When AnyiethManyang D'Awol travelled around Southern Sudan over a year ago, ranking high on her to-do list was the purchase of traditional handicrafts from its various regions.
She was, therefore, hugely disappointed when she could not find any on sale, anywhere.
"I went to the market in Torit (Eastern Equatoria State) and no one was selling the traditional items. It was the same case in Bor market (Jonglei State)," she said.
Although she encountered women and men adorned in traditional jewellery, they said to her, "We produce these for ourselves ... not for sale."
Ms. D'Awol saw an opportunity and immediately sprung into action. In March 2009, she founded the Roots Project in Juba. The project preserves, manufactures and markets local art and crafts, providing employment for artisans.
"Southern Sudanese adornment is so unique because it decorates the front of a person, the back, the head, the ankles and any part of the body that moves," she said.
"The crafts were well thought out and meant something, whether to indicate that someone was a child, had been initiated, was ready for marriage, or had been elevated to a higher status in the community," Ms. D'Awol added.
Not only are some traditional items rare, it can be difficult to find people who know how to make them well.
"That is why one of our main objectives is to bring them out and preserve them in a comprehensive collection and eventually in a safe place where Southern Sudanese can see them and be proud of their heritage," said the Roots Project founder.
Currently, the project has 51 female and male members from 12 different Southern Sudanese communities. Based in Juba, they are survivors of the two-decade civil war and are either returnees or internally displaced persons.
Bead maker and quality control officer Jacqueline Siama is a project member.
"When they (Roots administrators) first saw me making beads, they asked me to produce more of them at home as a test," said the 30-year-old, who learnt the craft from her grandmother as a teenager.
She was overwhelmed when they bought all of her beads for 20 Sudanese pounds ($8.50) per bunch.
"I didn't expect such a good return," Ms. Siama says. She realized she had wasted a lot of time and money producing beads for domestic use alone.
The project makes and sells traditional beaded jewellery, including necklaces, earrings, bracelets and anklets and decorative items like pottery as well as basketry.
"We also sell traditional items that are rare and take longer to make such as the Shilluk necklaces or Latuka head pieces," she added. "We have Dinka 'corsets'. They take several weeks to make."
"Many of our people see our products and say they are expensive and that their grandmothers can make them for free," said Ms. D'Awol.
"Women in Southern Sudan already do too many things for free. They cook at weddings, take care of other people's children, clean the streets, take care of the sick... all for free. Should they also make crafts for free?" she asked
In late September, the project opened its Arts and Craft Centre in the Nimra Talata neighbourhood in Juba. It received a lot of support from individuals and donors like the French Embassy, Pact Sudan Fund and SDV Logistics.
"We plan to employ up to 100 people at the centre before the end of the year," said Ms. D'Awol. "Our target is poor women, who are unemployed but skilled in artwork."
The project has held exhibitions at Juba venues like the UNMIS compound and Nyakuron Cultural Centre, where its products were displayed for both domestic and international buyers.
Besides opening a retail shop at its site in Nimra Talata and Juba International Airport, Roots is planning to set up centres in the remaining nine southern states and expand abroad.