An African city – through a neighbor’s lens

Khartoum Exhibit Flyer - Arabic - w logo

I came to Sudan for a photography/storytelling residency as part of the East Africa Media Lab. Initially my plan was to do a follow up to an URBAMORPHOSIS series that we had begun in Addis. I came and realized however that it might not be as meaningful in the context of Khartoum as I had thought. So I struggled to answer that question. What was I doing here and what angle would this project take? What questions of socio-cultural/political importance would it interrogate, if any? How would I, as a non-Sudanese come and add value to a space that had a rich array of storytellers and documenters capturing everyday Khartoum? I felt stuck and anxious.

On one hand, I argued with myself that as a pan-Africanist, this was my city too. I should feel home in any African country. On the other hand, I couldn’t be audacious enough to believe that I could capture and investigate as I had done with Addis. My reference points – cultural, historical, social, economic and political were nowhere near the same and I was just beginning to learn about everything. I soaked in all the tales and viewpoints that were offered to me, making a mental note to cross-check ‘historical’ references to see if they corroborated or contradicted what I was hearing. I asked many that I met endless questions about this city.

I got a range of responses but most were nostalgic references to a more beautiful, clean, green Khartoum that had character and class. Most seemed to want to return to this time and place before the current regime assumed power and war followed, ravaging the country and leaving it split into more than two pieces. Crippled under sanctions that has frustrated but not prevented people from moving forward.

As this residency comes to a close, I will leave with a deeper appreciation for this country and its people who have endured decades of civil war, a separation of their own and yet still manage to maintain a level of warmth and hospitality that is unmatched anywhere in this world.

What I settled on was a story told through my viewpoint  – Khartoum – through the lens of a neighbor. If you are in Khartoum, make sure to come out and experience this one day exhibit that will be taking place at Impact Hub Khartoum on 117 Street in Riyadh from 2-10PM. See you there.

Khartoum Exhibit Flyer - w logo

AFCON 2012

The 2012 African Cup, also known as AFCON 2012 or CAN 2012 ended with a bang on Sunday. The final match between Cote D’Ivoire’s Mighty Elephants and the Zambian Chipolopolo Copper Bullets was nerve racking and intense. After a full 90 minutes of no goals, the two proceeded to extra time. After 120 minutes of play, there was still no goal in sight. A missed penalty from Drogba was an early disappointment. Interestingly enough, it was also against the Copper Bullets that Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty, reminding us of the painful miss during the World Cup against Uruguay. Chipolopolo seem to have the spirits on their side. Penalty shoot-outs ensued. The most nerve racking and intense but also most action packed part of any game. Each side managed to slot in 5 each. There was uncertainty as Zambia’s Mweene blocked a penalty, however it had to be repeated because he moved from the line before the penalty was taken. The retake resulted in a goal. Sixth and seven penalties were both scored by both sides. The eighth penalty was missed by both. Gervinho stepped up to take the 9th penalty which was blocked by Mweene. The final penalty, that of a copper bullet made it to the back of the net. The highly intense game ended with a whooping score of 8-7.

It was an astounding victory. Few had predicted that the copper bullets would shoot down the mighty elephants. Perhaps, as some commented, it was the spirits of the entire team who perished from the fallen aircraft in 1993 off the coast of Gabon that pushed them as far as they’ve come.This was also a first championship for Chipolopolo.

This wasn’t the first surprise for the African Cup. In fact, it was full of surprises:
To begin with, African giants, Egypt who have 7 championships under their belt didn’t qualify, along with Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana.

No one anticipated that co-hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea would have gone as far as they did, especially considering their qualification was automatic due to their status as hosts. Sudan’s Nile Crocodiles were another pleasant surprise. No-one would have predicted that they would make it to the quarter-finals. The last time they had won a game was 1970. They walked away from the Cup with renewed pride, and rightly so. Zambia’s copper bullets were another astounding breakthrough who have become new favorites. In fact, it was by one copper bullet that Ghana’s black stars were shot down and denied their aspirations to proceed further. Ghana’s black stars were anticipated to go far, and although they qualified for semi-finals, that was as far as they would go. They were also unable to secure 3rd place as Mali’s eagles soared high above the black stars with a score that was a reverse of their previous game with the stars. The score board reflected 2 for Mali and 0 for Ghana. Their previous game had been 2 Ghana 0 Mali.

The 73 that were killed due to unrest in the stadium in Port Said, Egypt drew a grey cloud over the Cup. Moments of silence to respect the dead were dutifully and respectfully carried out at each game after the horrible incident which is the worst in soccer violence since 1996.

Otherwise, the hot, humid and rainy climate in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea didn’t help matters any. Goalies had to deal with slippery balls, players had to cope with slippery pitches. Not to mention that stadiums were pitifully empty throughout the tournament. Why weren’t locals given discounted or even free tickets? Organizers could have given away tickets as prizes on radios, at schools and universities to make sure that the local population benefit and can enjoy having the cup hosted in their countries. Also to boost the atmosphere and morale of the players-I can only imagine how it feels to play surrounded by empty seats. Unfortunately, they don’t hear the cheers and screams of those of us gathered around tv screens and radios to reassure them they’re not playing in vain….

Interesting Facts:

 Sudan is the only team participating in the African Cup to have all its members playing in local leagues.
 Contrastingly, all of the Senegalese players play for foreign clubs.
 The first African Cup consisted of three teams in 1957; Ethiopia, Egypt & Sudan
 Cote D’Ivoire hadn’t conceaded a goal during the entire cup, aside from the penalty shoot-outs.

We won’t have to wait another two years for the next one…it will be hosted by South Africa in 2013 so as not to compete with the World Cup, as well as the European championships….

Enjoy the most beautiful goals of AFCON 2012…


This peace was originally written by 3 women, Agazit, Cassandra, & myself but we opened it up, and asked other woman to also speak their peace. The result was a metamorphis, and a compilation of voices of women from all walks of life: students, teachers, poets, activists, mentors, voices reppin Algeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Mexico, the US and Zimbabwe… if any of you would still like to speak your peace, you’re most welcome to do so….

I’m proud to be a fellow woman-let me now leave you to hear these phenomenal women speaking their peace!!

-Phenomenal women from all walks of life

You have reached the woman
Who keeps her eyes wide open
Her pain closed tight against pessimistic winds
So she can release them in Remembrance deep in the night….
You have reached the woman
Who was never told why she was brought up in North America
Instead of North Africa
Why she could be not be African nor Arab nor American
But every one by different ones…
You have reached the woman
Who asks too many questions
For her own good
Got too educated
And too career-ed
And too into her own dreams
Which are sunflower bright ones.
You have reached Mouna

You have reached the woman
Who believes life is good no matter what
Because we have to create our own peace & happiness
You have reached the woman
Who does not ask GOD for things she would like to have
But thanks GOD for all that she has at this specific time in her life
With complete understanding
That what’s here today may be gone tomorrow
You have reached Mariana

You have reached the woman
Who is a mother trying to raise a woman
Who will stand up for justice and truth
Even if it’s against herself.
Against her loved ones, her community, her nation.
Even if it’s her against the entire world,
She will stand up for what’s right.
Who will be successful not by
Making millions at the cost of others
But by being capable, confident, content
Ambitious and determined.
Who will fix things wrong with this world
Whether she does so with her voice or hands.
Who will find her passions and create.
Pray, love, dance, live, believe.
Laugh, breath, swim, write, sing.
Hope, wish, and achieve.
You have reached the woman who
wishes her daughter will be the change
She wishes to see in the world.
Who will mend the wounds of those who cry
And sew the holes of society.
You have reached Sumaya

You have reached the woman
Who believes in the importance of family and friendship.
Whose experiences have helped define her existence
Without regrets of what was and without fear of what will….
You’ve reached the woman
Who refuses to fit the mold,
Refuses to give in to the expectations
Of the person she’s supposed to be
Instead of being the person she desires to be…
You’ve reached the woman,
Who is outraged by the constant exploitation and killings
Of our people and our land in the name of liberation….
You’ve reached a woman
Whom passion drives her…
Compassion humbles her…
And faith solidifies her….
You have reached Wala

You have reached the woman
Whose words are not buried beneath her tongues,
Who crafts metaphors & similes like
She tends to the garments of her inner untouched souls:
That place she can call her own
You have reached the woman
Who has dared to stop and take stock
And realise the images in the broken mirror are not hers
You have reached Batsirai

You have reached the woman
Who understands that happiness
Cannot be bought, travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed
Who defines happiness as the spiritual experience of living every minute
With love, kindness, grace and gratitude
You’ve reached the woman
Who follows her dreams and travels the road less taken;
Who is always reaching for the stars and beyond;
Like a tree growing and rising upward while firmly rooted to the ground.
You’ve reached the woman
Who inspires and empowers
Who models herself after the movers and shakers and money-makers;
Plus, the trophy-takers, truth-seekers, and peace-makers,
But never the fakers and heart-breakers.
You’ve reached the woman
Who is soft-spoken yet outspoken.
The one who has often fallen yet never once broken.
You have reached Nasim

You have reached the woman
Who is full of contradictions:
Who has everything,
But fears missing out on everything else she doesn’t have;
Who fears commitment,
But also fears a broken promise,
Who wants to be held tight,
But doesn’t want to be held back;
You have reached the woman
Who knows that her abilities are endless; limits do not exist in her world,
Outside of the limits she places around herself.
Who hates being told NO.
Who resents being told to “never mind,”
Because, little do you know,
You have reached the woman
Who would rather die trying than give up
Who is trying to become the kind of woman she would take seriously
A woman who makes her arms strong,
And provides portions for all in her household;
A woman who has the vision and dedication to create & grow;
A woman who one day hopes to fear nothing but God,
As she grows in wisdom, and kindness, and Love.
You have reached Samar

You have reached the woman who
Who is first and foremost
Muslim, African, Ethiopian, Hareri
You have reached the woman who
Hates the sound of unused running water
The sight of an empty lit room
Seeing food turned into trash
You have reached the woman who
Can reach for the stars
And still keep her feet on the ground
You have reached Nebila

You have reached the woman
Who loves to learn but is still counting the days till summer
The woman who longs for peace but finds truth in Fanon
Who breathes in colors,
Dreams in life, dwells in languages
You have reached the woman
Who writes backwards and walks forwards
You have reached Agazit

You have reached the woman
Who speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili
Whose native tongue is Poetrese
Who is as Berkeley as she can be
Runs wild in the global streets
Believes in transformative action
Non violent social change
Who dwells outside of boxes
And cuts up the plastic ringlets on six packs so that wild life does not die
You have reached the woman
Whose country is the earth
Whose favorite book is her passport
You have reached Cassandra

You have reached the women
Who will keep rising
Who will stand tall
Regardless of how many times they fall
Who embrace their fathers, their brothers, their sons
As they do their mothers, their sisters, their daughters

You have reached the women
Who will not ask you—
Who are you to be brilliant, talented, gorgeous, handsome or fabulous?
Rather you have reached the women who will ask you who are you not to be
You have reached the women
Who share the belief that
“Impossible is nothing,
Nothing but a big word thrown around by small men
Who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given
Than to explore the power they have to change it”

You have reached the women who remind you of Audre Lorde:
“Poetry is not a Luxury, but a necessity
And your silence will not protect you”
The women who after years in academia can still comfortably stand up and say
No, we wont put ourselves in your shoes,
We don’t wear the same size/we don’t have the same style

You have reached the women
Who genuflect to the power of language
Whose swords are ballpoint, felt tip and fountain
Who believe that revolutions don’t get televised
They get poeticized, ripped, & spit at open mics
So let us now leave you
To desilence yourselves & perform floetically
In the language of your truth
Translating if you choose

So please, speak your peace
After the beep

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