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  • Jenny Smyth

Ruminations and Reflections

South Sudan

Passing the free magazine stand in Heathrow Airport, I lifted a copy of The World of Interiors to peruse during the final leg of my journey home to Ireland after two weeks in South Sudan.

The editorial piece at the start of April's edition opened with the following:

‘Since 1981 The World of Interiors has lauded the undecorated home. These pages have rhapsodised about the many ways in which a space can be undone and unpolished, capturing those unswept corners of life where often the most interesting things occur.’

With no expense spared and comfort and ambience reigning supreme, the beautiful results of a high-end industry shone from every glossy page. Architects, artists, interior designers and high-end manufacturers all dedicated their skills to curating perfect living places. This celebration of the ‘unswept’ spaces struck me.

Having stayed in four different places over the previous two weeks in South Sudan, I had experienced a wide variety of home interiors. Ranked amongst the poorest countries, South Sudan is often considered undone and unpolished; not from careful curation and a stripping back of what has been, but by default.

In South Sudan I was offered the warmest hospitality and experiences to engage interest at every turn. Guest space was offered in Bishop Wilson’s home in Ibba, in the church guest home in Maridi, in a repurposed building in Olo and in the provincial guest house in Juba. None of the rooms would have made it into The World of Interiors. None would be considered worthy candidates. Neither would any of them have cost a fraction of those on display in my magazine.

So, what is required for comfort and wellbeing? On entering each guest room in South Sudan, careful preparation was evident. Forethought had been given to everything I might need to do – drinking water on a side table, a place to put my suitcase, a carefully made bed with extra blankets available, a chair set ready, mosquito net and spray or joss stick to ward off unwelcome insects, gentle explanation of the bath and toilet arrangements. Despite the simplicity, nothing was lacking. During my stay in each place I watched the gentle care with which my hosts carefully curated the hospitality I enjoyed, thoughtfully producing meals to fit in with the activities planned for each day, concerned to provide variety and choice, offering assistance whenever needed and a programme full of the unexpected and most interesting of things.

Life in South Sudan may be ‘undecorated’, but the hospitality is exceptional, well swept and polished with tender loving care, offered freely and with overwhelming generosity. I could not have asked for more.



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