Until 9 January 2011, the Republic of South Sudan existed only in the imagination of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement. On that day a long-awaited referendum took place, with nearly 99 percent of some four million voters opting for secession from the North. On 9 July, after a six-month gestation period, amidst huge challenges including counter-insurgencies and ongoing violence in contested oil-rich border regions, the Republic of South Sudan came into being, becoming the world’s 193rd nation. The run-up to independence witnessed a place and a people in transformation, as some of the millions of exiles who had sought asylum in neighbouring countries returned, to rebuild their communities and construct their identity as a unified nation.
This work was completed as part of the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and is published in their annual book NEXT, Link, as well as Ojo de Pez and Ogniok (see publications section).