Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 4 April 2014

Mahjoub Sharif: a secular prophet


By Magdi El Gizouli

April 3, 2014 - Mahjoub Sharif had his way with words. Throughout decades of poetic passion he managed to refashion the colloquial Arabic of the Sudanese town and chant it back at its speakers enriched with emancipatory themes. Mahjoub wrote poems for freedom, crisp, pregnant with music, witty, agitating, but always didactic. He proverbially breathed poems, till his very last breath at his Omdurman home on Wednesday 2 April at the age of sixty six. Thousands accompanied the ‘poet of the people’ as he was known to his last resting place in a mass act of baraka that not even the most pious of sheikhs can claim.

A school teacher by training, this secular prophet spoke truth to power in a creative language that readily transformed into powerful memes, and as a consequence landed him habitually in the detention cells of Sudan’s military rulers. He was incarcerated repeatedly during the reign of Jaafar Nimayri and then under Omer al-Bashir. It would be no exaggeration to say that the long spells of jail in Cooper prison set the stage for the lung ailment that ended his life. Like scores of Communist Party members he was dismissed from government employment during the extensive purges of the civil service in the 1990s. No prison however could blunt the sharp blade of Mahjoub’s poetry. His joyful compositions cut through the fallacious fat of official propaganda to bare the bone of daily existence as experienced by the nas, the toiling women and men who came out to honour him on Wednesday.

Beyond exposing power’s sins, Mahjoub had the extraordinary capacity to imagine another future in feather-light lines, suitable even for the playful entertainment of children. He nursed dreams of emancipation on behalf of the country and its people. What sounded hollow and barren in the tedious declarations of Sudan’s politicians, Mahjoub could articulate in immediately accessible promises of a tomorrow waiting to be made. He had the will to dream, so much so that Sudan’s chattering opposition occasionally employed his words as an ersatz for action. Mahjoub Sharif wrote and Mohamed Wardi sang; the perfect duo produced songs that became over time part of the politically erotic repertoire of opposition congregation whenever opportunity allowed. High on these valiant chants many overlooked their subversive root: the taxing commitment of an exemplary counter-effendi. That said, Mahjoub survives not in the gushes of individual eulogy but in the indecipherable hum of the masses that carried him to his grave. His legacy is indeed talking out the mind of the collective.

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He publishes regular opinion articles and analyses at his blog Still Sudan. He can be reached at m.elgizouli@gmail.com

The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 4 April 2014 17:40, by Majongdit

    Magdi el Gizouli,
    Another good. I like the power of your language. I am a fan of literature and I do write poetry. I red some of Mahjoub’s poems and they are really good.
    May the soul of Mahjoub rest in peace!
    And thank you Ustaz Magdi for this piece.

    repondre message

Comment on this article


The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

Why rejecting creation of more states in South Sudan? 2015-10-05 16:31:37 By Peter Gai Manyuon South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has unilaterally decreed expansion of the current Ten (10) states to 28 federal states in the country in an unexpected move announced on (...)

Why the order establishing 28 states should be nullified 2015-10-04 10:29:29 By James Okuk On Friday 2nd October 2015 in Juba and quoting as usual Article 101 of Transitional Constitution of South Sudan (2011), President Salva Kiir Mayardit issued “Establishment Order (...)

Who to benefit from the Somaliazation of South Sudan? 2015-10-01 19:01:51 By Steve Paterno The question above is becoming more prevalent now more than ever, with the "imposition of peace agreement", (to borrow Riek Machar's phrase), along with President Salva Kiir's (...)


Latest Press Releases

Sudan Democracy First Group Statement on The International Day for Democracy 2015-10-01 22:18:58 22 September 2015 Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) commemorated on 15 September 2015 the International Day for Democracy, which the United Nations (UN) marks as a day to encourage governments (...)

Ambassador Buay congratulates South Sudanese diplomats for blocking sanctions 2015-09-19 00:20:30 SOUTH SUDAN DIPLOMATS IN MOSCOW SHOULD BE CONGRATULATED FOR PERSUADING THE FEDERATION OF RUSSIA TO BLOCK SANCTIONS For Immediate Release 9/18/2015 The people of South Sudan are extremely (...)

HRW urges African Union and United Nations to protect civilians in Darfur 2015-09-10 07:10:11 Sudan: Special Force Rampages in Darfur UN, AU Should Urgently Increase Civilian Protection (New York, September 9, 2015) – A Sudanese government special force has gone on two sprees of killings (...)


Copyright © 2003-2015 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.