Western Sahara: Poetry and Spanish – The Permanent Links

For some cultures, it is food, for others it is music, and many cultures show their character in their architecture. For Western Sahara, one of their cultural characteristics is the oral tradition, and poetry is meaningful for Sahrawis. This literature becomes a large part of their lives. According to Atrapadordesueños:

Si de repente se le preguntase a un saharaui de poesía lo más seguro es que a su mente no acudirá ni el título de un libro de versos ni el título de un poema. Sin embargo es muy probable que pueda citar los nombres de los poetas más conocidos e incluso podría recitar varios versos de memoria. Y es que la poesía tradicional saharaui en hassania, lengua de los saharauis, sigue siendo oral, a pesar de que en los últimos años se haya intentado escribir y archivar y así evitar que algún día desaparezca con sus propios autores. Durante el colonialismo España se mantuvo al margen, sin importarle la poesía, y de forma general sin preocuparse por la cultura saharaui. La poesía, ajena a cualquier influencia externa, continuó su viaje en su tradicional vehículo, es decir, de boca en boca y anidando en la prodigiosa memoria de vates, cantores y de los amantes de la poesía.

If you suddenly ask a Sahrawi about poetry, he or she may not be able to tell you the title of a book or the title of a poem. But it is highly possible that he or she can tell you the names of several well-known poets and even recite memorized verses. And it is because traditional poetry in Hassania, the Western Saharan language still remains oral, even with recent attempts to write and document it, in order to avoid its disappearance someday, when their authors pass away. During Spanish colonial rule, it remained marginalized. People were not concerned about Sahrawi poetry or culture. The poetry, isolated from any external influence, kept its traditional way of being passed along by word of mouth through the memory of the poet, singers and lovers of poetry.

Sometimes poetry is combined with music as a family tradition, explains Sahrawi blogger, Aziza Brahim, who is a famous singer. She writes about her connection with her famous grandmother, a Sahrawi poet, living in the refugee camps – Ljadra Mint Mabruk:

Para mí, lo que nunca cambiará, es tomar el té en casa de mi abuela, Ljadra. Siempre compartimos mucho tiempo juntas, desde que era pequeña. Hablamos, le peino, compartimos intimidades, puesto que es mi confidente y mi inspiración. Mi música bebe de la poesía de mi abuela, es natural. Muchas veces empiezo a cantarle, y ella empieza a recitar, y también viceversa.

For me, the moment that will never change is drinking tea at my grandmother´s house, Ljadra. Since I was a little girl, we always spent a lot of time together. We would talk, I would comb her hair, we would share secrets, because she is my confidant and inspiration. My music is filled with my grandmother's poetry. It is natural. Many times I start singing and she starts reciting her poetry and vice versa.

Ariadna links to seven Sahrawi poets who fuse two languages, since Spanish is the second most important language of the region. However the Cervantes Institute, which is devoted to the study and teaching of the Spanish language has constantly denied support to them [es], as blogger Haz Lo Que Debas [es] points out:

¿No es más urgente el apoyo a un niño sarahaui, que aprende el español en la escuela, con muchas dificultades, que la instalación de sedes del Cervantes en Pekín, San Petersburgo… o la Quinta Avenida de Nueva York?

Isn't it a priority to support a Sahrawi child wishing to learn Spanish in school, who faces a lot of limitations, than the opening of new branches of the Cervantes Institute in Beijing, St Petersburg or even on 5th. Avenue in New York City?

The blogger continues that this is important because there is also Sahrawi literature in Spanish [es]:

La literatura saharaui en español, incipiente aún, camina sin embargo con paso firme. Una literatura poco atendida por los medios y desconocida por el gran público. También olvidada por las instituciones españolas, caso del Instituto Cervantes o Casa Arabe, que no se interesan por la cultura de este pueblo árabe africano que también se expresa en español, y que un día formó parte de España. Al menos la ayuda de escritores, universidades y asociaciones solidarias con el pueblo saharaui está consiguiendo romper este otro bloqueo contra un pueblo que lucha pacíficamente por su libertad, que “pide la paz y la palabra” para recuperar la tierra que injustamente le arrebataron. Es un libro modesto y sencillo. “No es un bello producto.”

Sahrawi literature in Spanish, while still in its infancy, grows at a steady pace, (even though it has been) ignored by the media and unknown to the large markets. It has also been forgotten by the Spanish institutions like the Cervantes Institute or the Casa Arabe, which don't seem to be interested in the culture of those African-Arabs, who also express themselves in Spanish and who were once part of Spain. With the help of writers, universities and solidarity associations, the Sahrawis have been able to overcome this blockade against a people that peacefully fight for their freedom, that “calls for peace and the word,” to recover the land that was unjustly taken away from them.

Three years ago, a group of Sahrawi poets and writers got together to establish Generación de la Amistad Saharaui (Generation of the Friends of Sahrawis):

Ocurrió un 9 de julio, muy caluroso, en el centro de Madrid. Un grupo de poetas saharauis venidos de diferentes puntos de la geografía española, apoyados por varios escritores e intelectuales españoles, iniciaban una andadura que empezaba entonces a dar sus primeros frutos y que hoy se apoya en más de una decena de libros publicados. Otros compañeros se unían desde los campamentos de refugiados saharauis al nacimiento de este “humilde sueño” que, tres años después, no ha dejado de ser humilde pero es ya una realidad.

It was the hot day of July 9, in central Madrid. A group of Sahrawi poets, who came from different locations, supported by many Spanish intellectuals and writers, started a journey that showed its first results, and that now has dozens of published books. Other supporters got together in the Sahrawi refugee camps at the same time that this “humble dream” was born, and three years later, it is still a modest project, yet it is now a reality.

Poetry is a language too, and the Sahrawis are expressing themselves, preserving their history and culture by building bridges in Spanish.

36 comments

  • @ mohamed,

    Well put. The idea of GV covering Western Sahara is not a political one – it’s to ensure that those voices are heard, regardless of how we categorize them by country. The arts and culture of the Western Sahara exist, whether it’s a country or a region of Morocco.

  • BAHIA

    Renata, please send me an email because there is a very interesting festival in december and maybe you would be interesting.

    Thanks a lot.

  • BAHIA

    @mohamed: el Sahara es de los saharauis y jamás ha pertenecido a Marruecos. Infórmate primero antes de hablar. No hagas afirmaciones contrarias a la legalidad internacional. Marruecos es un ocupante ilegal de parte del territorio y no dudes que tendrá que abandonar lo que no es suyo.

  • Pingback: Jillian C. York

    […] of all, today, Renata’s first Western Sahara post went live. The post focuses on Spanish and poetry, two ties that bind Sahrawis to their native […]

  • mohamed

    @BAHIA:
    i think peronally am well informed when comes to my cause i got enough information about my homeland history than you could imagine,i love western sahara to death and i gived her the best i could because i believe in my cause and am ready to defend her with the more precious i had.i think you misunderstood me,but as sahrawi poet in Spanish i would like to quote you a famous Arabic verse i think you are familiar with,
    بلادي وإن جارت علي عزيزة .. وأهلي وإن شحوا علي كرام

  • Bahia

    Estimado Mohamed,

    Efectivamente fue un error; quien escribía el comentario era Jillian York. No acabo de entender sobre frase sobre si el Sahara es un país o una región de Marruecos. Perdonad el tono pero es algo que no puedo soportar. Nos han arrebatado nuestra tierra ilegalmente. Hablamos de poesía y de cultura pero el hecho de que el Sahara está usurpado es algo que marca cada minuto de la vida de los saharauis.

    Disculpas hermanos. Tus comentarios eran muy correctos. Las prisas son malas siempre.

    Un saludo a todos

  • mohamed

    @BAHIA:
    If those verses are yours then i could say that you are a great sahrawi poet that deserve respect and am telling you from Aaiun the capital of our homeland نازلة عنك .
    Gracias por los versos

    Despejada la oscuridad Bahia Mahmud Awah

    De luto negro desvisten
    tus montes Sario,
    y de azul claro,
    acaricia tu mar
    de norte a sur.

    Tus vientos te abrazan
    y tu llovizna
    despierta el gran río
    de Saguia El Hamra.

    Hermosura es tu Río
    de Oro, y hermoso
    y bello, bello cuando
    unido junto al mar
    a batallar,
    semejante fervor
    ha de estallar,
    todo en cadena a vencer
    desde la Güera
    y más allá de El Aaiun
    a seguir.

    En ti Sario,
    ahí está el rostro
    de la libertad,
    espejo de dignidad
    y en ti, el pueblo saharaui
    vencerá.

  • mohamed

    Am not a poet but i got some cute verses that a young sahraoui poet wrote and i have learned them by heart it is in Arabic and i wish everybody here like it

    الحُب !! ما الحب !؟
    الحُب عندي للأوطان.. وحبي كله للوطن
    أحبهُ إن فيه كنتُ، وبعيداً عنه حبه لا يفارقني
    في قلبي غرستُهُ فُلاً وريحاناً.. وقبل ميلادي
    وفي جسدي وفؤادي بدمي كتبتهُ
    في مقامي وترحالي.. دائماً معي في خيالي ووجداني
    وفي ذاكرتي نقشتهُ وبين أضلُعي
    وقد يُقال: مجنون أنا إن قُلت:
    أن الوطن يولد بداخل الإنسان
    فصدقوني.. هكذا أنا.. وذاك وطني
    ووطني عندي ليس كالأوطان
    ولا يشبهُني في حب الأوطان إنسانُ
    وطني.. إن نازعني فيه غيري.. قاتلتُهُ
    ومن دمي سقيتُهُ.. ومن جُثتي جعلت جسراً نحوهُ
    وأموتُ ألْفاً ليحيى الوطنْ
    ثم أموت.. وأموت.. ويبقى الوطنْ

  • julio

    Hello
    It is really important that we take the saharaui poetry to the english speaking world. the works of badi, beibuh and other hasani poets should be translated to english, but also the incredibly fine spanish poetry of Ebnu, Limam Boicha, Zahra Hassnaui and Luali Lehsen must be printed and widely distributed

  • BAHIA

    Mohamed, muchas gracias por tu bello poema en árabe dedicado a nuestra patria. Es precioso y evoca a su naturaleza, su cultura y su bella gente, que es la de todos nosotros.

    Gracias por tus amables palabras sobre nuestros poemas en español y seguimos en contacto.

    un abrazo

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