Sudanese writer Ahmed Abu Hazem, the member of the Sudanese Writers' League, has complained about the presence of several writers' organisations which he says have divided writers and allowed politics to "corrupt" authors' creative function.
Abu Hazem, who was born in Juba in 1963, told Arabstoday of the formal structures available to Sudanese writers: "The primary entity that controls cultural activities in Sudan is the Writers' Union, led by lawyer Kamal al-Gazouli, which is considered in discord with the regime. It is critisied for including figures who are inactive on the cultural scene. The second entity is the Sudanese Writers' League, led by poet Abdallah Shabo, which is classified as an independent entity concerned with highlighting culture and its constituent parts with absolutely no involvement in politics, only cultural activities. Lastly, there is the General Union for Sudanese Writers and Novelists, which is classified as a government entity with headquarters and government funding. It is by Omar Kaddour, a retired police officer, but it later experienced a schism due to disagreements and infighting, and the splinter group was given the same name, the General Union for Sudanese Writers and Novelists."
He added: "Multiplicity is itself a normal phenomenon, but it's not normal for all these entities to be so concerned about their relationship with power. Cultural entities shouldn't care about their relationship with power. The creative state is not linked to power, be it corrupt or not corrupt. It is a power in its own right. Culture is a creative project, not a political one. Culture must be in the fore and politicians should take their cues from culture, a story or a poem, to put together their programmes. An artist who is concerned with politics as a motive for creativity becomes a political mouthpiece and would be better off turning his hand to speechwriting."
The Tayeb Saleh Award laureate who won the literary prize for his collection of short stories Yanayer Baytul Shetaa (January, House of Winter), noted that Sudan has produced writers who are well-known abroad but remain relatively obscure in their home country. He cited poet Youssef al-Haboub, saying he is well known in the Arab world "for his active contributions" and has had much of his writing translated into many languages. The same, Abu Hazem said, goes for novelists and short story writers Osama Abdel Hafiz and Mansour el-Souwaim.
But he adds: "The cultural movement [in Sudan] is suffering from government neglect and has not been placed strategically in the creation of conscience and highlighting the true face of Sudan through art and effective cultural activities. Writers and artists are unfortunately divided among the three entities, which has had a negative impact on the creative movement and made it unable to confront challenges including foreign outreach and presence, official recognition and print and publishing issues."
Abu Hazem told Arabstoday he is currently working in radio, TV and journalism, but said this doesn't stop him from taking an interest in the obstacles facing Sudanese culture. His primary motive, he said, is to serve Sudanese youths, prodded on by public's encouragement and the awards he has received for his short stories both in Sudan and elsewhere.