Akuja de Garang
South Sudan designer Akuja de Garang is changing the perceptions of South Sudan through fashion. Because of the civil war and intertribal violence, de Garang and her family were forced to leave South Sudan when she was merely a child. Nearly 10 years later, de Garang received her master’s degree from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and returned to South Sudan to help in rebuilding her community. De Garang travelled the country collecting works of arts and later created a mini gallery in her Southern Sudan home. She then organized and self-financed the first Festival for Fashion and Arts for Peace last July to coincide with the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence.
For decades, the most common images of South Sudan have been of malnourished children and war. Because of this, de Garang fears that the traditional Sudanese crafts and artifacts will soon be lost. Beauty pageants are rare events, and the most popular fashion statement is most likely President Salva Kiir’s fondness for black cowboy hats. In order to show people the value of Sudanese culture, this year’s show will feature local designers and a line by an Ethiopian designer with clothes blending traditional African fabrics and modern cuts. De Garang strives to change how people in South Sudan see themselves and how they see one another through fashions shows full of Sudanese heritage—not war, violence, and poverty.