Recently, international model Nykhor Paul and fashion designer Donna Dove stopped by the Eye’s Gallery. The two have been working diligently on a project in New York celebrating the beauty and spirit of African garments and adornment. These two inspiring and powerful ladies came our way via Julia’s son and musician Zeke Zagar and his longtime friend and collaborator, fellow Rastaman, Rabbi. Rabbi, a musician and writer, met Dove in the late 1970s in Brooklyn and connected with her through their shared Trinidadian heritage. This cultural melange of artists and advocates graciously agreed to an impromptu photo shoot.
Paul is currently using her status as a world-renowned model to bring awareness to the war in her native South Sudan. Joining forces with photographer Mike Mellia and several other of her high-profile South Sudanese compatriots, Paul has launched a campaign which she hopes will inform the world about the plight of their beloved country. The photographs in “Our Side of the Story: South Sudan” are raw, haunting portraits of those who have managed to escape and build lives for themselves. Beneath the veil of success, however, is the pain for those they left behind.
As Paul notes, the situation in South Sudan “has parallels with the genocide that took place in Rwanda.” While for a generation the South fought for independence from the North, the fighting now is between tribes, the largest of which are the Dinka and Nuer. Paul is advocating for the groups to transcend their tribalism, and to embrace unity.
“I’m Nuer, but I’m not a tribe, I’m South Sudanese,” she has said. “I know the resilience of the tribes, but I believe that when the South Sudanese come together, our resilience and determination will be greater than what divides us. I’m stepping out with fellow models from South Sudan, representing various tribes, to show that on the world scale, the tribe you come from doesn’t matter. 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).”
Right now Paul is using her resources to the fullest. In addition to modeling, she also serves as an ambassador for the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support people displaced by conflict and disaster.
Donna Dove is a fashion designer, artist, and entrepreneur based in Harlem, New York. Born in Trinidad, West Indies, she draws inspiration from its rich carnival traditions. This influence manifests in her use of vibrant color and bold design, and informs her take on colonial fashions. Dove’s work is unique in her vision of the fused world of art and fashion. Combining illustration with clothing design, she hand-paints and draws directly on fabric to create singular fashion pieces, essentially, wearable art.
In addition to designing, Dove has curated two wearable art showcases in New York City, (Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York and the P.C.O.G Gallery New York). She has shown her collection in several fashion events including Guyana Fashion Weekend, Trinidad Fashion Weekend, The Black Designer showcase at The Museum of New York, and the Jamaican Mustard Seed Benefit Fashion Show at the New York Hilton. She has been featured in major publications like Sister 2 Sister Magazine, Art Business News, New York Times, Amsterdam News and The New York Carib News.
More recently, Dove has expanded her fashion line into an original home furnishing collection including shower curtains, pillows, lampshades and place mats all bearing her signature motif. Eye’s Gallery hopes to be carrying some of her items in the future, so stay tuned!
Thank you, Donna and Nykhor, for the amazing work that you do, and for sharing a few moments with us at Eye’s! We wish you both continued success in all of your endeavors.