TOPSHOTS A Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) government soldier walks towards the town of Malakal on March 20, 2014, after the SPLA allegedly took it over. More than 97,000 South Sudanese refugees who have fled war, misery and turmoil from their country now live in Kakuma. AFP PHOTO / IVAN LIEMAN
TOPSHOTS A Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) government soldier walks towards the town of Malakal on March 20, 2014, after the SPLA allegedly took it over. More than 97,000 South Sudanese refugees who have fled war, misery and turmoil from their country now live in Kakuma. AFP PHOTO / IVAN LIEMAN

Akuot Chol Mayak, a 32-year-old former child refugee who is orphaned, has defied many obstacles to become an accomplished storyteller and filmmaker in South Sudan after acquiring photographic skills from national geographic society.

Mayak, whose nickname is Bullen Chol Was, was born in 1987 in Bor village in the former Jonglei region but fled to northern parts of Kenya during two decades of civil war.

He grew up and pursued formal education in the East African nation and it was in high school that he developed an ambition of becoming a painter before landing himself an opportunity to be trained as a photographer in 2014 in the aftermath of the outbreak of South Sudan’s five-year-long civil war.

Before South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011, Mayak returned to his homeland where he pursued a diploma in journalism and mass communication from a local university.

“When I was still young I dreamt of becoming a painter, but I didn’t put much into it because there was nobody who was motivating me. As I grew up I found myself in the world of media whereby I was inspired by the rest of photographers,” Mayak told Xinhua during a recent interview in Juba.

He said that before joining the national geographic photojournalist training camp in 2014 that was sponsored by the Internews, he was taking pictures for fun, but after receiving the skills, his zeal to become a storyteller through photo-essay spiked.

Mayak said he ventured into photography world in order to be his own voice through visual storytelling because someone who doesn’t know one’s language can relate to the meaning of the photography without translation.

His work has earned him recognition from the World Food Programme to train other youthful peers at Bididi refugee settlement in northern parts of Uganda, in an effort to empower them for a better future.

“I take this initiative to inspire the rest of the youth and children so that I can sharpen their eyes and brain. My aim is to impart the knowledge to the next generation who can document their social issues that define their time and project that all they see through the lens of a camera to the world,” said Mayak.

He revealed that his purpose is not only to make a living, but to document and preserve South Sudan’s culture before the western civilization could erodes them away, saying it can be done through photography and that is why he believes in the art.

“I survive through my photography work as a freelance photojournalist with international agencies, local dailies, including doing some consultancy works for humanitarian agencies,” said Mayak.

He returned from the United States recently after attending a national geographer storyteller’s summit and hopes to revive Visual South Sudan platform as a co-founder to engage hundreds of young people in the country.

The youths in this oil-rich but strife-torn nation make up about 70 percent of the population, but the majority are facing an uncertain future. Enditerm

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