African printed cotton top, part of a traditional African two piece dress. It was bought by Nyabana Riek in Nairobi, Kenya and worn by her upon her arrival in Melbourne in 1995. 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. After seven years of living in refugee camps, Nyabana and Mary made the trek from Ethiopia to Kenya. It took three painfully slow years for Australian officials to process their visa applications. Finally, nine years after she began her journey Nyabana arrived in Australia.

Between 1997 and 2007 more than 20,000 settlers born in Sudan immigrated to Australia. During this period there were also approximately 2, 200 ethnic Sudanese, born to Sudanese parents in refugee camps in Egypt or Kenya, who also immigrated to Australia.

Physical Description

Cotton printed top with African style pattern in brown, green, black, and light blue. Top features a skirt at front with puffed sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. Silver plated buttons are sewn to the front on skirt piece and two are on either sleeve. The top has a zip at the back.


Statement of Historical Significance:
This collection provides a rare opportunity to document the refugee experience through material culture. Nyabana Riek migrated to Australia in 1995 after years of dislocation and separation from family as she moved from Sudan to Ethiopia to Kenya - often under dangerous and life-threatening conditions. Her objects represent the modest personal belongings which can be transported under such conditions, her cultural conenctions to homeland and faith, and the challenges of re-settling in a new country.

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