Siesta by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi

Featuring: Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, Sarah Maguire, Atef Alshaer

The Sudanese poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi is worried about the direction our conversation is taking. He shakes his head and speaks to our interpreter. "It's heading too much towards the political side and I'm not really an expert," he says. "The cultural side is a lot more important."

He's trying to explain how his generation of poets in Sudan have grappled with the country's dual identity - its unique position as part of the Arab world and part of Africa. He's at the centre of a web of multiple identities, a complexity he feels is never reflected whenever Sudan's troubled political situation is discussed.

"In Sudan, Arabic, Islamic and African cultures do not exist in isolation," he says, but politics tends to reduce such nuances to bald oppositions.

The state places Sudanese culture within a larger Arabo-Islamic context, he explains. "My generation is beginning to realise the fact that there is a Sudanese culture, and this culture is quite rich. The Arabo-Islamic tradition is part of Sudanese culture - the other part is about the local African experience."

He's launching a translation project to build bridges between Sudanese writers working in Arabic, English and the 300 African languages spoken in Sudan, such as Hausa and Dinka.

Sarah Maguire, a poet herself and the director of the Poetry Translation Centre at London's School of Oriental and African Studies, sees Al-Raddi's work as an "assertion of his African identity", an assertion which she says is a direct response to policies introduced by president Omar al-Bashir since he seized power in a military coup.

"The whole thrust of Bashir's regime ever since it came to power in 1989 has been to impose an Islamic-Arabist agenda on the whole of Sudan," she explains.

From ‘There is a Sudanese Culture’ by Richard Lea

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