الليله العديل و الزين
الليله العديله
يا رسول الله

Was playing in the background
not that I remember, but
a reverse interpolation of childhood tells me
it was playing in the background
that hot summer night in Bahri I saw
my first bridal dance, my first subheya

الليله العديل و الزين
الليله العديله
يا رسول الله

Meaning
Today is the fair and good
Today is the good
Oh prophet of Allah
Reader,
I tried inviting you into my nostalgia
but the coloniser’s definition of a language failed
to bring with it the melodies of a spirit so
please, be content with an incomplete memory
of one hot summer night

الليله العديل و الزين
الليله العديله
يا رسول الله

What I do remember is a princess
a mesmerising princess at a time
princesses never looked this much like me;
what I thought was a dance reserved for royalty;
a frenzy of colours in abundance;
then implanted in my mind as an end goal
before I knew marriage was a precondition,
or which stage or would it rain?
None of that was as important as glitter
and red and gold and drums in someone’s
back garden one hot summer night in Bahri

الليله العديل و الزين
الليله العديله
يا رسول الله

The next summer Sudan was skipped
and Haboba’s heart broken
I instead obsessively watched Mamas old wedding videos
over and over again from a cold leather sofa in Copenhagen
learning the woman singing was Gisma,
the one and only, with her drum between her thighs,
her hennaed fingers creating a communal heartbeat
connecting audience to bride on stage;
connecting choreography to the paintings in Meroë’s pyramids;
the ancestral story retold by aligning
claps with finger snaps and hip jerks;
shoulder thrusts to background singers;
Gisma, who would later dance me,
one hot summer night in Khartoum

الليله العديل و الزين
الليله العديله
يا رسول الله

 

Part of SAWTI Zine Issue 1
Illustration by Randa Jafar
OLA EL HASSANPOET
Ola Elhassan is a Sudanese poet and electrical engineer. She grew up between Denmark and Sudan, and currently resides in London. She has previously performed at Ace Hotel Shoreditch alongside Nick Makoha, Kevin Coval and Safia Elhillo at their Break Beat tour of 2018, as well as other venues including Roundhouse and the Free Word Centre.She recently completed a writing programme for Sudanese Femmes Azza Fi Hawak facilitated by Safia Elhillo and Nehal El-Had