Monday, 13 August 2007


London, Thursday, 21st, June 2007.
The hall is quiet.
The only sound is music. Music is food. Except?
Apart from the ongoing music we are being confronted with gloomy slides. Wailing women. Dead children. Dead camels and cows. Burnt houses. Withered men. Displacement. Corpses. Non-fictitious horror.
The morbid and inhuman face of Darfur.
You can hear him playing different instruments, saying nothing; the photographs speak loud and clear. This is the work of Ahmed Rahman a gifted musician from Sudan. See him in action, above, photo taken by Anne Marie Biscombe.Rahman was part of a whole array of writers and artists invited to perform at the Human Rights Centre in East London on this special Thursday in June put together by Jennifer Langer of Exiled Writers Ink! An organisation of refugee and immigrant writers. Her own family was expunged by the Nazis during the Second World War.

We heard powerful stories. It is arduous telling them all. Of a man who had been shot in the throat during a demonstration in Bangladesh. A passionate writer with a whispering voice, due to that fateful bullet wound.
Mir Mahfuz’s poem “Seeking Shelter” was recited to an attentive audience:
."...He is an alien
On this barbaric shore,
Gazing into land
He doesn’t belong to,
But he has nowhere to go
Beyond this coast.”

Of Alfred Cordal the poet from Chile who ushered our souls back to the work of one of my favourite poets, Pablo Neruda. Neruda who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971. Cordal, in a similar spirit, re-affirmed that words define our identity, woes, joys and self expression. There was a dance from Iran by Ziba Karbassi the lady in red (below, pic from Wolf Magazine). Gallant, flowery, flamboyant, long, like Ziba’s graceful limbs.

Plus surprises.
How often do you hear pleasant stuff from Afghanistan? All we ever get are images of sad, veiled women, arid terrains, angry blokes, guns and bombings. Hassan Bamyami, offered us a taste of this troubled country’s music. He wailed. Jamaican singer, Bob Marley once said he began singing when he was born, by crying. Mr. Bamyami from Afghanistan reminded us of billion births.
Then it was time for Ahmed Rahman.
The other day I saw an Amnesty International poster calling for donations:
If this Darfur woman goes to collect water she will be raped; if she doesn't her children will die.”You hear of bad things.
Then you meet those who have been there.
Ahmed Rahman’s music and huge kaleidoscopic reflections on the gargantuan screen were appalling. I followed him backstage.
“I knew most of these people.” Ahmed whispered, “It is very difficult…”
He excused himself and stepped away. It is very disturbing seeing a grown up man crying.
Here I was, witnessing a Darfur close up…

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