Against Disappearance | A discussion about cultural heritage & contemporary culture
Traditional Sudanese song about the Battle of Kerreri (Battle of Omdurman)

The second in a series of discussions about cultural heritage and contemporary culture.

We have a complex relationship with cultural heritage. In celebrating its riches, we must also acknowledge the challenges it presents.

For the second in our series of Against Disappearance discussions, we explored the different legacies of cultural and commercial exchange.

Trade and culture have always coincided, not always in equity. A consequence of the movement of people, products and commodities across territories, is the migration of different ideas, rites and customs. Across the globe, coastal cities notably hold vestiges of both nourishing and deadly trades. In particular, they reveal how the transportation of enslaved people impacted on the confluence and also disappearance of cultures.

To discuss how some stories are told of migration, trade and power, the British Council's Cultural Protection Fund and Shubbak, London's festival of contemporary Arab culture, invited: writer, mythographer and historian Marina Warner, writer and activist Hammour Ziada - whose book The Longing of the Dervish was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction - and writer, editor and festival convenor, Abu Amirah - whose book KasKazi explores the dynamics and inter-connectedness of narratives and cities on the Swahili coast.

Centred around the cultural context of African, Arab and European influences in Sudan and the Swahili coast, their discussion was framed by examples of heritage across Lamu, Mombassa and Omdurman amongst others to illustrate the fragility of the material traces of complex and shared histories.

Abdulrahman ‘Abu Amirah’ Ndegwa is a Mombasa-based writer, AMLA (Art Managers & Literary Activists) Fellow, AWT (African writers Trust) Publishing Fellow, founding editor of Hekaya Initiative, a literary and cultural production platform publishing voices from the Swahili Coast, convener of the annual Swahili Literary Festival and proprietor of HAI Book Hub– Hekaya’s publishing imprint and bookstore.His story Swahilification of Mutembei was shortlisted for the Writivism Short Story prize in 2016. While other stories are set to be appear in other literary magazines, some have been published in Kalahari Review, Munyori Journal, Hekaya Issue 01, Writivism 2017 mentorship program anthology Transcending the Flames and long listed for Writivism’s 2019 Koffi Addo nonfiction prize. He has attended several creative writing workshops: Kwani? 2015, Miles Morland Foundation workshop 2017, Writivism Online workshop 2017, Storymoja short story course 2018, AMLA Fellowship 2018 and won the AWT publishing seed funding which produced a work of fiction, KasKazi, exploring the dynamics and interconnectedness of narratives and cities in the Swahili coast.

Marina Warner is a writer of fiction, criticism and history; her works include novels and short stories as well as studies of art, myths, symbols and fairy tales. She was educated in convent schools in Cairo, Brussels and Ascot, and read Modern Languages at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (of which she is now an Honorary Fellow). She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, London, a Distinguished Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, a Fellow of the British Academy, and was made DBE in 2015 for services to higher education and literature. Her new book, Inventory of a Life Mislaid - An Unreliable Memoir published by William Collins, will be published in March 2021 and is available for pre-order.

Born in 1979 in Omdurman, Hammour Ziada is a Sudanese writer and journalist. He has worked as a civil society and human rights researcher, and currently works as a journalist in Cairo. He also writes for a number of left-wing newspapers in Sudan and served as the culture editor of the Sudanese Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Ziada has published several volumes of fiction in Arabic, and is best known for his second novel Shawq al-darwīsh (The Longing of the Dervish), which won the Naguib Mahfouz Prize in 2014 and was also nominated for the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. This novel and several of his stories have appeared in English translation, including in the anthology The Book of Khartoum (Comma Press, 2016) as well as in Banipal magazine.
In 2019, a feature film by Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala, called You will die at Twenty, and based on Hammour Ziada’s short story Sleeping at the Foot of the Mountain won awards at the Venice International Film Festival, as well as at other international film festivals.

Musician Al Amin Khalf Allah plays the Oud and sings a traditional song about the Battle of Kerreri. These songs are laments that extol the virtues of the Sudanese warriors and their bravery in the face of the overwhelming odds they faced at the Battle of Kerreri, near Omdurman. It marked the end of the Mahdist period during which Sudan was independent from the Ottoman Empire from the liberation of Khartoum in 1885 to the fall of Omdurman in 1898. The song is valued as a symbol of the desire of the Sudanese to be independent of their foreign rulers, and as a memory of the time when they first achieved this. it serves as a reminder today of the struggle the Sudanese people have gone through to develop their own free identity since the creation of the new Sudan Republic on 1 January 1956.

This video is produced as part of the Western Sudan Community Museums Project supported by the Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. This project is led by ICCROM-ATHAR (Architectural and Archeological Tangible Heritage in the Arab Region) and delivered in partnership with the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM); The Centre for Heritage Studies, McDonald Institute for Archeological Research, University of Cambridge; and Mallinson Architects and Engineers.
Read more about the project

This discussion is the second in a series presented by the Cultural Protection Fund and Shubbak Festival. The Cultural Protection Fund is led by the British Council in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.


Duration: 1 hour.

This talk is subtitled in English.


Explore the Against Disappearance series.

Read Confronting the Age of Disappearance by Rebecca Anne Proctor here.