Who Am I

Who Am I

Adhel Arop is a two time award winning filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada. She has been a poet since the age of eight, writing poems for conferences and school assemblies. She has always  gravitated to poetry as a way to express and explore emotions. 

Adhel’s documentary “Who am I?” weaves together her experience settling into Canada as a refugee with her family and her mother’s experience as a child soldier in South Sudan. We are excited to share two of Adhel’s poems, Sudan’s Echo and SPLA Song and a short interview with the artist about her influences and hope for her work. 


Part I.

 (This is the translated song that my mother and I sing at the end of the documentary.)

Sudan’s Echo 

By: Adhel Arop

The sky weeps 

my country  screams 

I watch in agony

the eyes of the people I love dearly tell stories of sadness

they are children 

who have become broken adults 

 

Now their children inherit that hurt

trauma becomes Sudan’s 

greatest

Legacy

 

I remember the music that played  in the background of my childhood

my mother seeking solace in the things that destroyed her

 

I would look into her eyes

Seeing the reflection of the skies
she once looks up to 

her face

crying out as muffled voices screeches from the radio

eyes fading into an expression I could not understand. 

 

We were strangers 

she was strength 

yet in her power I saw weakness

 

every day

I heard these muffled voices

Hopeful screams 

they were my mother’s sense of home

she gave up her childhood  for her country

within that exchange

her eyes stopped forming tears

while her soul drowned in agony

What has become of the person she wished to be?

 

I remember hearing the muffled voice of men 

seeping out of the radio

the sounds lingered in the air 

longer then the silent stares we exchange

I would whisper

“are you ok?”

She looked at me

 

our hearts exchanged words  our mouths could not 

never understood why these cassettes meant so much to her

How was I to know she had been a child soldier



These muffled voices of men screaming 

were the songs that once kept her alive

at a time she wasn’t sure if she wanted live 

I weep for her

because I know 

she has lost her ability to shed tears for

 herself….


SPLA War Song

South Sudan wo yay

SPLA wo yay

Karyom wo yay

 

Madeer dan wa 

Leaders of Wau

Madeer Wau (region in Sudan)

Leaders of Wau 

Meedeer dan Wau

 

Leaders of Wau

 

Ran Wau

People of Wau

Madder dan Malakal wandeed ku juba

Leaders of  Malakal l And Juba

Loy by ka de ken pel a by 

What are we doing to our country 

bogou thiem chin te de e ya chol

You’ve left our country in shambles and have nowhere to call home

 

Maye maye maye 

My god, My god

Maye maye maye 

My god, My god

 

Meerder yat kwon acha keg pwol

You’ve homes, your province

Ke dom ke lwoy che by la tweng

and taken on jobs that wont help the country develop

E ke reg a de

What a terrible thing

Wed kwan Sudan

Children of Sudan

 

Howne a thiow thar a che la mang

That sounds of gunfire is going 

 

Keg jej a Nemir 

off as the soldier fight against us

 

Sonke sonke A mane a Nemir jol ke moge a choge

Nemir will hate it but we will take our country back

 

Bunge Kwan yin kej waii kuwa teng

Governor Haven’t you seen us we are dying

 

pinge by Sudan a riag bange da

Our Country is in shambles 

 

pinge bwog liew 

We can’t move forward

kowo che jur Maraleen Jok Kwa nhin win a Bol

we can’t take back our country when most of us have died

The arabs have chased us out 

Kwa Nhin son of Bol

Name of Leader

Maye maye

my God, My Gd 

 

Leke John Karang Leke John Karang  bwog loy ke de Na ye piang da 

Tell John Karang how will we take back our land,

 

Bunge Kwa nin kej wei kwa teng binge by Sudan a riag bange da

Governor Kwanin haven’t you seen us, haven’t you seen our country we are dying

 

pinge bwog liew kowo che jur

How will we take back our country when many of us have been killed by soldiers

Maraleen Jok Kwa nhin win a Bol

Tell us 

Maya maya maye

My God, My god

Leke John Karang bwog loy ke de Na ye piang da 

Tell John Garang what will we do to get back our land?

 

Nhwen a thow bwog rod nyia wei

When it comes our land We will die for it

 

Ghwen a thow wed  kwan e two

You will only take our country over our dead bodies

 

Gwen a thow wed kwan Janub

We choose death, our life is our country



Biange john garang ina choge mouthe mathu biange da 

John Ganag we salute you, 

 

Ka pae  ka dianhg owa nug neen jwij

its been 3 month we’ve been walk  and we are tired


Part II. 

Interview

Sadia Hassan: Adhel, I just watched your moving documentary. It is so full of love for your mother and you all’s shared language and common history. I grew up in Clarkston, GA where my family and I were resettled as refugees in the mid 90’s. I had lots of friends from Sudan and Gambia. Your documentary reminded me so much of what it was like (and honestly, still like) to grow in that middling place of multiple identities. 

What of your work in the world inspired these poems?

Adhel Arop: My documentary “Who Am I”  is the film to my poetry, I wrote these poems while creating my first film, I used them to hire collaborators, the set the tone for all my present work, I learned to translate Dinka (my native tongue) I got a deeper for my language, opening me up to a whole new world of stories, the history of my country South Sudan and my mother and aunts apart of the liberation movement, this feminine power in the face of war gave me courage to explore my mothers trauma.

SH: What do you hope readers will walk away with?

AA: I hope they hear the hope that echoes through time, the songs that my mother sang as a child soldier are now interweaved into my artistic platform raising my success as a filmmaker while honouring my roots. These types of stories are not unique. War and displacement have affected many countries and their development is intergenerational trauma something we all can connect to one way or another.

SH: In the age of climate change, what do you feel the world owes Sudan?

AA: I wont say the world owes Sudan anything, war owes Sudan peace. Centuries of fighting with the division between the majority Islamic North and a Christian South, one that led to two civil wars, leading to a referendum in 2009; these issues birthed a new nation called South Sudan, the newest country to join the UN,  A country that has been plagued by civil war and continues the unrest after the referendum. These two nations, Sudan and South Sudan, are going to be heavily affected by the climate change. 

The South is still on a first wave of industrial revolutions. I hope the world will aid Sudan and South Sudan in exploring solar energy for infrastructure building. As a human rights activist, I believe that at-risk countries need our support. They are behind on technology because of on-going war and with climate change and their effects will take have some concerning repercussions for at risk countries and Sub-Saharan Africa,  the world should aid Sudan & South Sudan on their Sustainable Development Goals and infrastructure building through the use sustainable options such as Solar Energy, I hope the countries will be offered a voice and connected in the fight for Climate change as leaders.

SH: Can you tell us a little about a community practice you have that has inspired your art-making?

AA: I have been a volunteer mediation instructor on the downtown eastside, Karma teachers is a non-profit studio and teacher training school. Volunteering for the past eight months has provided an inside look at what goes into running a yoga studio the community that gathers. We all volunteer our time and help one another, It’s inspired my art to be involved in a community, my art has grown significantly through the developing love of all the communities I’ve been a part of. My art is to raise people’s voices that were once silenced through multiple digital mediums.

SH: What was your experience translating Dinka with your mom and what do you think the world of translation can do for us in terms of empathy and connecting with each other?

AA: Translating was definitely difficult when I originally took on the task, I translated over 40,000 words from Dinka to English. I would call my mom and ask her to re-pronounce certain words or songs. Dinka has several accents and I spoke/understood one certain accent, but after hours and hours of listening to different people speaking the language, I managed to have an easier time. I think that understanding breeds empathy and connection because it allows us the ability to understand each other. Learning Dinka more intensely has made me feel more connected to my mother. It gave us something to do together. People from my community have really been happy with my interest in exploring the culture and language, providing me with opportunities within the community to learn to speak and translate the language.

SH: Sudan’s Echo is entirely in English while SPLA Song almost feels like a call and response between English and Dinka. What feelings were you trying to evoke with each poem? Are they in conversation with each other?

AA: In Sudan’s Echo the scene is set in my childhood,  on any given day you would find my mother cooking and drifting off to the sounds that poured out of the radio I wasn’t aware at the time but the songs she listened to were songs from her time in the SPLA. This particular song is actually my mother’s favorite song so I decided to use it for the foundation of work pertaining to the SPLA and child soldiers. My mother and her friends from the war spend hours on the phone singing to one another in conferences even until the current day, it always sounded like muffled voices until I could understand the language in more detail as an adult. So creating this piece of poetry alongside translated war songs are my attempt to provide what it feels like to have a traumatized mother with a secret past, you always knew there was something off but it took years to uncover the mystery. It has given me so much healing to explore these stories of my past, finding creative ways to translate my experience has been the most exciting part for me. These two pieces of work are in conversation because the SPLA Song when performed join together, I sing the songs and recite the poetry when I have speaking engagements I will perform the works together.

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