New Yorkers in Profile

Ger Duany: Leaving His Mark From Sudan to New York

November 28, 2011 Written by | 2 Comments

When the Sudanese civil war broke out in 1983, young children were turned into soldiers forced to fight. One of those young soldiers was Ger Duany, now 33 and living in New York as an actor, model and philanthropist. “I learned how to handle all types of weapons before I learned my ABC’s,” he said.

Duany is one of the original Lost Boys, a group of Sudanese refugees who were displaced during the second Civil War in Sudan.  Living in the U.S. since he was 15, he has taken full advantage of his talent, made a better life for himself, and has given back to people in need.

Duany is currently working on a documentary about his life. “’Ger: To be separate’ is a documentary about me searching for my parents who [I] left behind for eighteen years. ” Award winning filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu has been working with Duany for the past year, including Duany’s trip back to Sudan in January 2011 to vote for independence. This documentary is currently going through editing and postproduction and is almost complete.

“Life was beautiful growing up in South Sudan until the civil broke out in 1983,” he said. This is when life in Sudan changed for the worst for the second time in the century and citizens were forced to be a part of a war that was racially, and religiously driven. At the tender age of 4 years old, Ger was forced to believe that this was how life was supposed to be. “I felt like I was robbed with my childhood, and misled.”

Becoming a child soldier at a very young age, and a refugee has made Duany who he is today. “I certainly didn’t regret or would trade my past experiences at all,” he said.

Duany, who now stands at a tall and sleek 6 foot 6 inches, was a part of a group of kids from South Sudan that escaped on foot to Ethiopia without much nourishment. Not all who escaped made it, “those who survived the circumstances were branded ‘The Lost Boys of Sudan.’”

Relocating to the U.S at the age of fifteen was the best option for Duany due to East Africa being consumed by the Civil War. As one of the few to leave Ethiopia by plane to go to the U.S, he was able to receive the education he sought after. This would not have been possible in South Sudan at the time.

Duany continued his education finishing high school in Indiana and attending Los Angeles Southwest College. Duany credits his time here as when he fell in love with acting. In early 2001-2002 he was involved in theater for six months while playing college basketball.

In 2004 Duany got his first big screen acting opportunity when he earned a role in “I Heart Huckabees,” a movie starring Jude Law and Dustin Hoffman. The dinner scene was a prominent scene in the movie, showing how a family who has taken in a Sudanese refugee [Steven], and has misled him into believing in the superficial way that they do. Although having a small roll, this movie was pivoted around Duany’s character.

And character is something that Duany has much of. Being able to inspire someone with a simple conversation, and sharing life experiences is a gift far greater than one of a college basketball player.

When moving to New York, Duany was discovered by a photographer and moved on to becoming a successful fashion model. He has left his mark not only in pictures but also with people in the industry.

Duany has become good friends with Salieu Jalloh, 21, fashion model from Sierra Leone. Jalloh as well as many of Duany’s friends have very deep conversations about the world. “ Don’t be nervous my friend,” said Jalloh, as he picked out one of the most prominent phrases that Duany has said to him.

In New York he still plays basketball on his off time. “He has broken my nose a couple of times because he is a hack,” said Makin Curry jokingly. They are close friends but also rivals on the basketball court often going head to head with one another because of their tall stature.

Duany is also in the process of publishing two books. One is a photo book while the other is on his life experiences. Duany believes that his story should be told and is very passionate about it because he knows that it can help people.

As a co founder of the Sudanese Summit, Duany is focused on helping the people in Sudan, primarily the children. Trying to make sure that they do not have the same childhood that he had during the war.

It’s hard to believe that someone can be as selfless as Duany, but he has taken on a purpose in life devoted to helping others. “Now, I represent something bigger then myself (building a country for next generation behind me) Does it mean that I forgot about me? If it is, I’m okay with the idea!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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