Hi all, Moe here. So I saw this video earlier today (via PRI’s “Q”) and it brought tears to my eyes. The recovery of the Sudanese people from their multiple and ongoing civil wars is one of my deepest passions. As in many countries with modern civil wars, amputees are common must learn to adjust completely on their own, so this program seems like quite a gift (please read on after video).
So I thought, “Hey, I’m going to post that on the Justice blog.”
But before I got to it, I posted the previous article on the blog. It reminded me of the woes of unsustainable gifts in kind from Westerners to impoverished villages. Woes such as, how the heck is a 3-D printer going to keep working in the constant dust-ridden, brutal conditions of a place like Sudan?
So the question is, assuming the printers eventually…
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Originally posted on Arabic Literature (in English):
At its core, The Longing of the Dervish tells the story of two enslaved lovers — a Sudanese man and a Greek woman — who are thrown together and torn apart by the first victories of the 1881 Mahdi uprising.
The Mahdist uprising began after cleric Muhammad Ahmad proclaimed himself Mahdi, or the promised redeemer, and led an assault on the Egyptian administration in the Sudan. This later grew into a battle between the Mahdists and British colonial forces.
The novel opens with the fall of Khartoum, the defeat of the Mahdist army, and the release of the slave Bekhit Mandil from prison. Mandil, who we learn has been a fighter in the Mahdist army and then the lover of the Greek slave Theodora, prepares…
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Originally posted on newfanzone:
The African Volleyball Confederation “CAVB” organised a successful Management course at Sudan Development Center in Khartoum, Sudan November 26 to 29, 2014 in the framework of the CAVB Development Plan.
The course showed 28 participants coming from different provinces of the country representing the different sections of the sport and was conducted by the CAVB instructor Mahmoud El Serr.
The closing ceremony was attended by Saleh Wadaa, representing the Ministry of Youth and Sport, Tarek Atta representing the Sudanese Olympic Committee, and Merghani Abayazeed vice president of Sudan VB Fed.
The guests of honour favoured the efforts done by CAVB and its president Dr Amr Elwani to improve and develop the sport throughout the continent.
The opening scenes of Hajooj Kuka’s film, Beats of the Antonov, are as surreal as they are uplifting. As families scramble for cover against the government’s Antonov bomber planes, which continue their reign of terror on the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan, the unlikely sound of giggling cuts through the drone and crackle of destruction.
“The laughter is always there,” says the documentary’s narrator. “People laugh despite the catastrophe as they realise they are not hurt.”
For Hajooj Kuka, a Sudanese video journalist and filmmaker who divides his time between Kenya and the Nuba Mountains, it was important to show the world that music, dancing and even laughter can still exist in such challenging circumstances.
With access to these remote area severely restricted, Nuba Reports – a media organisation based in the region – is one of the few able gather footage and data on the bombings. It says that in the first half of 2014, nearly 300 bombs were dropped on the Blue Nile region alone by Islamist President Omar al-Bashir’sforces – more than double the number dropped in the previous six months of the three-year campaign against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) in the predominantly Christian and Animist regions. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have fled to refugee camps in South Sudan and Ethiopia, escaping the conflict and the threat of starvation.
“In October 2012 I went to document the human rights situation in the refugee camps and war zones,” Kuka said. “After I finished my day job in Yusuf Batil[refugee camp], some of the youth asked us – ‘Do you want to go out?’”
Go out where? Kuka responded. “They took us to an old school, where two bands were having a play-off inside. It was full of young people – it had the feeling of a nightclub. We stayed there for hours. At some point I pulled myself away to go to sleep, but I could hear the music until morning.”
The experience shaped the film that Kuka went on to shoot throughout 2012 and 2013, which features rare footage from the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions, as well as in the refugee camps, where he is accompanied by the musician Alsarah(described by Addis Rumble as “the princess of Nubian pop”).
The film, released in September this year, explores the diverse sounds and musical styles through performances and conversations, as well as the politics of music-making in these regions. “Girls’ music” – music made by ordinary girls which has become a genre in itself – is shown as one form of resistance against the programme of “Arabisation” carried out by Bashir’s regime, which Kuka says touches the core of the present conflict.
“It’s a question of identity. The Sudanese government is trying to institute an Arab Islamic identity that people do not agree with, and which they fight against,” he says.
Unlike other documentaries depicting the wars that Sudan is waging against the many ethnicities and tribes that form its make up, Beats of the Antonov focuses on this fight for identity and culture. There are few scenes showing destruction or death. Instead, with a palpable sense of determination, Kuka shows that a powerful way to fight a war when access to food and weapons is scarce is to fight by singing and dancing.
“What else can we do? The war changes everything,” says one musician in the Yusuf Batil camp.
“Music is incredibly important in this fight,” says Kuka. “The best way to battle is to hold on to our character, to pass it on through our music and our dance. For this reason I decided to make a film that was driven by sound, and driven by how alive people are, not by their misery.”
Abandoning a more formal documentary format, the film is assembled from a series of vignettes showing women singing together in the camps, snippets of conversations, girls making up songs together, and late-night parties as the young stay awake and watch the skies for the glitter of the dreaded Antonovs.
“I wanted to make the audience live, for a few minutes, in the way that we live,” says Kuka.
Life goes on, mundane everyday tasks continue, but the threat of sudden and brutal interruption haunts every scene.
“You witness scenes of bombing, but then you have long periods without them, where music and life take prominence. But then the bombs return, and keep on returning and disturbing the flow of the film, in the same way they disrupt our lives.”
Kuka’s camera captures the deafening explosions and the rumbling approach of the planes: the viewer sees images shakily zoomed into the skies, the small aircraft appearing seemingly innocuous until they unload, and Kuka and his camera have to run to safety.
Girls’ music takes prominence, and Beats of the Antonov depicts an exciting, live negotiation of cultural freedom for the young women who have been forced to make their homes in the camp. Sung by groups of women, made up as they go along, usually unaccompanied, their singing represents a “true Sudanese identity” he says – one that although not accepted by Khartoum, lives on and migrates across urban capitals and throughout the camps. “The boot is too big for you, my friend” they sing, as young men are driven off to fight against the government forces.
Northern critics of Girls’ music argue that it is just a “copy” of Khartoum culture. But as Alsarah says in the film, if this were the case, why aren’t the girls singing Mohammed Wardi’s songs, one of Sudan’s biggest music stars?
“Why do they gather and sing Girls’ music?” Alsarah asks. “Because it’s not the kind of music that demands someone else write a poem, or writes a melody. All of this takes ownership away from the singer. It becomes so detached from you, all you can do is sit and listen. Girls’ music is different.”
“What’s next for Sudan?” Alsarah asks in the film. “We must realise that the notion of the nation state has failed us. That our concept of patriotism and nationhood is failing us. It’s not working. Maybe it’s time for a bigger umbrella.”
A sense of community and collectivity is strong throughout. Kuka’s camera is often immersed within groups and circles of people – the camera’s view caught up in the haze of dust rising by crowds of stamping and dancing feet. But it’s also a new perspective on a country that has otherwise become known by its violent divisions, and its singular political rhetoric.
“I’m pleased that we managed to capture the speed and richness of life there, which is so often forgotten, or ignored,” he says.
The fine stone carving shows a wide-hipped Nubian queen triumphant over Romans and other foreign pretenders to her throne. Beyond the chapel are the remains of the pyramid that was her royal tomb. In immaculate silence, dozens more ancient pyramids dot the landscape where, as Shelley put it, “the lone and level sands stretch far away”.
This is Meroë in Sudan, a country that boasts more pyramids than Egypt. The road to Meroë was built by an unlikely entrepreneur – Osama bin Laden, who later relocated to Afghanistan. This is just one example of the weird and wonderful experience of being a tourist in Sudan. That so few make the trip is, critics say, an indictment of the government’s failure to exploit its fabulous potential as a destination.
“Announcing that this year you’re holidaying in the Sudan has an effect on bystanders akin to expressing a liking for punting on the Styx or arm wrestling with alligators,” notes the Bradt travel guide to one of Africa’s most enigmatic lands.
A rare privilege
In the mid-6th century BC, Meroë became the central city of the Nubian Kushite dynasty, the “Black Pharaohs” who ruled from Aswan in southern Egypt to present-day Khartoum. The Nubians were variously both rivals and allies of the ancient Egyptians and adopted many of their rituals, including burying kings, queens and nobles in pyramid tombs.
More than 200 pyramids have been discovered in and around Meroë. Several were decapitated by the 19th century Italian explorer and zealous treasure hunter Giuseppe Ferlini. Finally, in 2011, they gained world heritage site status from Unesco. Darker in hue than those 800 miles to the north in Giza, Egypt, because of the iron-rich rocks here, Meroë later became a centre of iron production and has been dubbed “the Birmingham of Africa” – not necessarily a slogan that will bring British holidaymakers flocking.
Untouched by commercialism, the pyramids are also smaller, drastically less crowded and free of the touts and hustling “guides” who pester patrons of Giza. A ticket seller at the site in Meroë said it usually receives around 10 visitors a day, meaning there are good odds of exploring them entirely alone – a rare privilege at any historical monument in the 21st century.
David Belgrove, deputy head of mission and consul-general at the British embassy in Sudan, likes to go camping there and has run into a few German and Japanese tourists, but no Britons. “I remember vividly the first time I saw it,” he said. “We arrived at night so the first I saw was the sun rising on the pyramids. I felt immensely privileged to have the site all to myself. Nothing beats it.”
He added: “A lot of the sites in Sudan are great tourist secrets. The beauty is that you just can pitch up and there are often archaeological teams who will explain to you what they’re doing. The history of civilisations here goes back millennia, but many Sudanese themselves are not aware of it.”
The Islamic government’s lacklustre efforts to promote this heritage could be partly due to distractions that include waging domestic wars on various fronts, the breakaway of the south in 2011 and an economic crisis. But some believe there is also an ideological reason. A Meroë expert, not named here to protect his safety, commented: “Politicians are foolish. They want only Islam. If we talk about the ancient god Amun, they think we believe in it. They say there can only be one religion.
“Also, they are paranoid that all foreigners are spies. They should be open minded but they are closed.”
Sudan has fitfully applied hardline Islamic laws and president Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in a coup 25 years ago, has vowed that the next constitution will be “100% Islamic”. Apparently this includes sightseeing.
One Khartoum-based analyst said: “When the government have occasionally talked about tourism, they talk about Islamic tourism. You don’t get the impression they celebrate the history and things they’ve got on their doorstep. I think there’s a reluctance to embrace what they would regard as heathen worship.”
Gaddafi’s Corinthia Hotel
Nor could Sudan’s government ever be accused of making this a user-friendly destination. For those undeterred by the ongoing conflicts in Darfur and elsewhere, or by last year’s violent protests in Khartoum, a visa is required in advance and can be bureaucratic even by African standards. Travellers to Meroë are also obliged to hand over photocopies of their visitor permit at checkpoints along the way.
On arrival in the country, iPhone users who link to gmail may be disconcerted to find their contacts and emails wiped from their handset. Further investigation elicits the message: “Unable to sign in from this country. You appear to be signing in from a country where Google Apps accounts are not supported.”
This is not the only way in which international sanctions make themselves felt. Credit cards are useless in Sudan and only cash will do. Barclays bank used to be here but not any more. Familiar US fast food chains such as Burger King, KFC and McDonald’s are nowhere to be seen, something that many independent travellers may welcome. Instead of Starbucks, there is Starbox Coffee & Restaurant.
But Sudan did have a friend in the slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, manifest in the five-star Corinthia Hotel, built in the 1990s on what used to be the city zoo and resembling a giant glass and steel Easter egg by the Nile. One recent evening, an oil company was hosting a send-off there for one of its executives, while Chinese guests shopped for art and craft souvenirs and glass elevators shot up 18 floors to the Asian-themed Rickshaw restaurant. A receptionist in the gaudy lobby explained that rooms cost $295 a night, while a sign on the desk warned: “Credit cards are not accepted in Sudan.” Outside, a giant photo of The Muppets advertised a children’s cinema.
The Corinthia is part of the jumbled patchwork of architectural styles in dusty, diffuse, sprawling Khartoum, where public spaces are few and far between. The intrepid who come here can view stupendous ancient temples and early Christian paintings at the National Museum, stroll through the colourful Omdurman Souq, find echoes of British colonialism in an old Anglican church, visit the tomb of the Mahdi who famously defeated general Charles George Gordon, watch “whirling dervishes” at the Hamed al-Nil Tomb on Fridays, survey British war graves at a pristine cemetery and sip hibiscus tea on a grass bank by the Nile.
Bin Laden the construction worker
One spot the government is definitely not promoting, however, is the former home of Osama bin Laden in the upmarket al-Riyadh suburb. The future al-Qaida leader moved here from Saudi Arabia in 1991 and invested heavily in agriculture and construction – hence the asphalt road that cut the journey from Khartoum to Meroë to about three and a half hours. But under pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia, Sudan forced Bin Laden out in 1996 and seized some of his personal assets. He moved to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.
Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, a prominent politician who recently quit the government, met Bin Laden once, in 1993. He recalled: “He didn’t have al-Qaida around him then. He was a construction worker. The main thrust of our discussion was the economy. He talked a lot about the potential Sudan has and the restrictions on investors. We never discussed international politics.
“He was very charming, very charismatic and very softly spoken: you could hardly hear his voice.”
Atabani notes that Sudan lacks the hotels, transport and infrastructure for mass tourism and suggests such development would not entirely be positive. “I saw the pyramids in Egypt in the 60s and there were no tarmac roads,” he said. “When I went back, I was disgusted.”
This is the preface to what will hopefully be an actual manual, also titled Shuffa3 Almughtaribeen. Pray for me, y’all.
A letter from the Chairman of the Invisibility Committee.
“Bita3rifi almashla3eeb?” (Do you know what a ‘mashla’eeb‘ is?)
“Tayib, algargareeba?” (How about a ‘gargareeba‘?)
“Tayib, bita3rifi alsifinja? Ma albilbasooha fil kuraa3 – altania” (Okay, do you know what a ‘sifinja‘ is? Not the one you wear on your feet – the other one)
Dear Diaspora Offspring,
These are just some of the questions you’ll hear on your first, third, sixteenth trip to the motherland
Daunting, isn’t it?
We feel your anguish
That’s why we’ve painstakingly prepared this handy manual
To ease your transition into your new place of residence
So on behalf of all of us here at the Invisibility Committee – a loose affiliate of jihaz almughtaribeen (Emigrant Affairs Office)
Welcome to hell.
You might be wondering why we call ourselves the Invisbility Committee
“Inti akhir mara taji feeha alSudan bitain zatu!” (when was the last time you even visited Sudan)
That’s why. You see
You are the bastard children of this country
Your taxation is your representation
And your representation, is in numbers
Of Dollars, Pounds, Dirhams, shiny Euros
You are a sight to behold
Not so much to get to know, though
You are meant to be seen and not heard
Much like a child who doesn’t know how to speak
Nobody really cares what you think
But don’t blame yourself!
It’s not your fault
Because it all started with the original sin
In the form of your parents’ choice to leave the paradise they were in
To seek a “better life” – whatever that means, right?
And as they tucked you into bed every night
They told you stories
Made you pledge your undying loyalty
To people you’ve never met and a place you’ve never seen
Called it ‘home’
Made you repeat it til your mouth was sore
Then sent you out you into the world
Carrying a box of memories you don’t own
And on those days when it got tough
When you were too black to fit in
And too African to be black
And too Arab to be African
And too black to be Arab
You opened it.
Dug through its rose-colored contents
Took a deep breath of the scent of belonging
Then packed it away carefully
Called your parents and told them you were ready
Summer is around the corner, and this year
You were excited to take the trip with the family.
“Hay! Inti bita3rifi taghassili al3idda?!” (You know how to wash dishes?)
“Intu ya nas London bita3rifu tanaddifu?” (You London kids know how to clean?)
They’ll shake your hand, and you’ll feel the urge to pull back
Because your hands are dry enough to light fires
A side effect from scrubbing one too many pots
And more than your fair share of toilets.
“Inti lay bititkalami bel ingileezi?” (Why do you speak in English?)
You’re going to be tempted to answer,
Because I’m ashamed to speak Arabic
Because I bust my lip and crack my jaw trying to ask you how you are
And all I get for an answer is laughter
Because I speak an Arabic that was carved into our cheeks
Tattooed onto our bottom lips
But you’ve deemed this version no longer authentic
No longer cool
Because my grandmother’s gift is a joke to you
Because I don’t feel like it.
These words will press themselves against your teeth
Making them creak
Resist because you are human
Resist because you have nothing for which to be ashamed
Resist because you don’t owe them anything.
Resist because you have as much of a right to this land as any
Resist because you know it on paper, and that paper is the back of your hand
Because it’s yours.
Resist because you have the right to be you.
And if you ever feel any doubt
On how to navigate the choppy waters of acceptance
Pick up this manualAnd let it guide you to safety.
Chairman of the Invisibility Committee
A loose affiliate of jihaz almughtaribeen
Stubborn affiliate of this country.