Yet Another un-Mubarak Eid

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sigh. we are ruled by idiots.

Muniness

I remember last Eid ul Adha, people were in a horrid state of shock and depression about the massive blow to the popular peaceful uprising in various states in Sudan. The biggest in recent years, it brought a lot of hope, yet left people tethered and exhausted after burying, what seemed like, an endless stream of young men and women who had fallen victim to a vicious and armed-to-the-teeth government backlash.

سموهو عيد شهيد

Almost a year later, Sudan is sinking deeper in a black hole of despair, loss, conflict and absolute backwardness.

I have a few reasons to withhold “happiness” this Eid.

Maryam Yahya: what an embarrassment to the government; one woman managed to cause an international whirlwind and was such a darling at it. She won the battle and many are now aware of the blatant law violations by the institutions that should be administering, guarding and…

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The Story of the Ritz Lounge, Khartoum.

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I was told** of this case only yesterday and it just struck me how in Sudan we enjoy no rights whatsoever. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

One’s age, gender, social status means nothing. It comes down to one simple fact – you’re either ‘with’ the ruling party and reap the (astronomical) benefits of such an association or you’re on the outer peripheries of whatever inner circle the NCP deems fit to fend for yourself and manoeuvre the myriad of obstacles put into place to ensure you cannot better yourself, cannot succeed, cannot function as a human on any level. So regardless of what your social, financial and educational background is, good luck in trying to make something of yourself.

The Ritz Restaurant/Lounge was a recent welcome addition to the Khartoum scene. Food was reportedly good, service was shit, great decor and location overlooking the Nile on the Garden City side of the river – you’re typical new ‘IN’ place in a city whose residents are starving for spots to escape the crap they face and deal with on a daily basis. 

The owner bought the pricey plot of land and proceeded to set up the lounge. For like a month or so things were going well, word of mouth was doing its usual excellent work of ensuring punters kept going and the tills ringing. All of a sudden during the last week of Ramadan we were told the place shut down, problems with the Mahaleya (the local municipality) regarding the land itself.

Turns out the realtor/agent sold land that wasn’t for sale nor did he have the permission of the owner to sell. Whats more, the real owner was allegedly someone high-up in the ruling party and they were livid. Word is the owner’s the First Lady – (in all actuality she’s the Second Lady but we won’t let such details bother us) who probably got the land for peanuts (assuming she paid in the first place) and was either going to make a killing with it or develop some gaudy, unnecessary, white elephant of a pseudo-government enterprise using public money.

Next thing we hear the Ritz was demolished. Broken into smithereens with nothing left but rubble and broken pieces of concrete. Turns out the Mahaliya gave the owner notice to vacate the premises in the morning, he asked for a ‘grace period’ so he could clear out the furniture and equipment, get his matters into order etc – the usual steps any business owner takes when they’re forcibly shut down especially as its clear he invested quite a bit in setting up the lounge.

By the end of the night there was no more Ritz. Bulldozers were sent in seemingly with the instructions to demolish everything which is precisely what they did. The owner allegedly only had time to save the printer everything else was smashed and broken. This was a hateful, vengeful act ordered by someone high up for the local authorities to act so swiftly as the only time they act in any way and with speed is when they need money from the people or when they have to – dignitary visiting, the tv cameras are coming to shoot something and so on. Warning in the morning, destruction by early evening.

True, end of the day the land was not his but not through his own fault. It’s not like buying plots is a matter of bartering there are legal paperwork and lengthy procedures one goes through before anything can be bought and sold. The Mahaliya should’ve given him to time to vacate but because someone high up was miffed they went in all gung ho like a crime’s been committed. The guys investment is now nothing but rubble. The time, effort and money spent on building & establishing something gone in a matter of minutes. Even if he takes the agent to court (assuming the guy’s still in town) or the mahaliya itself the probability of him getting anything back is minute. It’s just a depressing state of affairs.

If the land belonged to anyone else but a regime insider the matter would’ve and could’ve been dealt with better. But no, the Untouchables were hit and for that there’s a very high price to pay.

In Sudan, the whole populace is adversely hit by the government. Your ethnicity, your gender, your religious faith, your business decisions and choices, your political affiliation, your line of work and business, your attire even make you a target. for anything and everything. The only bracket immune to such violations are those “with them”. George W. Bush said it best: you’re either with us or against us. 10294247_666812690060297_7055158338927882473_n 10383578_666813200060246_8062341218682362124_n 10428571_666812733393626_667016749250649684_n 10422560_666812820060284_4452695104128795473_n

** What I’ve written on this case is based on what I was told, if there’s incorrect or missing info my apologies.

all the pictures are from the Ritz page on Facebook

Open letter from Javier Bardem about the massacres in Gaza

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just one of many written and spoken words on why we shouldn’t stay quiet in the face of the continuing onslaught, killing and violating of the Palestinian people, not just those in Gaza.

guriluri

I have translated this letter written by the Spanish actor Javier Bardem, published today in the Spanish newspaper http://www.eldiario.es
I am not an official translator at all, but I hope this important message comes out correctly:

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As horror is occurring in Gaza there is NO room for equidistance nor neutrality. It is a war of occupation and extermination against a people without means, confined to a minimum of land, without water and where hospitals, ambulances and children are targets and alleged terrorists. Hard to understand and impossible to justify. And the international community’s stance is embarrassing, allowing such genocide to happen.
I do not understand this barbarism, the Jewish people’s horrible history makes it even more cruelly incomprehensible. Only geopolitical alliances, that hypocrite mask of business making- for instance arms trade- explain the shameful position of the USA, the European Union and Spain.
I know that the same people as…

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fruits of the earth – Khartoum’s Souq el Markazi

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Went to one of Khartoum’s fruit and veg markets, سوق المركزي Central Market, this morning with my mum. I sometimes feel and act as a tourist and today I kinda was as I’ve never been to this particular one. Khartoum is renowned for its markets: Saad Gishra which is home to beauty products, fabrics and clothes; Souq Omdurman where you can pick up local artisans work, artefacts, carved ebony pieces, beaded jewellery, carpets, silver items, food items etc and spices; and el Souq el Shaabi (which literally means popular but can also be used to mean something is vulgar) is where you can pick locally made string beds (3angareb عنقريب) and chairs (bambar بمبر) , upholstery and haberdashery, household items… whatever one is looking for, name it and most probably you’ll find it in any of the souqs dotted around the city.

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This is Nabil, one of many young boys operating a wheelbarrow where you place your purchases and continue shopping. He’s beautiful and with the biggest smile ever though he was striking a pose here…

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me dad’s favourite fruit – we were under strict instructions not to come home without his babies ie bananas

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grapefruit, we love them. nothing better than a cold glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice when its a scorching outside. along with sweetened lime and hibiscus juices they’re the number one choice for most.

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the men in the background are separating the lemons (aka limes) & more grapefruit

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one of the numerous mango varieties on sale…

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oranges, oranges and more oranges

For the fruit and veg, all the produce is local with some imported items and generally the prices are much lower than in most high street grocery shops & super markets; plus you can ‘negotiate’ the price down and you buy in bulk which you later divide amongst yourself, sister, aunt etc

The mango varieties alone were confusing, so many and as for the grapefruit its one of our best kept secrets – succulent pink and very sweet.

Ramadan Kareem to y’all

Pinkish Khartoum Sunset

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With Ramadan a few days away the streets were packed. Traffic was beyond horrendous. The flip side of not being able to move I managed to take a pic of a glorious pink sunset over the Nile from Kobar Bridge.

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Alsarah & The Nubatones: The Sudanese singer carving out a slice of East Africa in Brooklyn

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Another Sudanese female making waves in a very hard industry to crack is Al Sarah, of Alsarah and the Nubatones, a musical group that reverts back to its Nubian roots to create sounds that’s familiar, funky and just pure nostalgia with a twist of modern tastes. She also performs with the musical collective The Nile Project, an amalgamation of artists from all the African countries that call the River Nile ‘home’. Check them out as well, some great sounds coming out of that project. 

She did a fashion shoot for Brown Book magazine, showcasing her eclectic funky style.

The Guardian newspaper did a piece on her last year, as did Spin magazine (twice actually), and while you’re at it check them out on Soundcloud.

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‘Alsarah and her band, The Nubatones, came together out of a collective love for the hazy sounds of 1960s and 1970s Nubian music – the traditional sounds of her native Sudan. Mixing the soaring vocals and pentatonic arrangements of the genre with Arabic influences, the band have crafted a sound they call ‘East African retro-pop.’

Alsarah often finds her clothes while travelling in East Africa, combing through the Maasai Mara street markets of Nairobi for jewellery and trawling Zanzibar for fabric and tailors to create one-off garments. Styled by her friend Zola Zakiya, Brownbook spent a day with Alsarah in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights for our latest fashion shoot.’Image

 

Finding Filigree

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time for the good Sudanese stuff. 

Maya Antoun is a St. Martin’s school of design educated jewellery maker. Currently residing in the UK, her aim is to continue the long tradition of filigree jewellery making. Gorgeous stuff. I want every piece.

Lovely interview with her in Brown Book magazine.

“Sudanese jewelry designer Maya Antoun chooses filigree as her craft in an effort to keep the tradition alive in her homeland

Every day, Sudanese craftsmen emerge from their workshops and set up their market stalls in the heat of the African sun. The traditional jewellers create amazingly intricate, delicate pieces with nimble hands – each as individual as the last. However, the future of the craftsmen’s fine-spun works is in jeopardy and this is something that jeweler Maya Antoun aims to correct.

Born and raised in Khartoum, Antoun attended Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and has since made a home in the south of England with her British husband. The designer works with Sudanese craftsmen to bring their ethereal filigree accessories to the rest of the world.

‘I concentrate on filigree because it’s a difficult craft to accomplish and it’s a work-intensive technique – basically not a lot of people are doing it any more. One of the main reasons I started working with the craftsmen in Africa is that it’s a technique that’s dying out; you don’t really see it [filigree] a lot in contemporary jewellery,’ tells us.

Filigree is a time-consuming technique that often takes years to master. The pieces form their shape when hairline strips of twisted silver and gold thread are manipulated and shaped into varying patterns. The meticulous, time-consuming metalwork is occasionally teamed up with delicate beading that adds both variation and detail.

Antoun, who champions this technique in her own jewellery, relies heavily on the use of traditional African shapes to grace her designs, which while delicate are also striking. Fan shaped pieces sit in juxtaposition, creating splayed effects. Antoun’s pieces aim to bring traditional techniques into the modern age, thus bringing their appeal to a wider audience.

‘The pieces I make use very traditional techniques but are more contemporary so that people become interested. Usually, the craftsmen make very traditional pieces which are quite boring and repetitive; the idea was to use a very traditional technique but make something very modern, very contemporary,’ she says.

In order to master the difficult skills, Antoun teamed up with craftsmen from her homeland. She learned from them and is now trying to repay the favour by opening up more collaborative efforts between the African craftsmen and global designers. As well as trying to develop new markets in Africa, she also brings the work to Western markets.

With family still living in Sudan and her upbringing in the country, Antoun says her homeland has definitely influenced her designs.

‘A lot of people hear a lot of bad things about Sudan – it’s one of those countries that get a lot of bad press; the same as the Congo.’ Antoun, who initially started her career training to be a fashion designer, but later found her niche in jewellery, also spent a year living in the Congo working with local craftsmen to create and exhibit her work.

While the war in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo continues, the rest of the country goes about their daily business, she explains. ‘They are not affected by what goes on around them.’ This was also the case during her childhood in Khartoum, which she describes as ‘idyllic’ and very much separate from the conflict in the rest of Sudan.

‘There’s war in eastern Congo, but in Kinshasa they’re just going to their jobs, going to school, getting on with it and are quite unaffected by what’s happening in the rest of the country,’ she explains. ‘That was what it was like for us.’

‘I decided while I was there I wanted to learn a traditional craft, so I hooked up with a craftsman in the market and asked to come to his stall every day for a few hours and learn – he was very happy to teach me. I got a hands-on experience of what was going on, what they were doing and how they were marketing their products. That’s when I realised something had to be done because they all had incredible skills, but the craft was dying out,’ she says. Learning the technique originally stemmed from a project she was undertaking for her Master’s Degree, she explains, but then it turned into something of a passion.

It was also quite a novelty for a woman to be learning the filigree technique at the markets of Kinshasa as the metal-working industry in Africa is male-dominated; which includes the wire work featured in Antoun’s filigree jewellery.

However, the designer has been using the technique now for some years now and has made friends in the market, ‘people are very friendly and protective of me now.’

It works well for the designer to be based between her home country and her adoptive country despite the fact she has to overcome some logistical problems.

‘It’s a bit of a struggle because I’m dealing with a lot of different aspects that constitute the craft of the trade; Sudan is a country with a lot of political problems at the moment,’ she says. ‘I’m not only dealing with trying to make jewellery, it’s a bigger struggle than that.’

She has also found opportunities to collaborate with fellow Sudanese designers in London. After meeting Omer Asim through mutual friends, Antoun has fused her jewellery designs with Asim’s fashion. Together the designers create pieces that place a contemporary twist on a traditional and more ethnic aesthetic.

Having grown up in the same country, Antoun says, they create an ideal sounding board for each other and often run new designs by one another before they go public.

‘We collaborate here together in London and so I do tend to have input in what he’s doing and we do work on the same projects but not necessarily designing – more to support each other,’ she explains. ‘It just so happens that our sensibilities are similar; we work very well together.’

Antoun’s creations were coupled with Asim’s pieces for the On/Off Event in London, 2010. On/Off is a platform that aims to promote up-and-coming fashion designers and creatives through a multimedia format that takes place twice a year at London and Paris fashion weeks.

Currently working on a new collection she is hoping to collaborate with other artists and introduce new materials. Selling her pieces online and at various outlets, the designer hopes the Western world will learn to love and appreciate the filigree skills from Africa so that the craftsmen at home will be continue to practice their trade.”ImageImage