Conor Ashleigh was just 16 when the Mayom family moved across the street from his house in suburban Australia. There was a large, oval park between the two houses that was a meeting spot for all the kids in the neighborhood. They would get home from school, get something to eat at home, and find each other at the park to play touch rugby. That’s where Akolde Mayom and him became friends. The young man had just moved from Kenya with his four brothers, his sister and his mother through a government resettlement program for South Sudanese refugees, and the two bonded over music and sports. A few years later, the young photographer started documenting the South Sudanese teenagers he had come to know through Akolde. His new book, self-published this year, tells their stories. He joined R&K from his home in Scotland.
Roads & Kingdoms: Where did you grow up and how did the neighborhood change in the early 2000s?
Conor Ashleigh: I grew up in a small city called Newcastle in Australia. It was a very white city, but the cultural landscape started to change in the early 2000s when South Sudanese families moved in through a government humanitarian program. They were resettled in our city and in other parts of regional Australia, as opposed to the big cities where more of the refugees and migrants would generally go. Regional Australia had been, except for the indigenous population of course, very white. So it was visually striking to have these new people coming in that had very dark skin and were very tall. There was of course the usual unfortunate racism, but overall the majority of people welcomed them.