|“We should choose to teach love amongst the hate and practice peace in the chaos. There's a certain magic we hold that has the power to build an empire and destroy it in the same breath”|
These are the powerful words of South Sudanese Model, Poet, Student and Activist, Nyaluak Leth. We came across Nyaluak earlier this year when we heard her unmistakably compelling poetry and we were instantly captivated. In this interview, she notes it was the senseless genocide ordered by the Sudanese Goverment in 2020 that motivated her to use her love for poetry to raise consciousness, inform and express.
Guided by empathy, love and kindness - qualities instilled in her at a young age by her mother and father - Nyaluak uses her talents as a force for positive change and a way to touch the minds, hearts of people of all ages, race and gender. Here she shares more about her upbringing and migration to Australia, why information is best received when art and expression is involved, and the importance of women being united universally.
Please share a little bit about yourself, noting some of the defining aspects that have contributed to the woman you are today.
My name is Nyaluak, it is a name my parents gave me when I was born in South Sudan in the spring in our family's home. Being one of 10 children granted me the ability to soak up the world through multiple views - as well as through my own. Migrating to Brisbane Australia in 2003 brought on challenges every non-english speaking migrant has to face, communication. The one aspect we as humans need to create connection and community wasn't something that felt comfortable or easy or natural.
As a result I would sit in the back of class, not raise my hand, spend time playing by myself on the playground, and dance to sounds that spoke to my body. I found that I would talk and laugh by myself while people-watching making up narratives and songs in my head about what their life was like. Eventually I picked up the Aussie lingo and right there began my epic journey of self expressing.
You are a model, poet and activist. How do you use poetry to channel your feelings, raise awareness and share what you feel needs to be said?
From a young age my father and mother instilled an enormous amount of empathy in my mind and heart. They never failed to remind me on the daily about the thousands of people we left back in East Africa who will continue to live without the basics of human rights, education or a safe and healthy standard of living. I was lucky to be surrounded by people from my own community who would consistently work towards bettering the standard of living for those back home.
The Youth in my Community was responsible for curating countless Fundraisers, conferences, showcases, sports events and BBQ’s that revolved around raising awareness and funds for those less fortunate here in our own backyard or back in East Africa. Recently in 2020 a genocide ordered by the government was underway to kill women and children in my country - rather than just sending money to help, I decided to use my love poetry and my people to write poems that could speak to anyone and inform them about the issues going on in South Sudan. I find information is received with a lot more empathy when art and expression is involved in the delivery process.
You are vocal about your vision of a united humanity to achieve the best future for women and for all. What does this future look like and how do you feel unity will help to achieve this?
We women are a force like no other as individuals, imagine the change we can create through a universal united front. The future for women as a whole - but especially South Sudanese women is to be a loving and guiding force that moves through the spirit of all men, women and their children. Especially amongst the adversities we face everyday; from personal to political, societal and economical. We should choose to teach love amongst the hate and practice peace in the chaos. There's a certain magic we hold that has the power to build an empire and destroy it in the same breath.
Diversity is a passionate focus for you, how do you use your platform to raise awareness of this, especially within the fashion industry? Do you feel the industry is making necessary changes and accommodating the changes that need to be made?
Australia has the 8th highest foreign-born population in the world, so diversity isn’t a ‘foreign’ concept to our society. Just take a walk across town, or catch a flight to the other side of the world and depending on your geographical location, one might find that they are the minority.
Where the issue of inclusion becomes problematic is when the Media refuses to represent the true faces of people that keep our countries running. The lack of representation of Black and POC persons on our screens, posters and TV’s is laughable to me personally. What’s more outrageous is the utter lack of Black and POC persons in the creative offices of brands as well as behind scenes on shoots and campaigns. When brands and companies do cast black and POC individuals, it's 8 times out of 10 a racially ambiguous person; someone who is more racially palatable to the public's eyes.
Being part of an industry founded on individualisation, art, creativity and non- conformity - when fashion houses, and brands consciously make decisions to cast all white-passing persons it leaves one with the impression that fashion and art is something only attainable to the fairer skinned. When in reality we’re seeing more brands establishing themselves on the creative inspirations of Black and POC cultures. Australia still has a while to go, however this is not to take away from the big brands who continue to go against the norm and have diverse casts.
What led you into the field of poetry?
My interest for poetry was sparked in Year 9 English when the unit was introduced to me. Since then my love for spoken word poetry grew, and I fell in love with the power and connection my words and voice have to really touch the minds and hearts of people of all ages, race or gender.
How would you describe your personal style - how has this evolved over the years?
My personal style revolves around comfort, layers and gender neutral tones and textures. Every now and then I love a splash of colour!
How do your Marle pieces make you feel? Do they inspire a feeling, time, memory?
These pieces make me feel free to express myself at every emotional state that I experience, whether I’m lounging or stepping out. Also being able to move and dance just add to the freedom and comfort offered to me.
What is your intention in life at this moment?
My intention in life at this present moment is to allow myself to feel more human again and connect again to my surroundings and listen to my inner creative being.
Texture or colour?
Summer or winter?
Most treasured accessory?
BLACK GIRL CALL HOME by Jasmine Mans
Currently listening to…My ‘Trumpet’ playlist on TIDAL - easy flowing afro-pop.