sudan, even without opportunity, people feel rich inside themselves just because they have their family, and are grateful and proud for all their gifts.


Manyang Reath: Founder of Humanity Helping Sudan, sending aid and assistance with help from corporate brands like Whole Foods and Allegro Coffee. A refugee at age 3, he lived in refugee camps along the border between Ethiopia and South Sudan for 13 years before immigrating to America. Manyang believes we can overcome the problems in South Sudan by bringing awareness to the issues.


Mari Stiletto Malek: Supermodel (Lanvin, Vogue, Lady Gaga, Kanye West), DJ, founder of the Non-Profit Stand for Education Foundation, and child refugee. Mari works to provide South Sudanese children with access to education, opportunities, and resources with a special focus on women and young girls. Through education, Mari encourages this next generation to lead South Sudan into a new era of peace & growth.


Eligha Ojoko: Supermodel (Thom Browne, V magazine), activist, and refugee. Born into a large family of 8 siblings in South Sudan, Eligha escaped the violence at the height of the civil war at an early age, moving through the Middle East and finally arriving in Pittsburgh. Eligha’s love for South Sudan is a captivating pull that unites her with other South Sudanese women to raise awareness for their cause.


Amou Ajang: Student (Columbia University- Political Science/ International Relations), writer, and artist. Immigrated to US at four years old. Took an interest in African issues of poverty and accessibility during early adolescence, as she began exploring questions of identity. Amou believes that the arts must serve a role alongside policy and humanitarian endeavors in post-conflict reconciliation and healing.


Angelina Jacob: Student at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, activist. She has been separated from her family since 1996, ultimately arriving in The United States living Nebraska in 1998. Angelina strives for unity throughout her country, always inspired by her experiences as a child with her family.


Mari Agory: Supermodel (Rosie Assoulin, Elle Magazine, numerous runway shows) and activist. Mari studied public health at the University of California, Irvine, and is a powerful force in unifying women and people of all backgrounds towards the Sudanese goals of peace and progress.


Nema Philip: Student, activist, and model in New York City. Although Nema is far from home, she tries to always keep the memories of her country and her family in her mind. Nema hopes her activism will raise awareness of the conflicts and lead to a unified country.

Paul’s project has a Facebook page, ”We Are Nilotic”, with poetry, images and videos promoting unity.

The exhibition:

Tapir Editions Gallery

April 10th, 2014

39 White Street, NYC 10013 6pm-9pm

All images (except the first) are copyright of Mike Mellia – www.mikemellia.com 

11 Responses

  1. Walter Ssalongo

    All these South Sudanese living in the US want peace for their country. But, in South Sudan, there is still bloody war between Nuers and Dinkas, causing thousands of victims.
    Why don’t they go back and act as war stoppers or peace-makers ?

    • Afritorial

      Going to war to make peace is not the answer my friend. What Nykhor Paul is doing is exactly what she should be from exactly WHERE she should be – the international platform, for this war is more than just tribes fighting each other. Its a war of power and domination over oil and resources perpetuated at its core by foreign greed. Her role is to bring truth and awareness and get people to question the morality of war as whole.
      “Today ending war is necessary for the survival of humanity, yet those who perpetuate war control the society, government, military, corporations, many universities, and most of the money. What do we have on ours side? The truth. Contrary to wide believed myths, it is not true that human beings are naturally violent. It is not true that war is inevitable. It is not true that war protects our way of life and makes us safe. … We can talk about how tragic war is, but unless we question its underlying assumptions and challenge its prevailing myths, war will continue.” (Paul K. Chappell, from ‘Peaceful Revolution: How We can Create the Future Needed for Humanity’s Survival’)

  2. ontresicia

    Each one of these compassionate, loving, spirits are doing exactly what the heavenly Father created them to do! I applaud their bravery, forgiving hearts, and courage for their hard work in uniting the people of South Africa. They are leaders and their stories are inspiring to the world; they are leading by example.

    I had an opportunity to interview Manyang Reath Kher “Lost Boy” of Sudan, on my televised Talk Show, The Color Of Success, and viewers sent emails saying how he touched their hearts, and inspired them to do more within their communities as well as contributing to the new refugees of South Sudan. Take a look at his interview on You Tube: The Color Of Success TV Talk Show. Please keep up this great activism because your spirits are… The Color Of Success.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.