OUR SIDE OF THE STORY: SOUTH SUDAN
"Mike Mellia has joined supermodel Nykhor Paul and other figures to turn the world's attention to the crisis in South Sudan. With the help of powerful, searing photographs, 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." - ARTINFO
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 through her initiative "We Are Nilotic."
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 fist time, & rebuild his nation. Ger says, "I used an AK-47 before I learned to read or write."
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 emotionions 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 says, "I'm 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.