By | Mustafa Khogali
The British Council in Sudan does not only develop educational programs for English language and other specialized areas, but also has initiatives for youth development through art and cultural engagement. Building on a vast history of events such as WAPI, creative coalition and Nights at the museum, on Saturday April 25th, 2015, the British council launched the first of a series of events under the name Innovation, art and culture nights at the British Council.
Inspired by Ramiz Siraj and Mustafa Khogali (Director of Sudan Drums), Ournaish was the theme of the event. Ournaish is a local word for Shoe Shine in Sudan. Currently in Sudan, Ournaish (or Shoe Shine) jobs are usually performed by young men ranging in age from 5 to 40 yrs old, with the majority under the age of 15. Some of the youth are orphans while others are college graduates yet they all suffer the same fate. What makes these youth stand out is the fact that these youth have not given in to their circumstances but instead have developed a skill, trade which allows them to earn an honest living rather than resorting to begging, stealing or mischief in general. So the main objective of Ournaish, was to raise awareness of these peoples circumstances and to inspire and motivate active youth to come together in the spirit of reaching out to this community and acknowledging their struggle while attempting to develop their capabilities through donations, vocational programs, skills training etc. The British Council and the event organizers believe that all children should have a fair opportunity to attend school and pursue an official education and should not have to to work for a living, so anything we can do to make a difference counts.
The event showcased a photo gallery titled Ournaish, of different scenes and images of the Ournaish (shoe shine) process, there was a demonstration area where people got a chance to shine a shoe or learn the art of shoe shining from a professional shoe shiner. At 8pm, the event started with opening words from the British Council and the theme organizers and than we experienced a full hour of unrehearsed performances during the first segment which was the open mic. Although Open mic performances are usually fairly adhoc, the participants, many of which were women, gave a spectacular show of poetry, song, rap and even comedy.
After the Open Mic, Sudan Drums took to the stage with the beats of African Drums fused with poetry and hip hop performing what they call drum hop. Finally, Sudan drums was joined on stage by Ramiz Siraj on Keytar, Abdelraheem Sabdo on guitar and Zolo (vocalist with Igd Al-Jalad) and together they performed a stunning series of pieces under the Ournaish theme and even using the instruments that shoeshiners make to attract customers (KashKosh). The final performance was led by Nazar Abdallah (a shoeshiner), playing his instrument (KashKosh) accompanied by Mustafa Khogali, Asim Sirdab, Ramiz Siraj, Abdelrahim Sabdo and Zolo.
200 people were expected to attend but in the end over 500 showed up. The event was a major success in bringing people together and raising awareness of an issue that has never been addressed so creatively.
Keep your eyes and ears open for monthly events at the British Council Khartoum; Innovation, Art and Culture Nights.