Juba, the capital of South Sudan, has been under civil unrest since December 2013 due to a power struggle that has erupted between the government and rebels who side with an ousted vice president accused of treason. The violence has left more than two million residents displaced and approximately 10,000 have been killed in the ethnic war between the Dinka and Nuer groups. In the middle of this, the newly-formed country (it claimed its independence in 2011) continues to struggle and nurture its cultural image including a blossoming fashion scene.
Akuja de Garang, who organizes that annual Festival of Fashion & Arts for Peace, is currently paving South Sudan's fashion industry and making it possible for other designers to show off their talents. During a recent visit to the war-torn country, photographer Benjamin Lowy stumbled upon and covered another fashion show by South Sudanese designer Nyanut von Habsburg-Lothringen.
"I have photographed everything from the war in Iraq to New York Fashion Week, and I stumbled upon this show while in Juba on another assignment. The scene struck me as familiar," Lowy wrote on OZY. "Like many events in the developing world that try to emulate their counterparts in the first, it looked impeccable from afar, although closer inspection revealed the homespun nature of the show: the wobbly, uneven catwalk.....But Nyanut seemed unstressed, as did the models. Some of them were amateurs, while others were already working in the modeling industry. All were trying to follow in the footsteps of Alek Wek, South Sudan’s most famous supermodel, who, since making it big in America, has worked to bring attention to the problems in the country of her birth."
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(Photo: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images)