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The Saturday Salon: April 29 edition
Welcome back to our fortnightly cultural gathering. This week, we focus on the crisis taking place in Sudan.
Sudan is in crisis.
The country situated in Northeastern Africa along the Red Sea is currently witnessing intense military clashes between waring generals. The conflict has resulted in a humanitarian crisis with thousands of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries while foreign countries are shuttering their embassies and evacuating personnel.
The fighting, which began on April 15, is between rival generals: Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who leads the Sudanese military, and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group that is vying for power. Meanwhile, the citizens who once called for freedom and democratic governance are caught in the crossfire. So far, more than 400 people have been killed and more than 4000 have been injured.
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The RSF was founded by the country’s former president Omar al-Bashir, who used the militia to crush a rebellion in Darfur more than 20 years ago. The group is known for widespread human rights abuses and war crimes.
During the 2019 revolution, the RSP worked with the military to oust Bashir. However, neither entity had any intention of handing over power to civilians who led the protests.
Before Sudan could transition to a democratic government, the Sudanese military, led by al-Burhan, took control of the government in a military coup. However, relations with the RSF continued to deteriorate.
Now, the two generals are poised to continue their violent power struggle—a struggle that will sink Sudan into deeper socio-economic despair.
Given the current conflict, it was an obvious choice to focus much of this week’s cultural gathering on Sudan.
Welcome back, friends, to the Saturday Salon.
Following Sudan’s independence in 1955, the newly established country underwent a cultural renaissance that is often regarded as its golden era. The diverse music that emerged during the 1960s-70s embodied the hopes and dreams of the new nation, as well as its political aspirations. It was a glorious time for a glorious people.
However, this renaissance did not last. In 1983, the army colonel who took over Sudan in a coup in 1969, dealt the country’s music scene its first blow when he instituted an extreme interpretation of Islamic law that limited musical expression. Hardliner Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in 1989, made matters worse by banning and purging the music from Sudan’s golden era, fearing its ability to unite people and remind them of their long-forgotten dreams. Some musicians were even assassinated.
Sayed Khalifa - Oh My Motherland
Sayed Khalifa is one of the artists that best represent’s Sudan’s golden age. This happens to be one of the compositions he wrote during Sudan’s independence.
My heart is drowning in love for you
I am so proud of you
I pledge my life to you
Mohammed Wardi - Hand Over the Keys to the Country
Nubian artist Mohammed Wardi is another one of Sudan’s most recognizable artists from the golden era. He was routinely imprisoned for his left-wing activism while his music was censored. He was forced to go into exile when the Islamist coup took control in 1989.
Noori & His Dorpa Band — Saagama
The 2019 revolution in Sudan breathed new life into the country’s music scene. It also revitalized some of the country’s traditional music, including a genre native to Sudan's eastern desert region called Beja.
“A truly ancient community, Beja trace their ancestry back millennia. Some say they are among the living descendants of Ancient Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush. Beja melodies—nostalgic, hopeful and sweet, ambiguous and honest—are thousands of years old. The Beja community has been on the forefront of political change in Sudan for decades because successive Sudanese governments have turned a blind eye to their calls for recognition and access to the gold wealth of their own soil. Noori believes an unleashing of Beja music would form the most potent act of resistance in their quest for equity and justice.”
And I’d be remise not mention the rise of Sudanese hip-hop in the wake of the 2019 revolution.
Ibobai - Kadab
Shameless Self Promotion
Combat sports have emerged as a tool for recruiting soldiers, platforming wartime propaganda, and as a target of international sanctions.
Outlets such as Fox News will continue to call on the UFC whenever its executives or fighters publicly share views that match their right-wing talking points.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kadyrov has also begun positioning his sons not just as skilled fighters but as future politicians, and even trained soldiers, to secure his dynastic lineage.
With less than a month to go until Turkey’s general election on May 14, 2023., Enes has continued to lobby Congress and Senate about Erdoğan and the human rights issues in Turkey. He wrote letters to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and attempted to engage with President Joe Biden, neither of whom responded despite the threat facing a U.S. citizen.
“How can a foreign government put a bounty on an American citizen’s head on U.S. soil?”
“On Tuesday, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said it was expecting 270,000 refugees to cross into Chad and South Sudan, including South Sudanese returning home. It did not have projections for Egypt or Ethiopia, where many fleeing from the capital, Khartoum, have headed, or for other neighbouring countries. The UNHCR estimated that, so far, up to 20,000 refugees have crossed into Chad from Darfur, and 4,000 into South Sudan.”
“Mounds of luggage pile up next to crowds of hungry and exhausted people, including children, chronically ill people, and elderly men and women. They wait in the scorching April heat without food, water, sanitary toilets or access to basic healthcare before crossing into Egypt.”
“Across India, an army of militantly oriented, fiercely independent, yet socially conservative women leaders is fast emerging in Hindu nationalist circles. These women are ambitious, educated and often economically independent. Products of a post-liberalization India, they have had greater access to education and jobs than their counterparts in previous generations. Having experienced both social and economic freedoms, they no longer want to play a secondary role to men.”
The WNBA is projected to bring in between $180 million and $200 million in combined league and team revenue this year, up from about $102 million in 2019, according to people familiar with the matter. But players won’t see any of that extra bounty.
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Arguments & Essays
“Journalism is in a sorry state, precisely because so much of it has been entrusted to for-profit entities that realize it’s much easier to make money pumping garbage into people’s heads than telling them things they ought to know.”
“I am writing this from Egypt, having completed a chaotic, two-day journey from Khartoum with my husband, children, sister, aunt, cousins and dozens of other people from across the world. The sound of gunfire and shelling is gone. We are safe. But this is no thanks to the UK government or British embassy in Sudan, both of which totally failed us. We are safe because we took matters into our own hands.”
“Modern Egypt is peculiar in that it has endured some 2,400 years of nearly uninterrupted colonization. Not only are those years lumped together with the rest of Egyptian history as part of the post-1952 military coup nationalist narrative proclaiming 7,000 years of civilization, but none of those occupiers seem to trigger the appropriate feelings of hostility they deserve. If anything, modern-day Egyptians seem to have developed a collective Stockholm syndrome-esque sense of affinity toward the foreigners who occupied and ruled us, both as rulers and as nations.”
“In Cairo, I am always waiting. I wait through, and for, mundane and extraordinary things. Daily, I wait to cross the street. Regularly, I wait for the electricity or water to come back on in my apartment. Every six to nine months, I wait on a rickety bench for my visa renewal at the passport office. As a historian, I wait for archivists to bring me documents overflowing with answers to questions I ask of people no longer with us. I wait on friends and bureaucrats and archivists as they become the agents through which the logic of Cairo time plays itself out. Some days are slow and others are fast, but I am always waiting.”
“Abuse in sport in Canada is complex, decades old, and entrenched, so there was tremendous pushback from some stakeholders on my safe sport initiatives, particularly from Hockey Canada, which has since been forced to make major changes to its leadership after horrific reports of abuse.”
“There hasn’t been a single day on Twitter in the past 5-7 years where I haven’t encountered some sort of anti-trans slur or deliberate misgendering being tossed my way. It’s just how things have always been.”
“If we actually want a better world for working writers, we need a better world for all working people. That means more and stronger unions, free healthcare for all, free college, much more generous unemployment, universal basic income, the decriminalization of poverty—all the boring stuff that requires political solidarity and for which you don’t generally get celebratory check marks. Workers of the world, fucking unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. And maybe your stat counters.”
Hydropower | Ann Neumann for The Baffler
Egyptians look at their neighbors from the south as a threat to their future—not because they come looking for jobs, but because they come from Ethiopia, a country that, in their eyes, has control over the waters of the Nile.
Opening up what has long been known as “the gentleman’s game” sends a powerful psychological message to hundreds of millions of women and girls in what will soon be the world’s most populous country. Gender roles remain rigid in India, where only about 20 percent of women are employed in the formal work force, one of the lowest rates globally. If the country is to meet its full economic potential, it must chip away at that gender divide.
The 'Spider-Man' of Sudan: the real-life superhero of the protest movement – The Guardian documentary
In Sudan's capital, Khartoum, an anonymous protester dressed as Spider-Man joins the hundreds of thousands of protesters desperate to protect their fragile civilian government after the military coup in October 2021. 'Spidey' has become well known on social media for leaping from billboards and scaling the tops of buildings while dodging teargas. However, it's his work with some of the poorest children in Khartoum that has shown him to be a positive focus for the resistance, helping a new generation to know their worth and take pride in their country's rich heritage
Stay or flee: Residents in Sudan face a difficult situation | Al Jazeera
Hear son’s desperate plea to get parents out of Sudan
Sword dance and traditional music from the Bataheen and Shukria tribes (Eastern Sudan)
THE LITERARY HUB
This week’s recommendation is inspired by the ongoing crisis in Sudan. It also happens to be one of my favorite novels of all time: Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih.
I have read this book countless times, both in the original Arabic as well as the highly impressive English translation by the late Denys Johnson-Davies, and it never fails to leave a cutting impression on me. It is a powerful and poignant critic of Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness that assess the world in terms of post-colonial power relations, social constructs, and the issue of “otherness.”
Fair warning: this book is not for the faint of heart and does feature depictions of violence, suicide and sexual assault. However, it remains one of the most powerful works I have ever consumed. It is also arguably the best Arabic-to-English translation I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Take the time to find and read this book. You won’t regret it.
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Sudan is currently in the midst of a devastating humanitarian crisis. The ongoing violence has forced thousands of people to flee their homes, leaving them without access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, and medical care. The situation is dire and demands urgent action.
If you are in a position to help, please consider donating to charities and humanitarian organizations that are working tirelessly to provide aid to those affected by the crisis. Your support can make a real difference in the lives of people who are struggling to survive in incredibly challenging circumstances.