Abdelrazig's poetry (performing at the 'Universal Tongue') is one haunted by absences, yet buoyed by a love of story and a penchant for magic.
The setting was an unlikely one for a major festival event: the stark community hall of the Atherton Gardens Estate (commonly referred to as 'the flats'). In the middle of Ramadan, on a Sunday night (also Fathers' Day), attempting to draw a local Muslim audience was always going to be a challenge. Unfortunately the residents of the Atherton Gardens did not come. On the up-side a generous audience found their way and they were not to be disappointed!
Ahmed Hashim (Melbourne / Iraq), Afeif Ismail Abdelrazig (WA / Sudan) and Atief Khieri (ACT / Sudan) performed their work in Arabic with the aid of Vivienne Glance (WA) and James Waller (Festival Director) delivering English versions.
Ahmed Hashim opened the evening with a series of pieces that touched - with black irony, pathos and transcedent humour - the devastation of his homeland Iraq. Hashim closed out his set with a sequence of powerful haiku - each one as light and as strong as a suicide bomb.
The contrast in Hashim's work, between the every day and the horror of war, spoke like a true picture, a sublime utterance, defying by its very existence the stupor of despair.
Atief Khieri followed with a short set in both Arabic and English. We were moved by the emotion with which Khieri carried his voice, poignant and filled with 'syllable-pain' (Celan).
It is a pity more Arabic speakers were not present to fully appreciate the largely non-translated verse. We certainly look forward to seeing more of Khieri in the future and pray more of his pieces find their way into English.
Closing out the evening was the towering Afeif Ismail Abdelrazig and his co-translator Vivienne Glance. Performing in tandem, between Arabic and English, Abdelrazig completely charmed and moved his audience aided by the wonderful English delivery of actor-trained
Abdelrazig's poetry is one haunted by absences, yet buoyed by a love of story and a penchant for magic. His philosophical chants of being reached out across continents and languages on this very special night of the universal tongue.
The night was rounded out by some delicious Sudanese food prepared by Jazeera restaurant in Footscray. As Overload's first bilingual showcase it was an encouraging beginning and we look forward to many more in the years to come! Our partcular thanks to Jesuit Social Services for sponsoring the event.
Overload Poetry Festival
Melbourne, 4 -13 September 2009