The Role Of Culture In The Struggle For Independence In Sudan

The Role Of Culture In The Struggle For Independence In Sudan


- Dr. Lamya Shamt:

The critical contributions of Amin ali Madani had an important role in the formation of awareness.


- Dr. Ezzeddine Hilali:

Graduates' General Congress was a purely cultural entity.


- Novelist and writer Issa El Helou:

Independence in Sudan was linked to the search for identity.


- Critic Amer Mohammed Ahmed:

Salon culture crystallized the question of identity.


KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Culture played a major role in the independence of Sudan as the first contribution to the struggle against colonialism was through the pillar of culture. Effectively, in the Revolution of 1924, the educated class and the intellectuals contributed to the establishment of intellectual and cultural framework of this revolution and were behind the formation of the Graduates' General Congress in 1938. The latter was the basis of the Sudanese political movement and the impetus for opposing British administration of Sudan and demanding independence. Also, many intellectuals played a tremendous role in promoting the Sudanese Afro-Arabic identity by highlighting the history of civilization of Sudan and reflecting it on the colonial present thus anticipating the National State. Many thinkers and intellectuals see that the independence of Sudan was a purely cultural act, so England left after it was persuaded that Sudan, with its leaders at that time and its intellectuals and thinkers had the right to be the second country in sub-Saharian Africa, which gets its independence.


The seed of consciousness:

Dr. Lamya Shamt


Professor and critic Lamya Shamt says that it is necessary to pay attention first to the writings and creative works that have contributed to shaping, motivating and guiding the core of consciousness that paved the way for independence. She adds that we can be guided by the ideas provided by critic Abdul Qudous Al Khatim in his critical reviews where he reflects on the contributions of Mohammed Ashri Siddig, a leading critic who started to prove himself in the early 30s of the last century, to strongly emerge as an authentic writer and literary critic who had a unique and interesting style, an outstanding sense of innovation and intellectuality, as well as the ability to diagnose, raise, and explore social diseases. Mohammed Ashri Siddig's articles were gathered and published by the Ministry of Culture and Information in 1970 under the title “Views and Thoughts”. By the same token and in another article, Al Khatim approaches the pioneering critical works of critic Mohamed Mohamed Ali, whom he describes as “having an insightful thought characterized by a dialectic mentality carried out to the core of things”, a resisting view to the prevailing thoughts. Al Khatim gives several examples of Mohamed Mohamed Ali's unconventional critical views, in which he sets an authentic opinion and a strong argument on traditional curricula, in particular the obsolete and repulsive teaching methods of Arabic grammar.  


It should also be noted that the White Flag League, one of the Sudanese secret political associations with cultural background, worked to raise national awareness, and formed a national movement of consciousness, by means of the cultural work of some of its membership that included writers, critics, poets and singers. The foundation of Gordon Memorial College in 1903 has had the greatest impact on the development of social and cultural life through the contributions and initiatives of an educated generation that is open to the potential of the rising and organized national struggle. One example of this is the poetry and nationalist singing of Khalil Farah, a graduate of Gordon College. He spread nationalist singing and resistance to colonialism in the public space. In addition to this, there are the critical works of the young critic Ali Madani who revolted against the reproduction of established principles, and the empowerment of ideological negativity aimed at the stereotyping of consciousness and the separation of its components. He also fiercely revolted against the social schizophrenia that deprived women of the right to education. Shamt added that Madani participated actively in the production of books that discussed exclusively the issue of Sudanese women's education. Moreover, and in spite of his early age, he launched the first statement of the purely Sudanese cultural stamp. His friend Tawfiq Ahmad perceived this Sudanese emblem in the thought of Madani. He wrote an article devoted to the dialogues Madani conducted with singers, poets and writers, urging them to get inspired by all that is purely Sudanese. Thus, the critical contributions of Amin Ali Madani had an important role in the formation of awareness, and in the development of the sense of collective work against social, cultural and intellectual colonization, in order to gain the independence of Sudan.


Poetry had a profound impact on the sensitization to nationalism, resistance to colonialism and inciting the revolution. Poems of Mahmoud Abu Bakr, known as the Eagle, of Yusuf Mustafa al-Tini, the engineer and the diplomat, and national poetry of Ahmad Muhamed Saleh who is one of the pioneers of patriotic poetry in Sudan, to name but a few, all played a significant role in spreading national awareness and national sensitization.

Dr. Ezzeddine Hilali

Shamt refers also to the contributions of Sudanese novels which courageously raised thorny issues such as Shawqi Badri's novel entitled “Wrath”, as it is one of the most audacious works that aim to voice out silenced topics and try to expose the exploitation of marginalized and vulnerable people, in a narrative style that uses directness and frankness that seek to reveal the tragedies, misery and deprivation that prevailed in the streets of the cities. 


Meanwhile, Dr. Ezzeddine Hilali, professor of drama at the Sudanese universities, sees that the early awareness of Sudanese intellectuals in the late 19th century and the twentieth century had a direct impact on the national awakening in the 1930s, known in Sudanese cultural, political and social thought as the Awakening of the Thirties, though it was aborted by the colonizer through killing and excluding its young pioneers. 


Hence, Hamza Al-Malik Tumbel and Muawiya Noor and their companions who introduced T. S. Elliot and Matthew Arnold, and objective criticism in the first third of the twentieth century in Sudan, were themselves the first to claim a Sudanese identity independent of the then currents divided by the nature of colonialism, which could only be bilateral throughout the colonial legacy in Sudan.

No wonder then that Muawiya Noor introduced Matthew Arnold and objective criticism in Egypt in the “Egyptian Gazette” in the late first quarter and early second of the same century.


Hilali estimates that by adding to them the intellectuals of the thirties, such as Abdullah Ashri Siddig and his brother and their colleagues from the group of intellectuals of Abu Rove quarter of Omdurman, who promoted socialism in their works of art and literature, one becomes fully aware that culture and intellectuals played a major role in the independence of Sudan, and the Graduates' General Congress was just a purely cultural entity.


 National Identity: 

Novelist and writer Issa El Helou


Novelist and writer Issa El Helou estimates that independence in Sudan was linked to the search for identity, and the idea of political and cultural freedom was linked to national identity, especially at that time when European colonization was expanding in the Third World in Asia and Africa. Thus, paving the way to political independence that used literature and other arts to express the will of the nation to live in freedom without the control of the colonizer. Effectively, Sudanese elites used arts and literature for a national purpose, especially that English colonialism at that time in the early thirties would not allow writing to be a political act. Writers were only allowed to write in literature and art and never to tackle politics. After the White Revolution Brigade, these writings flowed and continued in the magazines “Al Fajr” (Dawn) and “Al Nahda” (The Awakening). They raised the issues of Afro-Arabic identity, as well as realism and objectivity. They also dealt with social issues such as the comparison between the countryside and the city. At that time, what was known as the village literary school was emerging. In parallel, there was the story of the city written by the writers of the city. This kind of story used the elite and the educated people as heroes. In all this, the writers used symbolism as a method of expression in order to avoid political censorship. 


At that time also emerged genius writers who combined literature and politics in a way that respects the content and the form. Muawiya Muhammad Noor who was an eminent literary critic, surpassed the critics of that period in Egypt and the Levant. Poet Tijani Yusuf Bashir for instance was able to invent a poem that mixes African and Arabic components, later on, many poets of Sudan, including Elfitory and Mohammed Abdul Hai followed the same path. It was the seed for the foundation of “the Forest and Desert School”. The Khartoum School of Fine Arts also came out with the efforts of Salhi and Shubreen.


The whole educated generation that carried out the act of writing at that time were primarily political thinkers who used literature as a means through which they could discuss all that colonialism would not allow to openly raise, and this could be applied to the intellectuals of the right as well as the leftists. We can cite poets Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahjoub, al- Khatib, Mahmoud al-Fadhli, Saad al-Din Fawzi, the great Abdullah Tayeb, and novelist Hassan Taher Zarrouk, and writer and critic Gamal Mohammed Ahmed, and Ahmed Tayeb Ahmed. It was this wonderful generation who paved the paths to the culture of independence.


Critic Amer Mohammed Ahmed believes that Sudan's independence was the result of a cultural movement that spread across the whole Sudan. The fall of Mahdist Sudan was an alert for educated people at that time that the modernization and the awakening are connected to education and thus decolonization needs a cultural work that demonstrates its inequality and produces a new political reality represented in the cultural societies of the 1920s, which gave rise to the revolution of 1924, and also produced a university theater in Gordon College. The latter tried to read the present by repeating glorious history and looking forward to the future.

Critic Amer Mohammed

This positive act played a major role in formulating an integrated national vision about the disadvantages of colonialism, which produced a national poetry that contributed to the revival of the national and religious feeling and played an important role in defining the history of Sudan. It also worked on the formulation of a national consciousness accentuated by the prevailing culture of the time, and focusing on the question of identity, thus giving the definition of Sudan through its history, present and past, along with the other forms of the struggle that ended with the lifting of the flag of independence on 1/1/56.


Still, the question of the National State did not end, and the role of the intellectuals remained open until now. Many cultural and intellectual schools were behind the foundation of the cultural and geographical entities in Sudan. Accordingly, the salon culture that began in the twenties and drowned at the end of the forties (because of the emergence of the national political movement represented in the political schools of the independence) was behind the crystallization of the question of identity. Hence, it is the ideological schools that emerged after the forties which brought up the problematic by asking questions unrelated to the Sudanese reality and the Sudanese identity, which disrupted the process of progress.





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