هُوُشْمَاَرْ

Hoshmar

Mohamed Altoum

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After my father passed away in 2010, I was going through his old family photos and handwritten letters. I discovered his drawings, poems, and calligraphy, all of which revolved around Nubian culture, indigenous to present-day Sudan and believed to be one of the earliest cradles of civilization.

My father was always trying to bring our family in touch with our Nubian identity. He was from the town of Hoshmar in north Sudan, but I grew up in the capital city of Khartoum, far from a Nubian community, so my relationship with the culture was mostly through his memories. After his death, I felt the need to get closer to my roots and better understand what he had tried to pass down. I wanted his legacy live on, so I started a journey which took me throughout Sudan, including my father’s hometown (Aswan in Egypt), and then to Kenya. As I searched out the Nubian culture through my father’s memories, I was searching for my father, and came to understand him better along the way. When I tried to tie the threads between these locations, I found elements that reminded me of details back home. I spent many hours talking to people in their homes, and enjoying Nubian food like gorasa and bamia. I went to weddings and celebrations. I learned about new songs and dances from these places that have connotations about beauty, belonging, and social connectivity. I remembered how my father used to play some songs by Nubian artists on the radio, and how he used to try to explain to me what it all meant. I learned how music is a tool to express happiness, sadness, nostalgia, gratefulness, and thankfulness. I learned about the different dialects and about how Nubian culture influenced all aspects of life.

I was excited to come back to Khartoum and to discover more about the Nubian influences that I had not noticed before my journey. I felt the connection with the people and experienced a part of living history through their stories. I also felt connected to my father, and finally understood why he insisted on teaching us about our Nubian culture and heritage.

Special thanks to Samir Osman and Weam Ali for the drawings, illustrations, and animations.

Sudan, Kenya, and Egypt

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Palm trees are part of the Nubian community. The palm trees in my father's village and mean a lot to me and remind me of his hardness, cohesion, and tenderness.

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My connection with my father is a spiritual one, and it lives on after his death. I remember him in everything.

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Old family photos and my father’s handwriting.

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I was searching for my father through Nubian culture and seeking Nubian culture through his memories. I wanted to discover more. The practices started attracting me. I wanted to understand what he was trying to pass on to us.

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These images induced both feelings of happiness and melancholia at once. The drawings are of the images I found from Nubian family.

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I felt connected to the family. I could talk to different generations about our society and different daily life issues. I was happy. I could spend days talking to them.

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Exploring Nubian details, a Nuba dress in shadows.

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Music is central to Nubian culture. There are different drum beats and songs like as Karan, Waza, and Cambala - each one for a different occasion. Music is used to express happiness, sadness, nostalgia, and thankfulness.

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For me that Nubian culture is widespread and has elements that could relate to Sudanese society in general. This drew me to further explore the traditions and lifestyles of Sudanese culture that are originally inspired by the Nubian traditions of weddings and funerals.

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Hassan is from Kibera, Kenya. He is Nubian filmmaker who has also discovered the Nubian identity and Nubian culture through documenting his own stories.

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My uncle with his friend in Hoshmar.

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An illustration from the archive pictures, a lady holding her son from Nuba mountain.

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Nuba people watching a match of Nuba wrestling.

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Nubian photo from archives.

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Young girls celebrating Nubian culture - they are dressing in Nubian clothes in the Nubian club in Khartoum, Sudan.

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My father used to play a game with us that I later understood as a form of Nubian wrestling. Wrestling brings people together from different backgrounds, and from the different tribes. This form of fighting is based on respect and admiration for the opponent. The wrestling opponents sing and dance as they show off with their grace and agility and the audience joins in, chanting and cheering them on.

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My mother, brother, sister and I all took turns looking after my father when he was sick. He was very weak, with kidney failure and cancer. I went into shock when they woke me to tell me he had passed. I entered the room and saw my brother lying on the floor and I’ll never forget that image. My brother was the last person to be with my father as he parted life, not me. It haunts me that I wasn’t at his side.

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Fatima is Nubian lady I met in Kibera, Kenya. She told me about her connection with Sudan - that she had only heard about it, but had never been there. This opened my eyes to the instability in Nuba. There is a reverse immigration.

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I found my father’s old tape recording and an old photo of me wearing kind of Nubian clothing. When I went to Hoshmar, I found many people wearing something similar.

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A drawing illustration for a Nubian bride.

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My uncle’s wife prepares me a traditional Nubian food mixed with milk.

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A young boy dancing with Nubian music in a Nubian club in Khartoum, Sudan.

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One of the members of the Nuba community Kibera, Kenya passed away.

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I still have a lot to discover and I want to go beyond this community and reflect more and more. Still the journey continues.

Mohamed Altoum

Sudan

Mohamed Altoum is a Sudanese visual artist, photographer, and cinematographer. He is one of the founders of the Sudanese Photographers Group to promote and develop photography in Sudan. His works have been featured in Al-Jazeera, CNN Africa, BBC Africa, and The HuffPost. He was shortlisted for the Contemporary African Photography prize in 2017, and won two awards as visual artist in the storytelling category in 2016 and 2017. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions. He tries to reveal his perception of the world through visual content and narrative.

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mohamedsaltoum@hotmail.com