Part of: Late Winter Poetry Translation Workshops 2023 Hassaniya Arabic Poetry by Saharawi poet Zaim Allal

Online via Zoom

In the final workshop of this online season, we will be translating the work of Zaim Allal a famous Saharawi poet who is living in a refugee camp in Algeria. The guest translator for these sessions will be Hamza Lakhal. Allal’s poetry is composed in Hassaniya, a variety of Arabic found in many African countries that is not mutually intelligible with other varieties of Arabic but is recognised as a language of national identity in Mauritania. The Saharawi people have a highly mixed heritage, combining Arab, Berber and other North African tribal elements.


Hamdi Uld Allal Uld Daf (better known as Zaim Allal) is a famous saharawi poet who was born in Hawza, Western Sahara in 1957. He was an activist against the Spanish colonialisation of Western Sahara and he joined the ranks of the revolution led by the POLISARIO after the Moroccan invasion. Zaim Allal was a fighter among the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) against the Moroccan occupation since 1978, and these experiences are most clearly reflected in his poetry. In his journey, he has held many positions in the SPLA and the Saharawi State in the refugees camp in Algeria. He served as the Director of Musical Arts and Popular Traditions in the Ministry of Culture, and since 2020 the function of Creativity and Promoting Talents was added to his responsibilities.

Guest Translator

Hamza Lakhal is a poet, activist, and translator. He was born in El Aaiun, capital of Western Sahara, eight years after the 1975 invasion of his country by Morocco. His first poetry collection, A Destiny in Windblown Poetry published by L’Harmattan-RASD, talks of a young man’s passion for his violated but resistant homeland.

Workshop Facilitator

Kostya Tsolakis is a London-based poet and journalist, born and raised in Athens, Greece. A Warwick Writing Programme graduate, he is founding editor of harana poetry, the online magazine for poets writing in English as a second or parallel language, and in 2020-21 was co-poetry editor at Ambit. His debut poetry pamphlet Ephebos is out with ignitionpress. In 2019, he won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, ESL category, judged by Jackie Kay. His poems have appeared, among others, in Stand, Magma, The Tangerine, perverse and Wasafiri. He is a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. His first full-length collection of poetry, Greekling, will be published in October 2023 by Nine Arches Press.

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