I’ve had a lot of varied responses to my last post. I thought I would share a reply to one of them here, as I can’t bring myself to reshape its content for a proper blog post.
I don’t have any particular or thought out response to the actual secession. I only lived in Sudan for a handful of years, and left when I was 10, as you know. Over 20 years later, and I’ve not been back for more than a couple of months cumulatively, over three visits. I’ve never left the tri-cities, I don’t know everyday life in Sudan, and I don’t feel like I have the knowledge or even much firsthand information to have a well-formed opinion. To apply an overused analogy, I don’t – and question my right to – comment on this divorce. In a partnership, one needs to do what they have to do, and I have no place in this relationship; any engagement I might have had was temporary and superficial. If I was allowed to vote, I’m not sure how I would cast my ballot.
What I’m interested in is how our identities are affected in light of what seems to be the inevitable secession of South Sudan. How this idea of homeland affects and shapes our identities. How the meaning of “I am Sudanese” has now changed to the point where I don’t know where its truth is.
I’m interested in how being Sudanese is changing. What it means for older generations who identify with a homeland that will soon no longer exists. What we will tell our children when they ask: what are we?
What will our points of reference in terms of performing our identities now be? Does this make us more Arab, and how is that more or less problematic, especially if it comes at the expense of our African-ness? What about our national symbols, will they change?
And my curiosity comes from a strange pain. One that I wouldn’t have guessed I would encounter or feel. That strangely affects the way that I now see myself and consequently, conduct myself. The pain that’s a lot more intense for older Sudanese, and people who live there. Contrast that with the infectious joy and celebration that’s been communicated by the South, a positivity I can’t contradict or begrudge. I’m bewildered by the intensity of this emotion, and my nature pushes me to find out more about the role nationality and citizenship play in creating identity.
I realise that this is disjointed and slightly out of context. But I’m sure there will be more. And a very special thank you to D., who triggered this response.