As the construction of the vocational training center in Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement is nearly complete, we are reflecting on how this building will be a place not only for teaching, learning, and the embroidery and sewing that will provide income opportunity for the women and students of God with Us Women's Center, but for the preservation of a cultural tradition. Passed down from generation to generation from South Sudanese mothers, grandmothers, and aunties, the embroidered bedsheets known as milayas become the heart of home.
One Light Global Administrative Coordinator Kristin Kohler was recently inspired to write this poem, The Milaya Women, after a week of learning about Permaculture design through nature connection at the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, Washington. She said, "We learned how Permaculture is deeply intertwined with remembrance, ancestry, grief, and culture, and it made me immediately think of Rose and the Women of GWU in Bidi Bidi, and the importance of their beautiful milayas."
The Milaya Women
Forced to leave their rooted place
But the guns cannot kill the threads of life still weaving their ancestral story
The DNA of place is in the water drank and stitch by stitch the story remains
The stitches grow in color and form and beauty by a hand that is of many hands before hers
This is home through flight from bullet and blood
The red now becoming a form on fabric, sewn as offering, remembering, telling
New roots are forming
Patterns of sun and sky and textile are tracked by infant eyes on mother’s backs
Great-grandmother is here and has been always
Wrapped and sewn and remembered through ditches dug and weeping, laughter, song
She is theirs, and theirs to share and theirs to hold sacred
Milayas are used in weddings and funerals and are hung at church on Sundays. They push the story of home and family forward to future generations. Please support these women and help them to continue to preserve this cultural tradition by donating below!
with Gratitude and Light,
The One Light Family
Image Credits: Sarah Hopkins, Bida Isaac, James Lado