Sunday, March 31, 2019


This drives me crazy, but I understand it. Just a week or so ago, I was at work and an email about release notes came through (I work for a software company). One of them was an update changing the name of Swaziland to its current name of Eswatini. Although it happened last year, I'm just now finding out about this, and it’s taking me forever to get used to it. It’s mainly driving me crazy because now it’s out of alphabetical order, but they do have a cool flag, so there’s that. But it’s not the only country that has changed its name since I’ve started this project (or that I realized changed after I covered it): Cape Verde changed theirs to Cabo Verde and Czech Republic changed theirs to Czechia (which I’m not a fan of because it’s so similar to Chechnya). Hope they like exchanging mail like Slovakia and Slovenia do (if that’s a real story).

The former name, Swaziland, given to them by the British, means the “land of the Swazis.” However, almost exactly a year ago, they changed their name to Eswatini (named after a famous king in their history), in an effort (I feel) to rid itself of its colonial name and align it with more of their native name for their country. I also read that they didn’t want it to be confused with Switzerland. (Really? There are people who do this?)

Eswatini (still listed as Swaziland on Google Maps) is located in southern Africa, almost completely surrounded by South Africa except for a border to the east with Mozambique. This landlocked country is quite mountainous with several rivers running through it. Generally, the country is broken into three areas: the highveld (mountainous with deep gorges, lots of cattle ranching), the middleveld (where most of the people live with lower rainfall), and the lowveld (has the least amount of people here because it looks like the bush, perfect for introverts). The climate varies by region and altitude, and their seasons are not really defined by temperature so much as it is by rainfall. And because of its climate variety, it tends to be higher on the biodiversity levels.

Evidence of people in this area dates back to 200,000 years ago, mostly Khoisan hunter-gatherers before the great Bantu migration moved into the area. The Swazi people settled in around the area along the Pongola River. The country was named for its king Mswati II, one of their greatest kings who was also a great fighter: your regular Bad Boy type. There were many changes in land and autonomy during the 1800s, and mainly at the behest of the British and Dutch who were quite interested in (stealing) their mineral rights. They were placed as a protectorate under the South African Republic during the five years that led up to the Second Boer War. Swaziland was then turned over to the British as a protectorate after the British won the Anglo-Boer war. During these early years, many of its functions were carried out from South Africa, but the British basically divided the country into the European section (about one-third of the area) and the non-European section (about two-thirds of the area). The King Sobhuza II government eventually weakened the British response to the point that the Swazis declared their own independence in 1968. Even after independence, he ended up ruling until his death in 1982, making him the longest ruling monarch in history -- coming in just shy of a whopping 83 years on the throne! During the 1990s, a series of protests and reforms took place, and they ended up rewriting parts of their constitution. Another series of protests and reforms took place in 2011 following the economic crisis.

The capital city is Mbabane, one of the cities that is on my list of “Cities That are Fun to Say.” This city is located in the northwest corner of the country in the region of Hhohho (I don’t know that I’ve ever seen two initial h’s before, but there it is.). While the country is quite old, its capital is not: this capital was created in 1902 by the white settlers. In fact, the black people here weren’t even allowed to live there, even though its named after a local chief who was living nearby. Psht. Before WWII, the country was fairly rural, and it wasn’t until after the war that people started moving to the city. The British started building government buildings and a tourism infrastructure. There are a couple of higher education institutions and art galleries and the like. Because of its altitude, it has a moderate climate. Perfect for people who don’t like sweat, like me.

Agriculture makes up the bulk of their economy from subsistence farming to title land deeds (mainly as sugar, citrus fruits, and forestry). Mining and some manufacturing (textiles, products related to sugar production) also add their contributions. And they do rely on a certain amount of tourism, too. Eswatini is part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

A large portion of people in Eswatini adhere to Christianity, mostly as Anglican, a variety of Protestant denominations, African churches, and Roman Catholicism. A number of people still follow their indigenous religions, but they also have followers of Islam, Baha’i, and Hinduism.
Bilingual sign in English and Swazi announcing there are "thugs on the loose."

The official language of Eswatini is Swazi (which is also written several different ways: SiSwati, Siswati, Swati, or Swazi). It’s part of the Bantu family and related to the Nguni languages. English is also an official language here as well. And you can hear several other languages in Eswatini: Zulu, Tsonga, Afrikaans (influenced by South Africa), and Portuguese (influenced by Mozambique).

Although Eswatini is not a large country by any means, they are suffering a health crisis like no other: this country has the highest prevalence of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Actually the top nine countries are all in southern Africa, but Eswatini comes in highest with 27.2% of the population (ages 15-49) living with HIV/AIDS. This not only tears families apart, but it affects their workforce since over a quarter of their workers are not going to be viable at some point, and that in turn affects their economy as well. And the thing is that that number is just an average: women suffer far more with nearly 31% while men come in around 20%. Education can definitely help, but when they’re short on doctors and educators to teach about condom use and advocate for non-violence against women, it’s not likely to be solved soon.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, March 24, 2019


It’s time for spring break! Not that we’re really going anywhere, but I’m excited I can sleep in an extra hour for the next two weeks. And I finished my fundraising class last weekend, so now it’s time to finish up a few books that I had started. One of these days, I’ll catch up on sleep.

I dug right in and ate my meal before I even remembered to take this photo.
But today was for cooking food from Suriname. I started out making Bojo Cake with Pineapple. It was fairly easy to make, but it’s not like a cake that most Americans are used to, mainly because of the cassava. In a large bowl, I used 4 c of tapioca (cassava) flour + 1 c all-purpose, ½ c grated coconut, 1 c sugar, 1 ⅓ c pineapple tidbits (keep the juice for later), 2 cans of coconut milk (I only had one can, so I used a canful of whole milk), ½ c pineapple juice (that I saved from the can), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp almond extract (I used coconut extract because I couldn’t find my almond extract), 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp of salt, half a stick of butter (melted), 3 eggs, ¼ c white rum (I used Bacardi), and ⅔ c rum-soaked dried cranberries (I hate raisins, so I used cranberries instead, but use whichever you want -- even though soaking the cranberries in rum for a half hour creates a great cranberry-flavored rum that I sipped on all afternoon). Using a blender, I made sure that everything was smooth and poured it into a 13x9” cake pan and baked it at 350ºF for about an hour and 40 minutes. I keep forgetting that tapioca flour is going to set up differently than all-purpose. It’s far more dense and gooey, like the inside of pão de queijo. So, while the flavor was very good, the texture got me. I have a feeling that I’ll be the only one eating this.

It doesn't look like much here, but this was amazing. I bet it would also be good with a little malt vinegar.

The main dish was Matjeri Masala. I used cod filets, which I don’t normally cook with but enjoy a lot. I heated my oil and fried my fish like I usually do it (dipped in egg and then panko crumbs), even though it didn’t fry up very good. I removed the fish and some of the oil, and fried up some onions and garlic in the same skillet. After that, I added in some garam masala powder and a couple Tbsps of ketchup and stirred everything around. Then I added the fish back into the skillet along with a cup of water, and a little salt and sugar. Covering the skillet, I let this simmer for about 10 minutes. I really liked this. It wasn’t heavy on the garam masala, but enough to really flavor it. I served this with some string beans that I simply boiled in a little salt and minced garlic.

Clearly the winner for tonight!

The other dish I made was called Surinamese-style Nasi Goreng. I first sauteed my onions and garlic before adding in some ground ginger, green onions, black pepper, sugar, and a vegetable bouillon cube. After a minute of letting all of that saute, I added in my cooked rice and stirred everything together, adding enough soy sauce (about 2 Tbsp) to make it all look brown. I let the rice cook for a few minutes longer, topped with some cilantro, and some fried eggs. I actually messed up on my fried eggs, so it ended up being scrambled eggs. It was all good. Everyone loved this recipe -- they asked me which restaurant I got this from. Haha, jokes on them. It was good though.

This was one tasty meal, if I may say so myself.

I thought everything about this meal was good, and my husband thought so too. The kids were 50/50 about it. I could definitely tell the Indian/southeast Asian influence on the food. It’s a cuisine that I really like, so it was definitely ok by me. I guess I didn’t fully realize how much Indian influence has on Caribbean culture because of its history. I do know that I’m glad it’s there.

Up next: Swaziland (Eswatini)

Saturday, March 23, 2019


Music in Suriname is a reflection of its people: coming from different origins, mixing together and creating something new, telling the story of its past and future.

Carlo Jones & the Surinam Kaseko Troubadours
One of the styles that Suriname is most known for is called Kaseko. This particular style is a mix of Indian and Caribbean traditions. Most likely, the term stemmed from the French phrase casser le corps, which means “break the body,” referring to a type of fast dance that was practiced during slavery times. This style of music is built on top of a very complex rhythmic percussion base, mainly with snare drums and a large bass drum called a skratji. However, they also used trumpets, trombones, and saxophones. A vocal form of music that rose around the end of slavery is called kawina. Kawina falls under the call-and-response style and also uses a lot of the instruments similar to kaseko.

A unique style of dance music stemmed from Suriname based on the music that the Indian community brought with them. And when they came, they brought along many of their native instruments with them, such as the tabla, sitar, tassa drums, and other percussion instruments like the dhantal and the dholak. A genre of music that merged these traditional Indian styles with those of the Caribbean they called Baithak Gana. Indian-based music eventually became so popular through the efforts of some key musicians, such as Dropati who was often referred to as the Mother of Baithak Gana.  

There are a couple of dances that are popular in Suriname that stem from their African roots. One dance is a Saamaka-style dance called Seketi. Originally a spiritual dance used to put the dancer in a trance, it’s now often performed as a way to greet visitors and tourists. Sometimes the Seketi dance is also done during church as a way to show praise. The Awassa dance is a storytelling dance. It also relies on several kinds of drums and percussion instruments to accentuate the movements. The kwa kwa and apinti drums are often used as accompaniment, although there may be some others. The dancers themselves tie shakers called kawai around their ankles. These shakers are usually made from the dried shells of fruits.

There were a few Surinamese artists that I listened to. The first was Damaru. His song “Mi Rowsu (Tuintje In Mijn Hart)” was popular in both Netherlands and Suriname and won some awards. I thought the song was pretty catchy, in a reggae/Caribbean style.

Another singer I came across is Ruth Jacott. She was born in Paramaribo, but moved to the Netherlands when she was nine. She ended up representing the Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest and won some other contests as well. I think she spans several genres, but I can totally imagine that her works would fall under “adult contemporary” from what I’ve heard. It also incorporates various Caribbean styles, Latin pop, dance, and some other styles.

I also took a listen to Oscar Harris & The Twinkle Stars. They were popular in the 1970s, and they certainly had that sound. Their style bordered on folk rock, and they sing in English, even though like so many other musicians, he was born in Suriname but moved to the Netherlands. I think their style of rock reminds me a bit of Jim Croce, although not in the voice.

Up next: the food

Thursday, March 21, 2019


The art traditions from Suriname showcase its diverse cultural makeup and stem from a number of origins, representing its broad diversity.

Even though the Amerindian population only comprises about 3-4% of the population in Suriname, it actually includes a number of different tribes that are spread out across Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela. Many of their indigenous arts are centered around functionality: pottery of all sizes, musical instruments, utensils, leather products, jewelry and beadwork, and woven arts.

The art of the Maroons, the escaped (and eventually freed) African slaves who took refuge in the rainforests, developed their own style of art. In many cases, it was simply merging the  African art styles they brought with them with ones of their new surroundings. One of their most visual works is their brightly painted houses. I wrote about similar paintings on buildings in Palau, where the outside of the homes are painted in bright colors of pictures and designs that usually tell a story. However, many of their designs are closely based on African motifs, which is understandable considering their origins. But this style of painting isn’t just limited to painting their homes: it’s used on paddles, wall coverings, and other items. The Maroons were also skilled at wood carving, and many of these carvings were used on the home and to decorate the homes as well.
Erwin de Vries

One Surinamese artist who’s widely known today is Erwin de Vries. His striking, brilliantly colored paintings portray life in Suriname. Although he studied painting from a Belarusian artist in Amsterdam, it was the vivid colors of the Surinamese landscape that called for his return to South America. He’s really provided a unique look at the many ethnic groups living in this small tropical country, and in doing so, made art popular among many people.

Like many indigenous cultures, the earliest forms of literature started out as oral stories, and storytelling (especially in the oral tradition) still serves as an important cultural point with many Surinamese. Although the Dutch arrived in Suriname during the 1600s, it wasn’t until 1700s when the indigenous people started gaining on literacy and produced their own written works. Nowadays, the vast majority of works are written in Dutch, although some write in Sranan Tongo. Even though people may speak in Creole, it’s certainly not a language that’s exclusively written in, outside of dialogue perhaps.

There have been quite a few Surinamese authors who have had an impact on literature in Suriname and surrounding areas: Karin Amatmoekrim (award-winning novelist), Bhai (poet), Bea Vianen (novelist, wrote in both Dutch and Sranan Tongo), Trefossa (poet, known for the Sranan Tongo stanzas of their national anthem), Eugène Drenthe (poet and playwright), Johanna Schouten-Elsenhout (prominent poet, community leader), Chitra Gajadin (poet, playwright, novelist), Trudi Guda (poet, anthropologist), Astrid Roemer (poet, teacher, playwright, novelist), Anil Ramdas (journalist, columnist, essayist), Albert Helman (poet, community leader, playwright), Cynthia McLoed (novelist), and Pim de la Parra (filmmaker).

Up next: music and dance

Monday, March 18, 2019


If you’ve ever looked at a map of South America, there are three small countries in the top right corner. The one on the left is Guyana, which I covered already. The one on the right is French Guiana, which is one of France’s overseas territories. And the one in the middle is Suriname. While most of South America speaks Spanish or Portuguese, these three are the ones that are outliers. Guyana’s official language is English, French Guiana is French, and Suriname is Dutch.

Its name is most likely based on the name of the indigenous people, Surinen. When the British arrived, they set up settlement on the Suriname River, except they spelled it Surinam. However, the Dutch changed the English spelling by adding the final “e” to the name. Even at that, the version without the “e” still exists in certain instances and names. In Dutch, however, it’s pronounced something like “soo-ri-NAH-muh.”

As I mentioned, Suriname is located on the northeastern coast of South America. It’s bordered by French Guiana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Guyana to the west. Its coast touches the Atlantic Ocean. Culturally, it’s considered part of the Caribbean community and one of the few mainland countries to be part of it. The land is fairly diverse, with low mountains, savannahs, and rainforests. Because the country lies only a few degrees north of the equator, it has a tropical climate and is quite humid (there are probably no good hair days here.)

part of Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo
The Arawak and Carib tribes were the first inhabitants in Suriname, first arriving around 3000 BC. During the 16th century, the Europeans really started moving into Caribbean, doing the usual things: exploring, exploiting, stuff like that. The British, Spanish, and French were the first to really sweep through the Caribbean, but the British and Dutch were the main ones creating communities in this area where Suriname is. And as expected, they butt heads over who controls what in the Western Hemisphere, eventually leading to a treaty granting the English access to what’s now New York City, and the Dutch access to what’s now Suriname (that’s one helluva deal). By the late 1600s, the Dutch started bringing in African slaves to work their plantations. The thick rainforests helped make it easier for many of these African slaves to escape, and with the help of other native tribes, they were able to establish their own tribes. Called Maroons in English, these Maroons often raided the plantations to recruit others, which led to quite a bit of hostility between the two groups. Slavery was abolished at the same time it was in the US, but the emancipation process took about a decade to fully put in place since their economy was largely based on their mega plantations. To help with this shortage of exploitable labor, the Dutch brought in large numbers of laborers from India and Indonesia to take up some of the slack (you know, other brown people, but this time they didn’t “own” them). During WWII, the US actually set up camp in Suriname to protect the bauxite mines (one of the main sources for aluminum). During the middle part of the 20th century, Suriname began talks of independence, which was finally granted in 1975. Their early years weren’t easy; by 1980, they underwent a military coup with several counter-coups that followed. Even today, there is still corruption and scandals attached to leading officials, but you know, what’s new.  

The capital of Suriname is Paramaribo, a coastal city of roughly 250,000 people. Nearly 90% of the people live in this city or along the coast. The city lies at the mouth of the Suriname River and is named for the Paramaribo tribe who lived there originally. It stems from the Tupi-Guarani words for “large river” and “inhabitants.” The city is fairly diverse, having significant populations of Asian (Indonesian, Chinese, Indian), European (Dutch, Portuguese), African/Maroons, Lebanese, mixed race, Brazilians, and Guyanese. The historical part of the inner city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Although agriculture is one of their higher economic drivers (mainly in rice, shrimp, and bananas), bauxite mining remains as one of their more important sources of revenue. Tourism and especially ecotourism are high, with most of the tourists coming from the Netherlands. They also have some gold and oil as well. However, with the instability of the government, the stability of their economy has been affected because of this too. Although they saw some steady growth during the 1990s, it’s kind of slowed down in the past 20 years or so.

Roughly half the people are Christians in Suriname, mainly Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Moravian and other Protestant denominations. Because of the large numbers of Indian immigrants, Hinduism is also a significant religion in Suriname, along with a large number of the Indonesian and Indian populations who practice Islam. A few other religions are practiced (like various Afro-American beliefs) and a few people who don’t adhere to anything.

Over 60% of the people speak Dutch, which is the official language, and the other 40% of the people speak it as a second language. Sranan Tongo is an English-based creole used as a vernacular language, spoken mainly by the Creole population and generally used in the streets. Caribbean Hindustani is also used by people who were originally from India and surrounding areas, which is actually a dialect of Bhojpuri. Several of the Amerindian languages are still used along with English, Chinese, and Portuguese.

Suriname has a low population compared with other countries in South America, and part of that is because nearly 90% of the country is covered in rainforest. It’s also known for its flora and fauna: it has more than 1000 species of trees, and it’s known for having large numbers of orchids, water lilies, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and oleanders. It’s also known for the tapir, the largest mammal in Suriname and one of the weirdest looking animals period. But what’s not weird is their food, and I’m super excited to make some next week.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, March 10, 2019


It’s been a busy few weeks. I’m the new communications manager for a nonprofit that links Indiana with the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil. I am also one of the coordinators for our Youth Ambassadors program, and we’ve had seven high school kids from Brazil come visit for the past two months. They performed at our annual feijoada luncheon a couple of weeks ago (the same weekend I was supposed to cook from Sudan). Now that the kids have returned to Brazil, I finally have time to get back in the kitchen.

I didn't even use all of the batter it made.
Today I started out with Gurasa, or a type of thick pancake. In a large mixing bowl, I mixed together 4 c of flour, 2 ½ tsp of salt, 2 ½ tsp of sugar, and one packet of yeast. I also added in 2 tsp of black pepper to make it a more savory bread to go with the soup I’m making. Then I slowly added in 4 c of warm water and mixed until it looked like a pancake batter. I set it off to the side for about 20-30 minutes for the yeast to do its thing. Miracle of miracles – it actually increased in size like it was supposed to do. I heated and oiled down a griddle and poured my batter on it when it was ready. These are meant to be thicker than a regular pancake, and I cooked these until they turned golden brown on the outside, flipped it, and did the same thing on the other side. I was kind of leery about it being cooked all the way through, but it seemed fine. The bread tasted good with the soup!

I'm not usually a fan of lentil soup, but this was surprisingly good.
The main dish today Sudanese Red Lentil Soup. I rinsed 1 lb of red lentils and put them in a large pot, covering them with water 2” higher than the lentils and bringing it all to a boil. I reduced heat a bit and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. I made sure I stirred here and there to make sure it wasn’t sticking on the bottom. I didn’t realize they should change from an orange-red to yellow when they were fully cooked. And by the time they had cooked down, it was a pretty mushy consistency already. I added in my spices: salt, black pepper, chili powder, and a little cumin. In a small skillet, I fried some minced garlic in 100mL of oil and then poured the whole thing over the soup when the garlic had started to turn brown and stirred everything well. At the very end, I squeeze half of a lime into the soup and served it with the bread. Other than having a little too much salt and maybe a little too much cumin, I thought it was very good. My picky eater of a son ate all of his soup, which really surprised me.

This is Dwight Schrute approved.
To go with this, I found a recipe for Beetroot Salata. I think I’m the only one in my family who likes beets, but I did find some fresh golden beets that I thought I’d try. I don’t think I’ve ever had golden beets, so this is an adventure to say the least. (Aren’t all of these recipes adventures?) I took one of my golden beets and washed, peeled and cut them into thin slices. I also added in some shredded carrots, green pepper, spring onions, and used part of a can of diced tomatoes that has been drained really well. In a mug, I mixed the vinegar, some lemon juice, a little sesame oil, and a tad of sea salt and shook it well. I poured the dressing mixture on top of the vegetables and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. When it was ready to serve, I put this vegetable mix on top of a layer of mixed lettuce. I really liked this, and it served as a nice cool contrast to the spiciness of the soup. Next time, I’d add more vinegar to it.

I'd say it was a good meal, and none of these dishes took a long time to make.
It seems that Sudan is a country with such ancient traditions mixed with bits of modernity. It just sucks that they have such an oppressive set of policies toward women. There is so much research that goes to show that countries who encourage women to learn and control her own money, to have basic freedoms of movement and bodily autonomy have a happier society and a stronger economy. As we just celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, women need to continue to fight to change the narrative.

Up next: Suriname

Saturday, March 9, 2019


Sudan's multi-ethnic society has had a tremendous impact on their culture since antiquity. And several of these ethnic groups contributed different styles and instruments.

Music and dance are often used as part of religious ceremonies, like in the Sufi Dervish. They use it as part of a ceremony trying to reach altered consciousness called zikr. Women's drumming circles are also an important part of their musical culture. Several kinds of musical styles came from the northern part of Sudan. One of the most common types is an a cappella style of vocal harmonies called haqibah. This type, often accompanied by some percussion (usually a tambourine-like instrument called a riq) or other tonal instruments, originated from Muslim musical styles. However, haqibah got its start during the 1920s.

Because of its ties to the Arab world, many of the instruments used in Sudanese music share a common origin. A number of string instruments like the tambura and the oud were borrowed from the Arab musical traditions. Many of the percussion instruments share origins with many African and Arab styles as well.

The use of dance is integrated into many aspects of Sudanese society. One well-known tradition is simply known as the Bride Dance, a dance performed by women on her wedding night, usually in revealing clothes (sometimes half naked), in front of a crowd. But nowadays, the views on dance has been diminished; moving your body in those kinds of ways is highly frowned upon at the very least, illegal in some cases. And many women see it as demeaning and don’t wish that on their daughters. However, some girls don’t mind being able to move like that in such a repressive society.
Popular music started booming in the middle part of the 20th century. Women were even joining in, and duets were quite the thing. American music, Congolese music, and Cuban music really opened up their world as musical influencers. The introduction of guitars and brass instruments changed the sound. But then sharia law was introduced in 1989, and everything slowed down. Musicians and writers were being jailed, and content was being censored.

I did listen to a few Sudanese musicians on YouTube. The first one I listened to was Abdel Karim el Kably (his name is spelled a variety of ways). I especially like the use of strings in his music. I watched a video of him performing in the early 1960s. Fast forward to the 1990s, and I watched a video of Mohammed Wardi performing in Ethiopia. According to the comments, everyone in this area of Africa loved his music. The song I listened to almost had an early reggae feel to it. I can see why people liked it so much.

Kamal Keila (also spelled as Kayla) definitely has a lot of reggae and funk influence in their music. The song I listened to was called “African Unity.” I love this style – I was completely digging on this!

And then I came across a rapper named Bangs. He made a video for his song called “Take you to da movies.” And it’s… um… not that great. It has a lot of mid-1990s video editing effects to it, and I’m not quite a fan of the male falsetto voice. And the lyrics were not quite lyrical. Apparently late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon shared the same opinion and really poked fun of him on his show. Bangs now lives in Australia, and I came across a video of him on Australian TV talking about the incident as the hosts of that show were coaching him on a response. Fun fact I learned: the Australian English equivalent for the American English term “bangs” (as in hair hanging down on your forehead) is “fringe.” The more you know.

Up next: the food  

Thursday, March 7, 2019


Tribal life dominated the early art of Sudan, from tools and other practical matters to items used for religious/spiritual purposes. And even today, their past cultural lifestyles creep into their artistic styles and subject matter.

Whenever I hear about terracotta sculptures, my first thought is the soldier statues found in China, but the Djenne tribe also created sculptures from terracotta as well. These sculptures typically have a sense of calming and serenity about them. Probably the most well known of these terracotta figures is a person riding a horse, which is seen as a symbol of power.

They certainly had their preferred forms of handicrafts. One of the more common arts is jewelry and beadwork. Beadwork is not only used as part of decorating clothing and other similar textile applications, but they also had trading beads that were made from colored glass. Other types of arts such as textile arts (many people utilize brightly colored cloth as part of their wraps, clothing, and accessories), metalwork, and leatherwork are commonly created here.

After the Turks invaded Sudan during the early part of the 1800s, one of their motives was to modernize the Nile Valley. And a big push toward education was one of the results. However, art education really didn't pick up until the early part of the 20th century. As students traveled to the cultural centers of Europe to study art, they realized they could merge the old traditions with the new. Many of these artists returned to Khartoum where they took what they learned and applied it to representing their unity and celebrating their diversity.

by Mohamed Fadul -- his paintings are stunning!
Literature in Sudan is nothing new. Pieces of literature written in the ancient Meroitic script that date back as far as 700 years BC have been found in this area. There was a strong tradition, as in many areas of Africa, or storytelling and poetry, and many of these stories were passed down orally from generation to generation. These stories fall into a couple of categories: Ahaji tales, which tend to be more like fairy tales complete with mythological characters and magic powers; and Madih tales, also called praise tales, have more of a religious tone to them.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, a change began to take place in their literary styles, and the foundations for modern Sudanese literature solidified. First of all, it was mainly written in Arabic, yet certain poetic traditions were still written in the local language. (i.e. Fur-language poetry). 20th century scholars began the painstaking task of writing down many of these oral folkloric stories, traveling around and gathering these stories to write down.

University of Khartoum library
Newspapers also began to pop up across the country during the 20th century, including several that published short stories and poetry. Probably one of the more influential ones was Al-Ra'id, sending out its first issue in 1914 in Khartoum. Fast forward to the 1960s when the students studying in Europe arrived back home to social turmoil, and they began writing about it, starting with a novel called Al-Faragh al-'arid (The Vast Emptiness). What was most jarring when it was published in 1970, was not only that it was published posthumously by Malkat Ed-Dar Mohamed, but that it was written by a woman writing about some heavy topics in a realist way. (How dare women have feelings about things?)
Al-Tayyib Salih
Another Sudanese author of note is Al-Tayyib Salih, novel and short story writer. His most famous work is Season of Migration to the North (1967), first published in Arabic but later translated into English and French. He's considered one of the most influential writers of 20th century Sudanese literature.

Ibrahim 'Ali Salman
Other Sudanese writers of note include Hammour Ziada (novelist, journalist), Ra'ouf Mus'ad (journalist, novelist, playwright), Rashad Hashim (well-known Sudanese Romantic poet), Al-Tijani Yusuf Bashir (Romantic poet who wrote in Arabic), Gely Abdel Rahman (poet of the latter part of the 20th century), Ibrahim 'Ali Salman (one of the most famous contemporary poets), Mohammed Abdul-Hayy (considered one of the founders of modern Sudanese poetry), Safia Elhillo (known for her written and spoken poetry), and Jaafar Abbas (known for his satirical works).

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