Sudan: A Body |Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi

The body of a bird in your mouth
breathing songs.
Raw light spills from your eyes,
utterly naked.

You must breach the horizon, once,
in order to wake up.
You must open window after window.
You must support the walls.

I let alphabets cling to me
as I climb the thread of language
between myself and the world.
I muster crowds in my mouth:
suspended between language and the world,
between the world and the alphabets.

I let my head
listen to the myth,
to all sides praising each other.
And I shout at the winds from the top of a mountain.

Why does my tongue tell me to climb this far?
What is the distance between my voice and my longing?
What is there?

A body transcending my body.
A body exiled by desire.
A body sheltered by the wind.


Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi was born in Sudan in 1969 and grew up in Omdurman-Khartoum. His first two books, Ghina’ al-‘Uzlah (Songs of Solitude), and Matahat al-Sultan(The Sultan’s Labyrinth), were published simultaneously in 1996, immediately establishing him as a poet of great significance. His third collection, Aqasi Shashat al-Isgha’ (The Limits of the Screen of Listening), appeared in 2000 and a volume of his collected poems was published in 2009. Saddiq is alive to the complexities of his position as an African poet writing in Arabic. His desire to articulate those contradictions leads him to write poems that fuse complex imagery with Sudanese history.

Translated by: Atef Alshaer
Culled From: Poetry Translation and Poetry International

Black Mamba Boy

Who: Jama

What: Traveling through Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea to find his father.

Should I read it: Absolutely. It’s a thrilling coming-of-age tale with important historical narratives.

Qq: “His mother, his father, his sister, Shidane and maybe Abdi were roaming among the stars, arguing, laughing and watching….He would join them eventually, but not until he had delivered all the seeds that the pomegranate world offered” – Pg 285

Black Mamba Boy is a beautifully written tale of perseverance and hope set against the rough sands of Somaliland, Sudan, and Eritrea as a young beggar boy named Jama sets out to find his father after his mother’s death.

Jama is a wry, yet oddly noble, character who is fostered by a sense of awe at the world outside his little Aden corridor. Nadifa Mohamed’s writing is brilliantly engaging, her research creates an altogether realistic and haunting image of North Africa under Italian and then British colonial rule in the 1930’s.

The characteristic red dust of Jama’s hometown lingers through every page as Jama grows from an agile child to a keen man, learning from his mistakes, falling in love and bearing the consequences of his actions, eventually discarding the ghost of a father he sought for protection and instead emerging as his own strong, capable man.

This is not a romantic story, if anything it is an epic roman à clef that focuses on a slice of North African history the world ought to remember. Black Mamba Boy captures your attention and doesn’t relinquish its hold until you have laughed, shuddered, nursed a small bitterness at the barbaric injustices of imperialism, and ultimately triumphed with Jama and the lands he traverses. Black Mamba Boy is one for the bookshelves.