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Nyabana Riek, Sudanese Migrant, 1995

Earrings - Africa, Stone, 1995

Image: Earrings - Africa, Stone, 1995

Source: Museum Victoria

Nyabana Riek was born in 1977 in southern Sudan. In 1986 when she was only nine years old, she was sent with her older sister Mary to Ethiopia to escape the war, while her parents remained in Sudan. After seven years of living in refugee camps, Nyabana and Mary made the dangerous trek across the mountains from Ethiopia to Kenya. Once in a Kenyan camp there was a chance that Mary would be able to join her husband in Australia. They hoped that Nyabana would be allowed to go with her.

It took three painfully slow years for Australian officials to process their applications. Finally, nine years after she began her journey, Nyabana arrived in Australia in the winter of 1995. She was in a foreign country, with a handful of treasured possessions, no friends, and she did not speak the language.

Nyabana struggled to gain acceptance as a black woman in Melbourne, and to establish her independence, identity and professional success as a Sudanese woman. Despite these difficulties she is now an Australian citizen and is busy paying her way through a business management course at Monash University.

Nyabana's story and collection represent a contemporary youth refugee story from an emerging immigrant community in Melbourne (Sudanese). The few possessions she was able to bring with her to Australia, from both her childhood in Sudan and time as a refugee in Ethiopia and Kenya, highlight the displacement and loss faced by many migrants from war torn regions.

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