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Ibrahim El-Salahi Pain Relief at The Saatchi Gallery, London

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Above, the confluence of the Blue and White Niles in Khartoum 


Welcoming the Rise of The Nile, G.N. Morhig, The English Pharmacy, Khartoum 

“The Nile opens his arms / Speaks to the migrant birds / Falls silent / Reigns / And never sleeps / Never sleeps” Saddiq Al-Raddi, Poem of the Nile 


The River of Life – Holy Waters, Metaphor and Imagery in Literacy 

Painted in Waterlogue

Nubians making offerings to the Nile in celebration of a wedding. Sketch based on scene from Joanna Lumley’s documentary, Nile, Sudan

See YouTube video clip below. 


Above, Nile scenes including water pots, known as ziir, left for passers-by in need of water.  The pots are buried in Nile mud before firing and the latent heat of evaporation keeps the water refreshingly cool.


See more in Africa Geographic – Sudanese Waterpots


Ziir maker in Abri in the early 1980’s, on the banks of the Nile 



Holy Waters  The River of Life  Imagery and Metaphor in Literacy 

This is a literacy blogpost for Women’s Education Partnership


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Holy Waters – Nile Rituals 

Painted in Waterlogue

Sketch based on a scene from The Nile, Sudan with Joanna Lumley – see clip below 

“…across fine white-grained sand/ towards glimmering water that was like a sea/ the betrothed couple would go down / and in ceremony wash each other’s faces/ and each other’s hands/ in the Nile / that was to them a blessing/ with its gifts and treasures” 

Morning in Serra Mattu, Arif Gamal, p6 


Sketches based on scenes from Joanna Lumley’s Nile: Sudan Reel Truth History Documentaries. Watch how the waters of the Nile are used to bless newlyweds in this YouTube clip from her documentary series below 

“The barefoot women walk in long jarjar / down a sandy path/ to stand beside the river’s edge/ the woman eats a little rice/ then hurls the rest into the Nile/ one woman dips a golden ring for offering / to please the Nile god who gives fertility / though he is not the god of all/ that’s Nor/ great Nor of old Nubia/ and Kush and Meroë/ all one/ from long before the rule of pharaohs….” 

Morning in Serra Mattu, Arif Gamal, p7  


“In the Sukut and Mahas districts and in some areas near Dongola, mothers take their newborns to the Nile at sunset and wash their faces as well as the faces of their newborn babies with the Nile’s water. They fill seven containers with Nile water to irrigate seven small palm trees to invoke bounty and happiness. All babies’ items used to clean their newborns are thrown to the Nile. A quantity of cooked chickpeas is prepared, some of which are eaten by the riverside while the remaining quantity is thrown along with the baby’s items.” Read more about Rituals Celebrating the Holy Waters of the Nile


The Niles Photos Mohamed Hilali

“In certain areas of the Nile between Wadi Halfa and Khartoum, mothers have to stay indoors for 40 days after their delivery. On the 40th day, the mother takes her newborn to the Nile and washes the infant in accordance with the adopted ritual. Local inhabitants in the Nubian regions believe that women who disregard this ritual will be afflicted with all types of evil. Women carrying palm branches and singing folk songs accompany the mothers. The newborns’ mothers wash their hands, feet and face as well the face and feet of their babies. Meanwhile, the accompanying women ululate in joy after the rituals are completed. When a boy is circumcised, he is taken to the Nile on the same day to wash his face with the Nile’s water.”

Read more about Rituals Celebrating the Holy Waters of the Nile


Near Dongola, early 1980’s

“The Nile flows quietly / Seeping through the city’s silence / And the burning sorrows of villages….” Saddiq Al-Raddi 




Plates from colonial accounts of the Nile 1912-1930’s


Read about the challenges facing the Nile Basin today in the online journal, The Niles, in their section A fool won’t even find water in the Nile See too A village in Sudan turns onto water tap – taking matters into their own hands


Seen on a restaurant wall in Ed-Debba, Northern Province in early 1980’s

Scroll down to end of this blogpost to watch a short video on the fishermen of Tuti Island, and learn how literacy work can incorporate the knowledge of fishing communities 


The River of Life – Imagery and Metaphor in Literacy Circles

Painted in Waterlogue

 Some of our participants in Jebel Awlia sharing challenging moments in their lives 

This is a literacy blogpost for Women’s Education Partnership

Painted in Waterlogue

Sharing personal and family experiences in Hajj Yusif literacy circle 

“O River Nile, father / Were the trees merely windows reflecting women’s sorrows, / Or have your waters shattered their images, / Drowned the history of women/ And painted forever their meadows the color of poverty?”

Read the complete poem by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi here Poem of the Nile


Listening to the life stories of participants 

Imagery and Metaphor in Women’ Literacy 

In his poem, Al-Raddi’s Nile “flows quietly…/ Seeping through the city’s silence / And the burning sorrows of / villages”.  The age-old rituals played out on its banks that we have seen above still frame moments that transform the lives of the Sudanese women who live on or near the Nile today – the birth of a child,  first steps into marriage or motherhood,  times of hardship, ill health and loss.  The loss of homeland for many of our literacy attendees who have fled conflict and environmental upheaval in the Nuba Mountains and Darfur;  the loss of loves ones as a result of war,  poverty or lack of basic medical care; the loss of autonomy and opportunity that early marriage and lack of education can bring. Read more about the challenges our literacy attendees face in

Literacy Circles in Action


Detail from Our Mother  -See Below

“One woman told me she had never gone to school because her parents had only had enough money to educate one child and so her elder brother had been chosen for schooling. Another had been orphaned as a young girl and had taken on the responsibility of caring for her family alone.”


Detail from Our Mother – See Below 

“I had to go to the health clinic but because I couldn’t read the signs, I had to keep asking people for help in finding it. At last I reached what I thought was the clinic and asked the man standing nearby if I was right. He turned to me and said ‘what’s the point of you looking for a clinic when you can’t even read? You should stay at home!’ At first I felt terrible but then I got angry – angry that he thought he could insult me in that way. So I joined our literacy circle. Now I feel proud that I can read. No one will insult me again.”

Literacy Circles in Action


Processed with Snapseed.

Life’s journey forming the basis of literacy work 

See Grandmother’s School to learn more abut challenges facing older women 

Painted in Waterlogue

While REFLECT literacy programs like ours offer a rigorous focus on acquiring the practical knowledge needed to empower participants to break out of poverty,  they also  provide a rare space where women can share with and learn from others in a calm, supportive environment while they recount and reinterpret the landmark moments of their lives – and acknowledge the “sorrows of the waterwheels” of Al-Raddi’s Nile.  And perhaps in the process,  go some way to recovering the “drowned history of women” he speaks of.


Detail from Our Mother – See below 

Learn more about the practical basis of our literacy work here:  Community Literacy and REFLECT

Learn about how our literacy work empowers autonomy in Voices


A graduate’s testimony 


Our Mother – Grayson Perry, 2011 

Perry says of his work ” She is the universal pilgrim seeking meaning, …..but she is also a universal refugee. Immigration was a central and very emotive issue during the EU referendum. I wanted Our Mother to be part of the conversation of works that deal with the biggest UK political event of 2016.” The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! Grayson Perry 2017.  Photos taken with permission at exhibition.


And in our literacy circles, women are given the space to tell the stories of their lives in a quiet, unhurried  way,  seeking advice,  support and resolution as their stories flow, “quietly through the silences”.  Writing about their childhood, a  lost way of life  and different times can often follow and provides both catharsis and consolidation of literacy skills as they describe events and feelings profoundly relevant to them.

Please consider giving to our life-changing work. Just click on the link below to donate quickly and securely:

 Virgin Money Giving


River Tragedy – Salah Elmur Learn more about Elmur in Inscriptions on Rosewater

How River Imagery can be Used 



The text above talks of  rapids,  waterfalls and other metaphors for obstacles and challenges.   In this scene from Nile: Sudan, Sudanese fishermen talk of the Nile crocodile.

God never creates a river without its crocodile – Sudanese proverb

We swam in the sea / even though the many crocodiles were there / limber in the water / glimmering gracefully along the surface / partially submerged with wet / and silky-hided bark-like back / and lifted nostril / and then far behind the nose / beyond the length of jaws / the heavy-lidded / yellow old reptilian eye / would gaze laconically upon the sea ….

Crocodile – Morning in Serra Mattu, p 117


Fishermen of the Nile and Adapting REFLECT Literacy Programs to their Needs 


Plate from colonial accounts – evening on the Nile, 1930’s

“With a deft movement too graceful to describe, he casts his left arm outward. The skirt of his net spends to its full, and falls with an almost imperceptible plash. As he draws it to shore, there is a silvery agitation within its folds. HIs face is inscrutable; but I note a gleam of satisfaction in those dark brown eyes. it is a look of the artist who delights in his own skill.”

The Arab Fisherman Land of the Blue Veil, Allan Worsley, 1940, p 200


Illustration from below, published 1898


The farmers of Tuti Island 



يخلق من الفسيخ شربات – يعمل من الفسيخ شربات

 “From fasiikh God makes sherbet – from the unpromising and meagre God works wonders” 


Nile scenes, Northern Province, in the early 1980’s. Delgo, Kerma, Meroe, Dongolaimg_6255-1

This is a literacy blogpost for Women’s Education Partnership

Please consider supporting our life-changing work 

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