Sapient Voices

Isabel Moura Mendes is Director of the Africa in Motion Film Festival. She previewed POETS OF PROTEST, a documentary series made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English starting this Friday, 31 August.

Ahmed Fouad Negm

As a person who is very much involved in the championing of African film for its brilliance and artistic merit, but is also aware of its value as a powerful medium towards global understanding, the Poets of Protest series both inspires me and fills me with hope. 

From Dec 2010, like many other people across the world, I followed the unravelling of events in the Arab World (North Africa and the Middle East) through a 'mediatised' Western eye.

The wave of popular uprisings and demonstrations which began in Tunisia, surprisingly (or maybe not) resulted in the toppling of its decades-long oppressive regime. The movement was quickly replicated in neighbouring countries, and meant the beginnings of a new era of democracy for countries like Egypt and Lybia. What became clear was that these uprisings and protests would not be constricted to these countries, but would soon reach sub-Saharan Africa, where their effects are yet to be seen and understood.

One of the first outcomes of the newfound freedom of creative expression in these countries is the opportunity to hear from each country’s artistic voices, which have until very recently been stifled.

Poets of Protest allows us to dig deeper and be educated, inspired and moved by sapient voices like that of Egyptian folk hero Ahmed Fouad Negm and exiled Syrian poet Hala Mohammad; to be amused but also stirred by the sarcastic tone of Lebanon’s Yehia Jaber’s writings; and humbled by the words of Sahrawi nomad, 'poet of the rifle' Al Khadra’s example of resilience.

I am (as I am sure the series’ audience will be) thankful to the filmmakers, the team at the Scottish Documentary Institute, and Al Jazeera for having produced these remarkable documentaries which morph what I would describe as these artists’ ‘forced monologues’ into engaging conversations. I, for one, certainly want to partake.

Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival is hosting the festival premiere of AL KHADRA: POET OF THE DESERT on 1 November in Edinburgh, as part of its African Popular Arts doc strand. The festival runs from 25 October to 2 November in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Full programme available from 24 September.