Khartoum — South Sudanese Poet Atem Simon was in Khartoum last week to receive honours from the Sudanese Writers Union and to attend the inauguration of his new collection of Arabic poems entitled Wakth Al-Watan (pinch of the homeland), published by Rafiqi publications, a publishing house established by Southern Sudanese writers in Juba, and publishes books in Arabic, considered one of South Sudan's major languages.
The event also came within the resumption of the activity of the Sudanese Writers Union, after the law considered an early decision by the Ministry of Culture and Information freezing its activity null and void.
Union Secretary General Osman Shingir said the poetry reading night was part of the Union's concern about the cultural and social interaction between the two sister peoples, a drive in which the Union had played an outstanding role ever since the two countries had gone apart. "It is also an initiation of the Union's activity after two long years of absence due to the Ministry of Culture and Information's decision freezing our activity," said Shingir.
"Atem Simon is a poet worthy of celebration and his collection is worthy of reading," he said.
Professor Chuol Deng extolled Atem's poems which he said " draw from the groans of war ".
" Atem's poems, worthy of all the applause you gave them, do signal a birth of a great poet in South Sudan," said Prof Deng.
He is a member of South Sudan's Korbandy Cultural Salon, one of the groups that allowed creative youths to enthuse the cultural scene in the nascent nation and gave them the opportunity to present their talents to the public through publications and theatrical shows.
Atem Simon is an advocate of cementing cultural ties between the two countries.
He wrote, in response to a debate on cultural relations between Sudan and South Sudan published by the cultural supplement of the Khartoum daily al-Sudani, "For sure politics did not triumph! Despite its capricious climates, it (politics) had failed to impose its rulings on the cultural interaction between the operatives of the cultural life of Sudanese (North and South). That is because generations of intellectuals and creative Southern Sudanese who lived in the different cities, urban and rural areas of the North, and who studied there, had well established their experiment in writing and cultural creativity in their capacity as a component of the "popular" Sudanese cultural makeup (compared to the "official" which is concerned with authority, its tools and apparatus that used to - and still endeavors - to impose its unilateral paradigm on the mosaic of cultural diversity). For that there emerged many names of Southern writers and intellectuals who viewed culture as an important element in showcasing their literary and artistic creativity."
He indicated that cementing of bilateral cultural relations is even a matter of official concern as South Sudan's Ministry of Culture had, at an early stage, concluded a memo of understanding with its Sudanese counterpart in a bid to perpetuate cultural and artistic exchange. "That is a positive indication, no matter how formal it is. Still the need exists to continue the early efforts initiated by writers and intellectuals in the two countries, a continuation of an old effort and an old cooperation that started in times bygone and extends beyond a mere attention to culture as a complete issue and a complete life. That cooperation experience had materialized in the emergence of a new generation of writers in South Sudan. In this connection we have seen the stories of Arthur Gabriel Yak and Stella Gaetano in the early 1990s, added to our experience in the "Sudanese society for the dialogue of civilizations".
This culturally intricate situation had generated a one integrated generation of creative writers in Sudan and South Sudan. Politics, its developments and perplexing faults could not undo those bonds. The bonds had continued unabated via continued dialogue and via the movement of electronic publication." Simon said.
During the occasion the South Sudanese actor Sekhon Bell performed a one-person show.
Earlier, The Sudanese Writers Union had invited Southern Sudanese Novelist Boy John to inaugurate his first novel Jannat al-Khafafeesh (the bats' paradise), published by the al-Jeel publishers in Beirut, Lebanon, and had also invited Boy's countryman Arthur Gabriel to inaugurate his novel Youm Intihar Azrael (the day Azrael committed suicide), published by the Dar al-Elm in Cairo, Egypt. These two young Sothern Sudanese writers have interest in cultural interaction between the two countries and in the consolidation of the bonds of fraternity between the two Sudans. Both of them had started their writing experiments in the frame of the one Sudan and by that they lay the groundwork for a pioneering generation of writers in Southern Sudan.