Main site navigation

Ajak Kwai


Ajak Kwai, portrait

More information about the Sudan-born community in Australia can be found at the DIMIA website.

'I'm not a politician', she says, 'but music can take your message places'.

Born in a small town called Bor in the Malakal Region of the Upper Nile, Ajak Kwai grew up in a musical family. In fact, music was central to her way of life, and intrinsic to her cultural heritage. She sang at all the village ceremonies and celebrations, later joining a local missionary choir that sang gospel music in their own Dinka style. Ajak Kwai recalls how the villagers would gather for ceremonies under the full moon. 'Even when I was sick and not supposed to go out, I'd go and attend these gatherings', she says. 'I'd start a song and everyone would answer.' Not everyone was enthusiastic about her musical prowess. 'My family discouraged me,' she says. 'But then I would sing and hum in my sleep. My brother and uncles thought I was crazy.'

The Sudanese civil war damaged her community during the 1990s and she had to move to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, before finally leaving the last of her family in 1992 to go to Egypt. There, she enrolled in a Seventh Day Adventist College, involved herself in international church choirs and formed a female singing group, called 'Bor Band'. Bor Band performed traditional and original Dinka songs, but living in Cairo for eight years meant she was influenced by many music styles.

In 1999, in her mid-twenties, Ajak was accepted into Australia under the Humanitarian Aid Program. She migrated to Hobart, Tasmania and joined the small Southern Sudanese community living there. Upon arrival she put her singing career to one side while she threw herself into her studies: an AMES English language course and accounting studies at TAFE. But one day, class members were organising a ceremony and asked if anyone could sing, and Ajak obliged. They asked her to sing some more. As they say, the rest is history.

Ajak's reputation as a fine musician with an original sound grew. She was soon called upon to sing at many community and fundraising events, including a welcome concert for refugees from Kosovo, for whom she wrote a song. She has been invited to perform at the Hobart Refugee Fundraising Concerts, Hobart Multicultural Ball, International Women's Day events and other refugee awareness conferences. In 2001, Ajak formed the band Wahida (Arabic for Unity). Later, in 2002, Ajak started performing in various festivals in Australia, often accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Martin Tucker. In May 2004, Ajak produced her first CD 'Why not Peace and Love?'

Ajak sings in her native Dinka tribal language as well as in Arabic and English. The songs Ajak sings are very close to her heart, inspired as they are by her continuing love and hopes for her homeland and through her concern and sadness for the ongoing civil war still raging in Sudan. 'I'm not a politician', she says, 'but music can take your message places'.

Source of Image:

<< Previous | Next >>

Select Resources

African Australian Online Resource
A website created by people of African and Australian backgrounds as a central online resource providing information on African Australian matters; including some articles of historical interest.

The African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific

Sudanese Online Research Association

African Research Institute

African Studies Resources at the University of Western Australia

Select List of Community Support Groups

African Communities Council (peak Organisation)


African Communities Council of Victoria
210 Dorcas St.
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Phone: 03 9696 9011

African Community Elderly Association of Victoria
25 Mount Alexander Rd.
Flemington, VIC 3031
Phone: 03 9372 1588

Nigerian Society of Victoria
5 Drysdale St.
Reservoir, VIC 3073
Phone 03 9489 4949

Ghana Association of Victoria
P.O. Box 470
Northcote VIC 3070
Phone 0411 404 945

Ethiopian Community Association of Victoria
Office 1, 30a Pickett St.
Footscray, VIC 3011
Phone: 03 9687 0966

Somali Relief Association of Victoria
247 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: 03 9654 4424

Somali Support Group
102 Bell St.
Coburg, VIC 3058
Phone: 03 9354 0716

Somali Community of Victoria Association Inc.
1 / 14 Hutton St.
Thornbury, VIC 3071
Phone: 03 9416 9706

New South Wales

African Communities Council of New South Wales
Inner West Migrant Resource Centre
6 Holden Street
Phone: 02 9716 5593

Sierra Leone Association of Australia
Phone: 02 9718 0576

Australia Committee on Africa
PO Box 276
East Maitland 2323
Phone: 02 4934 1240

Ghana Association of New South Wales
PO Box 659
Newtown NSW 2042
Phone: 02 9311 7467


Australia-Africa Association of Queensland
Phone: 07 3394 4104

Western Australia

Zambian Community of Western Australia

Unity Of Ethiopians In WA
275 Stirling St Perth WA 6000
ph: (08) 9228 0721

See also:

Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia
PO Box 344 Curtin, ACT 2605
Phone:02 6282 5755
Fax: 02 6282 5734

<< Previous | Next >>