23 February 2018

On Recovering My Sudanese Identity

I’m with a group of friends, miles away from my home, Sudan, where I’ll be in a few days. We’re grieving. I am the first within our close group to go, and it’s hard. Trying to lighten the mood, one of my friends laughs that I can befriend camels and donkeys. Another assures me I’ll get married off soon, anyway. The tension is gone and we spend the next few minutes joking about the doom of going back to Sudan. I laugh and join in, ignoring the repeated intermittent stabs of guilt. Joke – “but this is your country” – joke – “and you’re making fun of it?” – joke ­– “You don’t deserve to call yourself Sudanese.” I mentally flick the voice away like an irritating fly. “I’m allowed to mess around ‘cause I’m from there,” I tell myself. “Right?”


(Image: Kurious/PixaBay)

(Image: Kurious/PixaBay)

Now I’m home. Looking back, I’m ashamed. I have given others a license to degrade my country, my people and, by proxy, my grandfather, mother and father — who are all Sudanese. I have consistently trumpeted my nation’s flaws followed by poor redeeming statements. Shouldn’t I be a better representative? Shouldn’t I remind myself, and others, that there was a time when Sudan was advanced, even by Western standards? I probably should. But I can guess the retort: “Well, even if that’s so, it isn’t really the case anymore, is it?” And to an extent they’d be right. We suffer from disorganization, a failing economy, bad management and general apathy. Factually, these flaws predominantly exist.

But, honestly, I’m tired of humiliating my country. I’m tired of inviting, instigating attacks based on my own misinformation. I’m tired of giving people the satisfaction of inferred superiority because they are Western. Most of all, I am tired of believing I am superior because I’ve been Westernized. Now I know that when people ask me curiously what Sudan is like, I will tell them this:

Once, our roads were paved and clean. The education was good. People prospered. Our Meroe pyramids pre-date those in Egypt, as does the legacy of the Nubians, whose blood still courses through the veins of many. In the flesh of our land merge the two arteries of the River Nile, with a fertility that nurses copper, iron, uranium, oil, and gold in its womb. Gold that adorns our women like chandeliers. Our air, though dry, breathes life into trees that produce gum Arabic, without which no one in the world could enjoy Coca-Cola. Although our buildings and cars do not gleam, our pride, generosity, and hospitality do. Our artists are rising; producing work as rich as our history. This country can be frustrating but when asked from whence we came we will proudly say “Sudanese”. When we arrive from our travels to a stuffy, dirty airport, we still smile to ourselves, because we are home.

And although I love the West for all its beauty and freedom and opportunities, deep, deep down, I still love Sudan a little more.

3 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply to Yasseen Abdel-Moneim Cancel reply

  • Yasien
    28 September 2016 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    Proude to be SUDNIE 🙂 we still here .

  • Reem Gaafar
    29 September 2016 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Thank you Nadine.

  • Yasseen Abdel-Moneim
    30 September 2016 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    It was April 6th 2015 when I get the awful news that my Sudanese father had passed away. I was just with him two weeks prior in the northwest of England where he used to come to visit us ever three months. Even though it has been27 years since I was last on Sudanese soil I was not nervous about going back to where I was raised till I had reached 16 years of age. Despite the sad circumstances I felt I was home. My numerous cousins never left my side for 10 days keeping me busy and taking me to the graveside, I’d missed the burial, and doing all the things that one does during mourning. Although I live in the uk, I frequently return to take care of the affairs of my father and use this to reconnect with all that I hold dear in this world. Family, fullness of life and kindness. I could shake Sudan out of me even if I tried.

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