Nykor Paul is a model, photographer and activist from South Sudan that has launched a t-shirt collection as part of her ‘We are Nilotic’ campaign. She aims to use her modelling career as a platform to build awareness and peace for the conflict in South Sudan. She has previously aired her frustrations at racism in the modelling industry. She also wants to encourage the idea that black women are just as beautiful.
Paul arrived in Houston, Texas as a refugee. Her brother and friends had been killed and she was separated from her family. Discovered as a model at 15, she relocated to New York at the age of 18. Once she was established and well known, she started using this notoriety to build awareness for the problems in her war torn homeland.
“When the war broke out — my brother was killed, my friends were beheaded, my entire world went dark. I have 20k followers and these people like me for taking pictures as a model. I decided to use my platform to project out this love I know for Africa and the love we have as Black people as one,” says Paul
Paul is not looking for money so much, as she wants to educate people about the situation in South Sudan. With 64 tribes in South Sudan, although Paul is Nuer, she calls herself Nilotic, meaning “of the Nile”. She sees how the many tribes are at war with each other, especially between the two tribes Dinker and Nuer, but outside of Africa, it does not matter to the rest of the world what tribe you come from. She seeks to bring her message of peace and unity to South Sudan.
“Hopefully this shows the unity and pride that we should have in ourselves; the peace that can be formed if we put down our weapons and ancient hostilities, we can move up and progress. We are not Nuer or Dinka, we are South Sudan, we are Nilotic (of the Nile),” says Paul
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan in the past two years in the civil war there. South Sudan is among the most illiterate place for girls in the world with only 2% of girls attending school. Paul has also joined forces with other Sudanese women to promote literacy in Sudan. Fellow Sudanese Mari Malek has an organisation called Stand 4 Education.
She wants these women to represent the beauty of women in the South Sudan but also to be vocal about activating peace in the area. Paul also wants to take Western women to the Sudan. She is continually spreading the idea of South Sudan as a single unity to encourage peace in this area.
“With the sale of these t-shirts, I’m going to buy myself and my team tickets to take Africans in the West back to the continent because they are the ones that need to go. Fashion gives access to the world,” says Paul
“If I generate enough money, I want to set an example for the UN, Red Cross, Charity Water. In 2014, I bought a little farm that now feeds 50 people. When those organizations seek to work with me, they see me as the black poster child. I’m trying to bring my family here to America because they’re still in the refugee camps,” says Paul
No stranger to activism, a year ago Paul spoke out about Makeup artists being unprepared to make up blue black skin. She also said the modelling industry under represented black women altogether. She posted an online statement on her Instagram airing her frustrations. She mentioned that make-up for her skin was readily available from many makeup vendors but the industry simply had not caught up with racial equality.
“Dear white people in the fashion world! Please don’t take this the wrong way but it’s time you people get your shit right when it comes to our complexion! Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to … Don’t try to make me feel bad because I am blue black.. there’s so much options out there for dark skin tones today. … I’m tired of complaining about not getting book as a black model and I’m definitely super tired of apologising for my blackness!!!!” wrote Paul.
Paul is a role model not only for women from her homeland of South Sudan but for all women in the way she has overcome her tragic losses, her brave activism and commitment to her cause. We at FIB think she is not only beautiful but vital.