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South Sudanese Models Pose to Highlight Lives as Former Refugees, Child Soldiers

south sudan 4At first glance, Mike Mellia’s portraits of top models Nykhor Paul, Ajak Deng, Ataui Deng and Eligha Ojoko, are stunning portraits of the African beauties that could easily be featured in any fashion magazine. However, a closer look reveals something more than skin deep.

Mellia’s “Our Side of the Story: South Sudan” photo exhibition, in collaboration with Paul’s We Are Nilotic initiative, is not simply a collection of 14 moody images featuring South Sudanese supermodels, actors, musicians and humanitarians — it’s primarily a vehicle to bring attention to the fact that these individuals are also former child soldiers and refugees, and that the violence in their country is far from over.

“We created this work as art rather than journalism because we would like to raise awareness of South Sudan as a cultural movement,” Mellia told

The exhibition will opened to the public April 10 in New York City at the Tapir Editions Gallery at 39 White Street in Tribeca.

“My goal is to capture emotion and tell the story in an honest way, but more importantly, to show the individuality of each subject,” Mellia said. “I am an artist. I claim no authority on the topic except to tell the story and show the emotions of those involved. But I am hoping that as many people as possible see the images, are moved emotionally, and so, share them with as many others as they can.”

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