News / Africa

A young Sudanese poet satisfies hope for better days

Najla Salih presents her poetry as a new view of Sudan, women and beauty during a TED talk on YouTube. (Courtesy Najla Salih)
Najla Salih presents her poetry as a new view of Sudan, women and beauty during a TED talk on YouTube. (Courtesy Najla Salih)
A young Sudanese poet has learned that her blog of English-language short stories and poems has the power to transform. Among those who follow her literary work – and many of her readers are Sudanese in the diaspora – she is called the Nubian Queen.

But the Sudan she writes about at NubianQ is new to her.

Najla Salih grew up far from Sudan but hearing the stories her parents told her about her homeland, she fell in love with it. It was from her mother and father that she learned of golden age Sudan, when the country was filled with what she calls “pure states of mind and transparent hearts.”

They were people she thought of as “the type that would go and do their masters and their PhD in England and the States, but would still come back to Sudan to work so that they can better their country”.

After 17 years and a college education in the United States, Salih returned to Sudan last year and discovered a different Sudan, not just the romantic place she knew from summer vacations.

“Whether it’s what you hear on the news or what your parents tell you or what other Sudanese people in the community tell you, usually it’s negative,” Salih says. “So you become so disillusioned by this over-glorified past of older generations.

“Sometimes it leaves you looking at everything as just not good enough: whatever happens in Sudan, that is. So I owed it not only to my parents but also to myself to see Sudan through my own eyes.”

Listen to Nabeel Biajo's interview with Najla Salih
Listen to Nabeel Biajo's interview with Najla Salihi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


For a year now, the 27-year-old returnee has been traveling and looking at contemporary Sudan. It has enchanted her with all of its complexity.

Salih’s ravaged country

She is subtle in her writing, but she has seen the real Sudan. Here is how on her blog she views her role: “Here to satisfy your hope in better days no matter how ravaged, how unraveled, how hopeless….”

Sudan’s social and political problems need home-grown solutions, she says. Solutions different from those she imagined before coming home.

Watch and listen to Salih read her poetry on TED talk



“I thought I had it figured out basically,” she says. “I come with my background, with my western education and my work ethics and my professionalism …

“For me - at this point and for the past year - I have just basically been observing. I have just been taking in everything that I possibly can and trying to understand”
As a writer, she has learned to use her craft in subtle ways, addressing the societal challenges that face her country with imagery and humor.

“When you want to address an issue… and it may be difficult to talk about. You can’t go about it in a confrontational way. 

“If you do that, you’re going to have the other person be on defensive. They won’t bother to listen. They will just ignore you or they will get offended.”

She takes a humorous approach to take the edge off. “It’s a very dry humor.  It draws their attention and makes them listen.  Then, when they listen and they see the absurdness of it and the wrongness in it, then they take it more easily.”

A reformer’s definition of beauty

Salih says women in Sudan are discouraged from speaking out against gender biases in a predominantly patriarchal, or male-oriented, society.

“They put this idea in girls’ heads that this is something that is very unattractive. It’s not attractive to speak your mind. It’s not attractive to want to talk about what’s going on in Sudan.”

Women in Sudan are expected to only talk about petty things, she says. “What’s happening socially, who wore that, and who did this and who divorced who and who is dating who. It’s just very shallow things.”

Under social pressure, Salih noticed that girls try to conform to social standards of success and beauty. Some are forced to undertake what she calls “detrimental” practices to make themselves appear attractive.

“The fairer you are, the more attractive you’re considered,” Salih says. “The long thick luxurious hair and the curvaceous body.

“They use the whitening cream, and there are shots that you can take. It’s detrimental to their health. And it’s all so that they can conform to the society. So that they can get married and have that wedding.”

The need to conform to traditional Sudan’s sense of physical beauty is a prominent theme on her blog.

“I try to empower. I try to make girls and women feel proud, to feel comfortable in their own skin and - most importantly - to have their own standards.

“It’s alright to have your own standard of beauty and to stand by it and stick to it without feeling guilty or pressured to do other things.”

Salih has learned about the real Sudan, the rich culture and history of the countryside. She says the travel was transformative and she suggests that others do the same. Whether they have lived their entire lives in Sudan or are just visiting, she challenges her readers to travel and learn.

“Not just to stay in Khartoum or whatever city you happen to be in. Just explore Sudan because there is so much.”

The writer has discovered a rich and complex culture, not the idealized version her parents remembered. She wants to make her life in the country she has discovered.

“The more you see, the more you realize that Sudan is worth giving something,” says Salih. In the end, she says, “Sudan is worth it.”

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid