Nora Lorek is one of the 25 photographers shortlisted for the 2020 CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography.
On their way from South Sudan to Uganda, refugees walked for days or weeks carrying embroidered sheets, decorated with swirls of flowers, trees, and animals. Before the war, these milayas were used for dowries and celebrations, but now, after years of violence, they are held as the refugees’ last possessions.
In August 2017 the millionth refugee from South Sudan entered Uganda to escape the war. With most of the refugees being women and children and leaving during shootings at night, their bedsheets, called milaya, are often one of the few things they carry with them. The handmade patterns have been made in South Sudan for generations and the tradition of the milayas continues in what has become their temporary home while waiting for the war to end. Bidibidi in northwestern Uganda with more than 270 000 people is considered one of the world's largest refugee settlements.
Today the women in Bidibidi continue to sew milaya. They’re hung at church on Sundays, decorate funerals and weddings, and are sold at markets in town. In these pictures the women from South Sudan are posing in front of the milayas they managed to bring while fleeing their home and the war of the world's youngest country.