Anyieth D’Awol spent her childhood moving all over the world because of her father’s diplomatic roles, earned a law degree in the UK, becamean American citizen, and only returned to her homeland in 2005. There, in the newly born nation of South Sudan, a Human Rights Officer for the UN, she was shocked by the devastation of their civil war, the paralysis of development, the grief of losing 2 million people in their fight for independence. Seeing the same people return again and again to her offices for aid, she longed to create an opportunity for people to recover and take care of themselves.
What she created is The Roots Project of South Sudan. In a safe center in Juba, women from 19 different tribes overcome fear and prejudice as they come together to bead jewelry that bears their history, even as the men in their families continue the fighting among themselves.
I read about Anyieth in a cover article in Newsweek and later began to follow how her compelling work was evolving. I wrote to her, hoping to bring the project to ibu - and was surprised to hear back from her father-in-law in Seattle. Frank and Pam McKulka, it turns out, are carrying forward this banner of hope in the US. Within a few months, we were all sitting together on a hotel bed in Santa Fe, designing and selecting Dinka corsets, Taposa belts, Latuka 35 strands, and Mundari coiled waistbands. It was a learning curve for me, these tribes and their traditions, but a beautiful South Sudanese cousin also in the room modeled them for me so that I could picture how these pieces translate into staggering chic. Though a regular on the Paris runway circuit, the next day Akual modeled for ibu as a gift, so strong was her love for this project. Here she is in in our images, below. Along with her sisters in South Sudan who are crafting this jewelry, rooted in their proud culture, their skilled and nimble hands.