18 January 2018

SUDANESE CULTURE: Let’s make culture cool again


I recognized her as soon as I saw her; she was ‘mashalakha’ and wearing her toub. In a country far away from home, but I recognized her. She’s Sudanese.

No culture in this world is free from absurdities. No culture is perfect. Although practices such as female genital mutation and facial scarring have been on the decline they are still practiced in Sudan. As educated youth we should try to abolish harmful practices and improve the good ones. Despite everything one would like to focus on the positives.

From our dress – the Toub and Jalabiya, the Markoob and Emma – to our weddings with hands covered in henna, and the loud shrill sounds of celebrations, the jirtik and Sudanese perfumes. If we go back to the roots, our culture is simple, while extravagance is a modern concept. To eating around the lunch tray, which is a way of bringing the whole family together; and the etiquette that should be practiced while eating in this manner.

From the Jabbana to our furniture – Angareb, Bambar to the Mukshasha, a sweeping tool. It is ours. It is a part of who we are. We have high value for family structure and respect our elders in the community, as symbols of wisdom. Our music with the Oud and Dalooka. Culture ties together older generations to new ones and brings us closer together.

Furthermore The Sudanese culture can play a vital and fundamental role in sustainable development. Culture and progress can live side-by-side, the two are not a trade-off. “Culture is precisely the medium through which individuals express their ability to fulfill themselves and is therefore an integral part of development”, vesting in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue UNESCO, 2009.

The Sudanese youth are getting more and more out of touch with their cultural roots, not realizing that culture provides a sense of identity and belonging. It connects us to our ancestors and distinguishes us from others, and in our diversity we are united. If you are Sudanese and think that your culture did not play a vital role in your life, you are foolishly mistaken. And if it really did not, then that is a pity. If we don’t keep passing on our culture to our children then it will be a thing of the past, and that would just be a damn shame.

Our culture seeks to bring people together, the less we practice it the more we lose it, the more we lose it the more we become a people who have nothing to show of our heritage. As people we need that sense of affiliation. Sudanese should give up harmful practices but not our culture. Lets make culture ‘cool’ again.

2 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply to Dina Cancel reply

  • Cordoned
    5 June 2012 at 4:32 am - Reply

    This is an important post. Thanks for sharing.

    I agree that many Sudanese youth today may be loosing touch with their root culture. I myself am born of Sudanese baby boomers. However, I find the premise of this column partially controversial. I hear this line of thought from relatives and family friends repeatedly. The basic premise is that Sudanese youth are loosing touch with their culture and identity. And in this sense, some perceive the change as a threat to these youth. From my own perception, what is in fact inadvertently communicated from many who warn of youth trends is that the majority of Sudanese have a small capacity for nativizing and embracing change. The argument offered is that youth self-identification and identification with the whole will become a problem for many of these fringe youth. But in fact, it’s not the changing youth who’s self-identity comes into crisis. The crisis rests from a culturally exclusive majority who perceive threats from overwhelming cultural forces from abroad. These are not atypical nativist reactions to globalization but I believe though that our fears in this regard can overshoot and harm the potential for positive change.

    Minority Politics

    A future Sudan can no longer be stuck in its usual spell of tradition and nostalgic preservation. The loss of touch with culture and tradition in today’s Sudanese youth is not a problem inasmuch as young Sudanese learn new habits and customs that make them all the better for themselves, to themselves, and to Sudanese good society. Sudan will not cease being Sudan because the youth eat with forks or chopsticks, or like speaking English from time to time. Learning other customs and adopting different cultural hallmarks does not corrode one’s Sudaneseness. It enriches it. That is change. We now wear jeans and t-shirts. We eat ice cream at Tutti Frutti. Sudanese restaurants now serve hamburgers and fries, Shawarmas, and pizza. Ozone Cafe. Posh Sudanese swim at the German Club. This is living. In fact, Sudan is not averse to change. Rather some Sudanese are arbitrarily selective, and at times, i dare say, irrationally fearful of change. But Pepsi-Cola came to us before clean water did in our Capital’s water distribution pipes (access to clean water is still a major pending issue and on another note I read in the 3rd grade that clean water is the first indication that a country is on track to development). But no one protests the cultural threats soda poses to our society. Not so! In fact, the graveyard of soda bottlecaps in Sudanese cities and towns attest to our love for this foreign nuisance of a beverage. English Trifle cake is a favorite hilou (dessert) in many middleclass homes. For breakfast, some have begun to munch on cereal on somedays while preferring eggs and foul on others. On friendly visits to friends and family who can afford to treat guests in authentic Sudanese hospitality, we’re offered a choice of Tang, Miranda, or the more traditional Kerkede (Hibiscus juice). I believe Sudan is more about change than meets the eye. The problem is that access to experiences and new cultures is narrow in Sudan due to economic and political conditions. We need this to change Cheers to that.

    No other country in the world demonstrates the marriage between traditional and outside than modern day Japan. But Japan is not America. It is Japanese. It’s contributions to human civilization are distinctly Japanese (Read of it’s history; it’s a fascinating country). And we Sudanese incidentally are thankful to Japanese automotive technology. We love Toyota SUVs. Wealthy Sudanese love Camry and Lexus, and we don’t blame them.

    “Shoof, Camry!” my traveled female cousin used to exclaim lovingly when one passed as by in Khartoum.
    “Why do these new cars have lights on the doors?” my rejectionist male cousin used to initimate. “Why can’t cars just be simple moving vehicles?” These are the sorts of conversations that told me that Sudan had contrasting perspectives on change.

    The hip youth now enjoy Apple iPhones with Sudanese Telecom 3G services. Women make fashion statements learned from Paris and bought in Dubai. Some Sudanese guys love writing, painting, and rapping, though I take exception with lots of profane and lewd hip hop.

    -Do this and don’t do that.
    -Dress this way, don’t dress that way.
    -Learn to eat with your hands.
    -Unconditionally respect your elders (even if it be up to a fault)

    The list is endless. The room for the youth to breathe, to make mistakes, and to experiment is small. What Sudan needs is to tip the balance in favor of change. For lack of change from the youth leaves countries static, dull, boring and impervious to the spontaneity and growth. Sudanese youth are are bright and yearning for change. Some are now much more exposed to the world, in ways they have never been.

    Here’s a salute to the young Sudanese in Sudan and the rest of the world. Your thoughts, your perspectives, your fashion statements are what make you unique. Embrace change but remember to be the better for it. Be better individuals, not just ‘changing’ and self-serving ones. Be brighter. Bring back the best of other cultures and add to it with your own birthright, your great heritage.

  • Dina
    9 July 2012 at 11:48 am - Reply

    You missed the message of the article, one will change with the times it is inevitable. However, one does not necessarily need to forget their culture. In certain times and at certain occasions culture must play a part, and to always appreciate our culture as it is a PART of who we are. We fit into modern day society but should continue to pass on the good practices of our culture so that generations to come know how the past was, and culture will never be outdated. It is timeless.

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