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The beauty of Sudan: Revealing a hidden treasure

The large golden zumam, a nose ring, underlines the beauty and status of this Kababish nomad woman. In Al Hamrat Al Sheikh

IT IS said that he who drinks water from the Nile is destined to return. There is sufficient historic evidence to back up the spell it casts.

From among the sophisticated ancient cultures and religions that rose along its banks, Sudan is home to hundreds of tribes and languages. The lifestyles you encounter reflects its different environments, varied ethnic origins and religious beliefs, creating a blend of people and contrasts that stirs you to ask: who are the Sudanese?

In an unparalleled journey of several years through Sudan, photographer Enikö Nagy collected everyday moments – in photography and language – from over 45 tribes and ethnic groups across 30,000 km in some of the hardest-to-access regions of the world to answer that question.

In recognition of the importance of this work in safeguarding intangible world heritage, UNESCO provided a foreword to her opulent English-Arabic bilingual poetic picture book Sand in My Eyes: Sudanese Moments, published in 2014.

Presenting very different images to those one might expect of Sudan, a new travelling exhibition has launched, taken from the hundreds of photographs, proverbs, legends, myths, poetry and songs the author and photographer Enikö Nagy has collected.


Shenabla nomads water their herd of 150 camels at a hafir - a rainwater hole. In Al Aiara, North Kordofan

The exhibition – an installation of images images and spoken word arranged to a day in Sudan across its different lifestyles, from dawn till night – is a visual narrative of Sudan’s rich and varied cultural patterns, traditions, landscapes, and daily rituals. Together, the photographs and texts transmit a feeling and some substance. The single moments form and disperse, condensing to a picture beyond its individual parts.

The selected textual themes cover fundamental aspects of life in Sudan, including: nomadic life, subsistence farming, sense of community, concepts of generosity and kindness, of masculinity and femininity, homemaking, rituals, spiritual life, and respect for elders.

“My intention to investigate the poetic rhythm of everyday life in an environment people relate to crisis was so unusual to both locals and foreigners that I was suspected of having either fallen in love with a Sudanese local or to be a spy,” says Nagy.

The exhibition is taken from the over 26,000 photos, and 2,500 pieces of oral proverbs, legends, myths, poetry and songs Nagy has collected. Reclaiming the narrative about Sudan, the epic journey provides an intimate look into a people and the human experience.


A young Hawazma girl dances the mrdoum at a wedding. In Um Barambita, at the slopes of the Nuba Mountains

The London showing of the exhibition is co-presented by the Brunei Gallery, SOAS and the Embassy of the Republic of Sudan and is to tour Germany; Austria; the Netherlands; Norway; Belgium; France; Italy; Spain; the USA and Sudan. The book Sand in My Eyes: Sudanese Moments, will be available from the SOAS Bookshop accompanying the exhibition.

Nagy, a social pedagogue, born in Romania in 1979 to parents of Hungarian origin, grew up in Germany. A former development advisor for the DED (German Development Service) and an international expert for UNESCO, she is a freelance consultant on development and a researcher on intangible heritage in different parts of Sudan, where she has lived for the past nine years. Nagy immersed herself in Sudanese communities, gained knowledge of the Arabic language and acquired extensive insight into a country she approached with respect and admiration.

The photographer adds: “Working in remote areas of Sudan, among pastoral and agricultural communities, meant being part of a network of cultures whose way of life carries, within its fabric, a precious and important message to convey to the world. I wanted it to have an impact.”

The Sand in My Eyes, Sundanese Moments photography exhibition of photography and traditional narratives will be held at the Brunei Gallery SOAS from January 15 – March 19, 2016. For more information, visit www.soas.ac.uk

Photos: Enikö Nagy. Words: Experts taken from Dr Mansour Khalid’s foreword in the book, Sand in My Eyes

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