Sampler made by Nyabana Riek for a bedspread in Ethiopia, circa 1990. It is one of the few possessions she retained from the seven years she spent living in refugee camps in Ethiopia. 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 sampler comprised of a section of white cotton cloth, with a handrawn floral and figurative design. A section of the sampler has been embroidered with a purple flower.


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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