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Kuoth Wiel

Kuoth Wiel was born to a Sudanese mother and father in Itang (Gambella), Ethiopia. She lost her father to the war in Sudan and in 1998 her family immigrated to the United States as refugees, resettling in Faribault, Minnesota. Kuoth attended Augsburg College in Minneapolis and graduated with a degree in Social Psychology. She landed her first feature film role starring as Abital Deng in The Good Lie, which depicts the history of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan. She is co-founder of the NyaEden Foundation, which empowers women and girls in East Africa. Kouth continues to pursue her career in acting and modeling in Los Angeles, and spoke to us on the Journal about meditation, the art of letter writing, and how she connects to the different places she calls home.
Shaina Mote — Kuoth Wiel

What shapes, textures, and palettes encompass the sensory details of your present self?  

Nature seems to dictate a lot of things for me. I grew up in nature in South Sudan and Ethiopia, as well as during my childhood in the Midwest. I’m drawn to things that remind me of what is naturally available, for example the different colors of clay, the changing leaves of trees and the vibrant colors of beads my grandmother wore around her waist. Nude palettes of browns, reds and earth tones. 

What is something you have loved for a long time?

My journals have been with me for the majority of my adult life. I like to reflect on the journey I’ve taken as a young teenager to a woman trying to find my place in this world. It’s a symbol of the fact that I’m always developing and adapting. I’ve learned to appreciate the hardships as well the joys that come and go. 

What is something you have recently rediscovered?

Writing letters to friends and family. I learned how to write cursive when I was in school and it is now becoming something of the past. I practice writing letters and using workbooks to sharpen my skill. I just think it is a beautiful art form and who knows - it may not exist in the future with all of this ever-evolving technology. 

Please share the story behind a modern “talisman” you own — an object in your possession that you consider either a token of good luck or energy.

I have an ivory hairpin that was given to me by my grandmother. Because of my people's relationship with elephants, ivory is hugely revered, and it is passed down through generations. We believe that elephants are an honorary human due to their ability to possess strong emotion. I wore it on the flight when we immigrated to the US. It connects me to my ancestors, my old world to my new. 

At what moments are you the truest version of yourself?

I think I am authentic at every moment or at least that's what I strive to be. I try to learn from my pitfalls and see where I can improve so that I don't lose a part of who I am. Being in this industry, it can often sway you to see yourself in a way that is not you, not organic. I just know that I am from a place that has instilled pride and I carry myself with that as I am representing my culture, my people. I always feel that since I can't easily access where I come from, I serve as an ambassador to show love, capacity and how complicated my world is. 

What landscapes or places in nature are most resonant? Where do you feel the deepest connection with the outdoors?

The mountains resonate with me daily. When I first moved to LA from Minnesota, I fell in love with Colorado because of the mountains, and through the trip it always brought tranquility. I also connect with the desert as it reminds me of Sub-Saharan Africa. The dry earth, the scorching heat, and wildlife often transport me back in time. 

Can you share the story behind a meaningful garment you own — perhaps an heirloom, or something that feels weighted with a special significance?

A pair of linen shorts. I like to wear things that feel good on my skin. Pure fabrics like cotton and silk are spread throughout my closet. I often shop for vintage slips and a nice pair of linen trousers at the various flea markets in LA. 

Can you share more details on one act of “wellness” that brings you joy in its ritual — maybe a special tea, or a favorite walk, or another ritual that you use to come back to yourself?

I have just started mindfulness meditation. I practice before a photo shoot or at random times when I feel stress coming on. It has helped me stay focused during a photoshoot or to help me get into character before an audition.


Can you share a recipe or idea for a simple, healing meal that you make for yourself often?

I cook a lot of traditional Ethiopian and Sudanese dishes. My go-to recipe is lentil soup.
I saute red onion and add vegetable broth with a cup and half of red lentils. I then add pieces of ginger and turmeric along with some Ethiopian spices and let it cook for 30 minutes. Five minutes before turning the stove off I add a cup of spinach. It tastes so delicious and tastes even better as leftovers.

What books are you reading right now (or have read recently)?

I just finished Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Becoming by Michelle Obama

What book(s) do you always recommend to friends?

The Alchemist, The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, What is the What, and Things Fall Apart

What music is in rotation for you this month?

Jorja Smith, 
Rose Gold by Kitty 
Solange (all things Solange), 
Don't Leave Me This Way by Thelma Houston
Amadou and Mariam
Ethiopian Jazz 
Sudan Archives


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