“Kandakas and Meheiras”: The Emergence of Creative Citizenship and Belonging Through Women’s Music in Sudan

Journal article

Grabska, Katarzyna & Azza Ahmed Abdel Aziz (2022) “Kandakas and Meheiras”: The Emergence of Creative Citizenship and Belonging Through Women’s Music in Sudan, Music & Arts in Action 8 (1): 32–49.

Read the article here (Open Access)

Based on ethnographic research and life history interviews with local and translocal women musicians in Khartoum (2018-2020), this paper reveals how, through their marked presence in the Sudanese revolution of December 2018, they have emerged as political actors and contributed to debates that recast understandings of political belonging. As a result, they have enacted diverse notions of gendered citizenship through their creative practice. These diverse women musicians, through their actions, created space for multiple subjectivities related to ideas about what belonging to the Sudanese nation meant and the symbols it evoked.

This article illustrates how the nation and the act of belonging to it are mediated through powerful feminine figures, which became even more apparent in the recent revolution in Sudan. The imagery of the nation is feminized and the protagonists of this revolution are associated with iconic historicized women: the Kandaka (ancient Nubian queen) and the Meheira (after the historical figure of Meheira bint Abboud, who was a poet and warrior). This piece explores how these emblems are interpreted and embodied in diverse ways by women musicians to enhance their feelings of belonging to the crafted nation. We examine young urban women musicians’ political roles, and how their performances have acquired political claims over time. We frame these belongings as acts of creative citizenship, beyond legal parameters, where some young women musicians emerge as actors who take particular stands in shaping political and existential belonging to Sudan through their creative musical practice.

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