Yasmine ElNour (Kandaka.khronicles) Tandem: An Opportunity to Explore Similarities and Differences Somewhere Else Corinne Grassi joined the Tandem 360 programme with Siwa Platform in Tunisia. Together with her Tandem partner Maya Gadir from Mavrix in Sudan, they collaborated to focus on communities who are neglected and marginalised to raise awareness on their common challenges and obstacles and develop activities and workshops to provide applicable solutions suitable for both environments. Corinne visited Khartoum in August 2021. She tells about her encounters and what she learned in this story. 249 writers I visited Khartoum during the last two weeks of August 2021. I have been working and living in Egypt and Tunisia since 2009, experiencing the arts scene and creativity of the MENA region over these years, through the Arab springs (and winters…). I always wanted to take part in the Tandem programme since it existed, in order to meet, to discuss and to work with other people involved in cultural activities from various Arab countries. In the middle of the COVID crisis, I got my chance to take part in Tandem 360° on behalf of Siwa Plateform Tunisie that wanted to create contacts with sub-Saharan countries. After the first session we started to develop a collaboration project with Maya Gadir from Mavrix in Sudan. Al-Hal Fi Al-Fan I dreamed of visiting Sudan for a long time, especially since I worked with Sudanese colleagues as a UN Volunteer in The Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2005. While living in Alexandria, I had many friends with Nubian heritage and connected with them through music, their overall spirit and, over the years, I experienced more exchanges with people from Sudan through a street theatre project we co-organised in Alexandria with ElMadina Arts in 2015. I have also visited Aswan once and enjoyed speaking with people at the market, with the women on a small boat crossing the Nile to a guesthouse. Two years ago, I watched the beautiful documentary film Talking about trees by Suhaib Gasmelbari which follows three Sudanese filmmakers trying to revive a cinema in Khartoum and it was a nice surprise to meet Manar el Hilou, one of them, unexpectedly while visiting the Omdurman Cultural Centre. All these pieces in my mind created a dream as I wished to discover the country and meet its people. Capital Radio 91.6 FM, Khartoum Deciding to travel to Sudan was a long process due to the COVID situation worldwide and the political instability in Sudan. But my wish to visit the country was stronger than any fear. I have travelled many times to places with unstable contexts and COVID was getting worse in Tunisia where I could not return for a year. It is as if the pandemic had frozen us. All year, I have been reflecting on how we can live differently to preserve nature as things are not improving for the planet, but the frustration of not being able to move for so long, and meeting people only through the internet pushed me to do the step. Brahim Ahmad, aka ‘’Snoopy’’ With Maya we had many common interests, working on projects with music, on Sufism, on changing narratives, focusing on community and women empowerment, social entrepreneurship, as well as the phosphate exploitation. I wanted to feel, smell, hear, see the country from as many angles as possible and I started to research, queried for advice in my network about civil society actors, artists, journalists, researchers I could meet to explore potential future collaborations. In addition to Maya’s suggestions, I found lots of names of people and organisations. At the same time, I was reading The Jungo – Stakes of the Earth by Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin and felt that Sudan was a much more complex country than the image I had built up over years. Sudan Film Factory Travelling on the dusty roads of Khartoum, searching for the way on streets darkened by the lack of electricity, going against a sandstorm, knowing that Maya, like many people in the country, was facing electricity cuts brought me back to previous trips I did to Burkina Faso, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and to Mauritania. And at the same time, I felt lots of Arabic influences in daily life, from language to food and music. I felt back in Yemen, the Middle East, or the Gulf in some of the restaurants, in Egypt when I spoke with one member of Aswat Al Madina, a famous band in Khartoum, or when I was told we go for breakfast which for me was lunchtime. Was it because I was stuck for a year in France that I seemed to have forgotten that relation to time can be really subjective and not everyone relates the same way to schedule and timing? And the same different perception goes for distance in a city with not much access to public transportation. I also observed remains of the British period when for example we were visiting Khartoum University with buildings reminiscent of Oxford or Leeds. An interesting thing I noticed from the start is the quick adaptation of the Sudanese to modern technologies despite of not having such a good internet connection; in using digital payment for Uber taxi (easier and cheaper to get than a usual taxi) for example, or for navigating locations with Google Maps. As I felt in the book I was reading, I realised that the population of Sudan is a real mix. When people asked me after the trip ‘how do Sudanese are like’ I really could not say. Khartoum feels like a real melting pot. I felt that there have been, and probably there are still, lots of movements across borders between Sudan and all surrounding countries and also with the Gulf countries. I learned that there is a small Greek community in Sudan during my visit to Athinea square, with its many crafts shops, mainly in ebony and leather, and tea ladies. Aswat Almadina Over the two weeks I was in Khartoum, I had the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people and organisations I would like to mention to anyone planning to visit Khartoum and Sudan or at least if someone would like to get in contact with Sudanese cultural actors, especially in this period when it is important to get different points of views then the governmental one. There are several international NGOs in Sudan working on humanitarian support, development and cooperation, empowerment, support to civil society. But we did not aim to meet them in this first visit. My trip took place just few weeks before the military coup on 25 October 2021. All the people we spoke with insisted more than once that they do not want a military regime again. This explains the confrontations, demonstrations and determination of the population since the coup. People we talked with were often mentioning that Sudan has been cut from the outside world for thirty years and that the regime in place has destroyed the diversity feeling, creating tensions between communities. The political and socio-economic situation has created a brain drain to Gulf countries. However, people we meet in Khartoum were full of enthusiasm for the future, full of creativity and ideas to change their country. Nisreen Kuku Hani Khalil Jawdat Community empowerment Womens’ Development Network of Kuttum, Darfur The network deals with women affairs and challenges in the villages and marginalised communities in Darfur Region who suffered from war which fuelled long-lasting tribal conflict and dispute. The network focuses on empowering Sudanese women from marginalised communities and Internally Displaced Persons to speak up about their urgent issues to find solutions and raise awareness among the locals by spreading unity, equality, diversity and inclusion. Sobajo, Khartoum A social enterprise specialised in creative craft. It carries out both cultural activities and workshops to promote Sudanese culture and training for women and street children. They propose workshops open to anyone and with what participants pay they can work with their target group. Capital Radio 91.6 FM, Khartoum Sudan’s first English speaking radio station founded by Taha El Roubi, covering 100km around Khartoum and online. Broadcasts include music, talk shows, breakfast news where young people feel free to express themselves, to discuss issues such as harassment, equality, gender… The radio has especially promoted and empowered Hip Hop groups. Share Zone, El Fasher – Darfur First Hub outside Khartoum created because there was nothing for young people. The platform aims to support start-ups, youth led organisations and creative projects in Darfur region on how to start, grow, flourish and sustain in the long term. Young entrepreneurs, leaders, volunteers and artists could come to share their ideas, opinions and available instruments in collaborative way, while the platform provides them with co-working space and capacity building. Shorrti شورتي, Khartoum An NGO founded by Sondos Ayoub to reflect the soul of every city and village around Sudan, organising cultural events and cultural trips inside and outside Khartoum, raising awareness on local heritage and resources, respectful tourism. Galal Yousif Goly Civil Society Omdurman Cultural Center A civil society collective working on Human Rights issues through arts, offering space to all kind of activists and artist groups. Looks like a bee’s factory with people from different generations, juniors to seniors working and volunteering in civil society and arts. EUNIC Sudan Supports the creative sector, develop the skills and capacities in the arts and culture sector, and promote Sudanese artists locally and abroad. This is part of the network of European Union National Institutes for Culture engaging in cultural relations for knowledge sharing and for capacity building amongst its members and partners. CEDEJ Khartoum French Centre for Economic, Legal and Social Studies carrying out collective research programmes about contemporary Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan Memory Project / مشروع ذاكرة السودان A digitisation project dedicated to conserving and promoting Sudanese cultural and documentary heritage. Bakri Moaz jack Arts During our visit, visual arts (cinema, painting and graffiti) seemed to be the most active field in Sudan. We met or saw some work from: Sudan Film Factory Launched in 2010 and coordinated by Talal Afifi. It is an independent platform which aims at reviving the film industry as well as developing the infrastructure of film making in Sudan and building the capacities of young Sudanese artists. Brahim Ahmad, ‘’Snoopy’’ A very active and militant filmmaker. He directed Journey to Kenya following the Sudanese martial art team going by bus to an international championship in Kenya. He is also documenting the sittings and uprising in Sudan. Ala Kheir has founded The Other Vision (TOV) A platform for education, networking, and raising awareness specifically for photographers and also the general public in Sudan, aiming to advocate for photography to enable social engagement. أصوات المدينة – Aswat Almadina A band created seven years ago to share vision on the community through lyrics that the public associate with. I discussed with Ibrahem Ahmed, one of the band members, about the way they involve their public in developing their lyrics. It was nice to also discover that he knew most of the Egyptian musicians I met and photographed when I was living in Egypt. One of their songs Halaly. 249 writers First street art/graffiti crew in Sudan. It was founded in 2016, advocating for the culture of street art in Sudan, as well as making art more accessible for everyone. It aims to address and participate in solving community issues through street art and the beautification aspects of the streets. @flyoking and @bash.249 took me in the neighbourhood where the collective did several murals and explained how they started and work today. It is interesting to know that there are several female artists. They offered me “Tasqot- the art of revolution”, which documents the murals and graffiti made during the sitting-in in Khartoum in 2018-2019. Al-Hal Fi Al-Fan الحل في الفن A collective of young graffiti artists that has been making murals around the country commemorating key events of the revolution, celebrating international days such as Women’s Day and Human Rights Day, showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter and other international movements, and spreading health awareness during the pandemic. Abo Samra and his friends took me to see different murals they realised in the last years. Adlan Youssif A young sculptor from Darfur. We did not meet him but we had the chance to see Transformations recycling spare parts, his powerful exhibition at the French Institute. Mojo gallery An art gallery promoting Sudanese art and artists, lots of young artists, from all around Sudan. Dabanga Gallery Has lots of paintings from several Sudanese artists. Nisreen Kuku Creator of handmade jewellery inspired and designed from old jewellery from all over Sudan. Nisreen is also documenting traditional artefacts in each region of the country and create a new collection once a year. College of Music & Drama We met with the dean and some professors to discuss the situation of arts and especially the stage of theatre in Sudan. The college has very little means to work with the students, even if they have a nice theatre space. Meeting peers from other cities or countries would probably help to revitalize the institution. and more artists: Hani Khalil Jawdat, Bakri Moaz jack, Yasir Algari, Almogera Abdalbagea, Galal Yousif, Goly, Yasmine ElNour (Kandaka.khronicles) and Waleed & Mohamed Warrag. Sufism Sufi ceremony Every Friday afternoon there is a Sufi ceremony at Al Shakh Hamd Alneed graveyard. Waiting for the Sufi ceremony at a tea lady, some people came to sit with us. They wanted to know what I thought of Islam, and which religion was, in my opinion, the best. When I said I probably know more about other religions than the one I was baptised in, and that I’m not a believer they were surprised that I was here. A wise man started to tell others that I was serving better his religion with my openness than those Muslims who forbid many things. The Sufi community has been suffering under previous regimes. Omdurman Market Omdurman market Omdurman market is the largest souk of East Africa. This ancient souk exhibits all types of handicrafts, artefacts, souvenirs and various items of Sudanese life besides all usual products you can find on a market. We spent about three hours there, and that was just enough to get an idea of the place with all its smells, colours and people working there. There are probably lots of stories one can collect here. See more pictures from Corinne on her Facebook picture album, click here. In our next story we will read about Maya’s placement visit.