Cognitive Immobility

Adut Akech: From Refugee Shadows to Runway Spotlight!

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Have you heard about Adut Akech? If not, those immersed in the fashion world certainly have. This stunning Sudanese model has graced the runways for elite brands like Prada, Chanel, Givenchy, Calvin Klein, and Valentino. She possesses qualities reminiscent of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, yet she also brings unique attributes to the table. Notably, she was once a refugee – a title she insists on retaining; this sentiment has been attributed to her on numerous occasions.

The 23-year-old supermodel was born in a South Sudan refugee camp during the conflict between South Sudan and North Sudan. She spent her childhood in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya; later, she and her family were relocated to Adelaide, Australia.

Adut was named “Model of the Year” by the British Fashion Council in 2019 and is now one of the most sought-after supermodels in the world.

Despite her hard work, fame, and fortune, she insists that she will always be a refugee, even though she has left the refugee camp. What might be the factor that makes her feel this way? Does it mean she still sees herself in the refugee camp? Why would a supermodel, now living in the world’s major capitals, insist that she will always be a refugee?

If you want to learn the answers to these questions, subscribe to our newsletter. We will inform you when our peer-reviewed paper on this topic and others that further explain the phenomenon of cognitive immobility are published.

Have you ever left a life situation or location and can stopped thinking about returning? Let’s hear your story. It could help you learn more about your situation. Email your short stories to

About Ezenwa Olumba


I’m a doctoral researcher who researches and writes about issues at the intersection of memory, migration, and politics. I’m particularly interested in how violence, culture, atrocities on people and other life experiences influence people’s emotions, collective actions, (im)mobility aspirations, and identities. My outstanding research on ‘Cognitive Immobility’ has been well received, and the blog post emanating from it has been read by over 500k people worldwide and translated into other languages. I have published a research article on conflicts and blog posts on drones, eco-violence, and relief funding.

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