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Two Translations

Under Abundant Shades

Translated by Adil Babikir

For some vague reason, / I still remember her face; / the tea-seller, / a teenager, / boiling the heavenly water of the Nile, / in her fresh mint, / and with her thin hand, / mixing milk and sugar, / O little girl! / Sweating out patience, / under the ruthless sun; / you are the carnation of this dark, rotten street, packed with men, / prudently chasing your defiant dress / and in the comfort of their abundant shades / grumbling about the heat.

From Modern Sudanese Poetry An Anthology, Translated by Adil Babikir, p124

“As a female writer in a literary tradition dominated by male figures Najlaa has to deal with the complex questions of voice, individuality, taboos, image, and performance as a female writer. Thus, individuality, the fragmented and contaminated female body, and violence are recurrent themes in her work. Najlaa has lived in Sweden since 2012.” From above, p148

Under the Colonial Arcades

Translated by Ann Harrison

I don’t know why I remember her face, / the tea-seller / very young / boiling the water, / with her thin hand / some milk, with national sugar, / Hey, Girl! / Under our relentless sun/ patient, sweating a little; / you are the carnation of this stinking street / teeming with men / wisely following your bold dress / and grumbling / about the heat / under the colonial arcades.

Khartoum 1998, translation published in Banipal 55

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Coffee and Conversation. If you would like to know about the tea sellers union, some of the women who lead it and the economic impact of Covid on women tea and coffee sellers, see Coronavirus Sudan Stepping Back from the Abyss 3 – Lockdown

This is a literacy post for Women’s Education Partnership. 

See At a Glance for more on our mission and reach.

One comment on ““Under Abundant Shades”

  1. Interesting how the two versions subtly diverge.


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