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article imagePutting down roots in the Canadian cultural landscape Special

By Farid Abdulhamid     Apr 29, 2013 in Entertainment
Toronto - The colourful March 30th SpeakSudan magazine launch has gone into the records as a historic, milestone event that has set new standards in community organizing and stage management earning a prominent place in the Canadian artistic landscape.
Hundreds of participants drawn from the diversity of the GTA’s East African community as well as members of the general public packed the Ada Slaight Hall, at the Daniels Spectrum located in the downtown, Regent Park area to full capacity to witness the historic launch as well as celebrate an evening filled with art, culture, food, live music and inspiring speeches and lectures.
According to SpeakSudan, the innovative collective “promotes the creative expression of the experiences of East African youth and allies in the Diaspora”. It provides the youth with “a safe space, both physical and emotional, to creatively explore their identities and connections with spaces and cultures they identify with.” The collective situates itself in the Canadian cultural landscape and engages with and strengthens its communities.
Spoken word artist  Mutendei Akhaya Nabutete performing during the launch.
Spoken word artist, Mutendei Akhaya Nabutete performing during the launch.
tiffchiang photography
Rania El Mugammar  SpeakSudan s Founder and Chief Editor.
Rania El Mugammar, SpeakSudan's Founder and Chief Editor.
SpeakSudan
In her front page letter to the public featured in the inaugural edition of SpeakSudan’s Putting Down Roots magazine, the Collective’s founder and Chief Editor, Rania El Muggamar lauded “the extraordinary caliber, diversity and creative energy of the pieces in the volume” adding that SpeakSudan “began as an anthology of narrative of a large, immensely talented, struggling but yet triumphant community.”
“Our effort is inspired by the oral traditions of our peoples and by the central role that stories, whether told through art, literature, or performance play in our lives” said the eloquent Rania.
“Being East African is also Sudanic” proclaimed the heading of an article by writer Gussai Sheikeldein that featured in the magazine. Tracing the roots of the Sudanic people to geographic regions that today include the “Sahel” and the “Sudano-Sahelic” region, the author notes that the Eastern Sudanic communities still share commonalities “as Sudanic Africans and as Africans in general.”
Singer Alysha Brillinger rocking the house with her melodic tunes.
Singer Alysha Brillinger rocking the house with her melodic tunes.
tiffchiang Photography
A toddler getting down on the beat during live music.
A toddler getting down on the beat during live music.
tiffchiang photography
The glossy and colourful magazine carries a complex mix of creative works ranging from articles, commentaries, drawings, photographs, interviews, poetry etc. It highlights the works of incredibly talented writers, spoken word artists, political commentators, photographers, visual artists and more. The Canadian public also gets a glimpse of the collective’s young leaders whose insightful thoughts on art, learning and community building are posted on the back pages of the magazine. Alongside Rania, the SpeakSudan team includes Salma Suliman, Manar El Muggamar, Mahad Mohamood, Sara Suliman, Adilah Abdirahman, Mazin Osman, Mariam Ahmed and Sarah Salih.
A key feature in the magazine is Rania El Mugammar’s interview with Kalkidan Assefa, a professional Ethiopian-Canadian artist and youth who illustrated the cover work of SpeakSudan’s diasporic magazine. The representation of a long list of artists and professionals in the magazine is a testimony to the fact that talent is abundant in Canada’s East African community and that Putting Down Roots is an indispensable platform that would continue to provide exposure to creative youth.
Keynote speaker  Kim Crosby  delivering her speech at the launch.
Keynote speaker, Kim Crosby, delivering her speech at the launch.
tiffchiang Photography
University of Toronto professor  Rima- Berns-Mcgowan  addressing the public.
University of Toronto professor, Rima- Berns-Mcgowan, addressing the public.
tiffchiang Photography
Rania is delighted by the immense success of the launch saying that it was a moment of community pride that went beyond the expectations of both the organizers and its adoring communities.
In an exclusive interview with the Digital Journal, Rania noted that the launch, which in part showcased East-African artistic and literary talents, has generated a great deal of enthusiasm in both her organization and the newly –launched magazine as ardent community stakeholders have expressed their desire to get involved in Speak Sudan’s initiatives and its already iconic publication. The overall impact of the event was huge while magazine sales have shot up dramatically.
“We received lots of positive feedback in the community and we were approached by individuals who said they would like to get involved with either Speak Sudan’s programming or the magazine. They asked about what they can do to support our initiatives. There has also been an upsurge in the demand for the magazine and we received orders for copies as far away as the UK. We were sold out in no time but we plan to print more copies. Additionally, we are setting up online sales to meet growing demand” said Rania.
SpeakSudan s Founder & Chief Editor  Rania (left)  with Manar El Muggamar.
SpeakSudan's Founder & Chief Editor, Rania (left), with Manar El Muggamar.
tiffchiang Photography
All smiles after grabbing copies of the inaugural edition of the Putting Down Roots Magazine.
All smiles after grabbing copies of the inaugural edition of the Putting Down Roots Magazine.
tiffchiang Photography
Many in the community, Rania observed, were astounded by the high quality of submissions from different sectors of the community and the eye-catching printing quality of the magazine.
“We received the type of feedback we were looking for with people in the community placing more focus on certain themes. We call upon contributors to continue to submit to our online magazine and we would like to hear the public’s comments to make our efforts better. We want our next event to be bigger and we are already in the process of doing programming for the next year, including grant writing for September” said Rania who thanked the Laidlaw Foundation for funding SpeakSudan’s project.
The magazine is expected to serve as an important medium that will showcase the creative talent and artistic expression of the youth and the community’s rich heritage in general.
“In Canada, there is no reflection of us anywhere. But the magazine, which is a product of our community, will cover all things sad and inspiring. It is an illustration to the community that there are people like us making art and also earning a living from it. Art is universal and we can all speak to and relate to it. The magazine is a way of giving appreciation and recognition to young people doing great work” said Rania.
Mariam Ahmed  SpeakSudan s media and community Coordinator speaking to the press.
Mariam Ahmed, SpeakSudan's media and community Coordinator speaking to the press.
tiffchiang Photography
Staff at check-in counter receiving guests at the Daniels Spectrum.
Staff at check-in counter receiving guests at the Daniels Spectrum.
tiffchiang Photography
To leave behind a long lasting evidence of the event, the historic launch was professionally documented by videographers and photographers. The video will be out at the end of April and SpeakSudan plans to use it to reach a large global audience. Rich in both visual and literary elements, the magazine will be distributed in high traffic areas including transit locations, schools and community centres while designated copies will be donated to areas where the East African youth congregate.
At the programming level, SpeakSudan is planning to expand into other regions of Ontario.
“To extend our community programming, we will target other parts of the GTA, including Hamilton as well as the Kitchener and Waterloo areas that have large East African families and youth. We are looking to get feedback from these communities on how to make our programs more accessible outside the GTA” said Rania.
SpeakSudan’s next community event will be held at the Daniels Spectrum. Urging people in the community to attend, Rania said:
“It would be a roundtable discussion on community engagement and accountability. It is about how to get the community involved and be accountable to them. The event would be free for everyone. Lunch will be provided; tokens will be available while transportation will be reimbursement. Child care and ASL interpretation will be provided if needed.”
Singer Manny Manolo edutaining the public.
Singer Manny Manolo edutaining the public.
tiffchiang Photography
Even for her dynamic and vibrant collective, Rania acknowledges that challenges lie ahead but is confident her team is ready for the test.
“We have to accept that we cannot do everything for everyone. This means that we have to pick our battles, and stick to our commitment to accessibility. Mobilizing and managing financial resources in the community would be a challenge. For example, we can see value in spending more money on interpreters while other folks would like to see more spent directly on programming. We have to stick to our values and standards and continue to do programming that is relevant and to have the resources to do that.”
The ever charismatic Rania stated that transparency and accountability will be a cornerstone in the overall operations of SpeakSudan’s community programming.
“We have to be transparent and accountable. At the end of every spending year, we would make our financial records public by publishing it in our website. There has to be accountability to our funders and also accountability to our community.”
Speaksudan s Founder and Chief Editor  Rania El Muggamar  at a magazine signing session prior to the...
Speaksudan's Founder and Chief Editor, Rania El Muggamar, at a magazine signing session prior to the launch.
tiffchiang Photography
Spoken word artist  Yusra Khogali  doling out rhymes during the historic launch.
Spoken word artist, Yusra Khogali, doling out rhymes during the historic launch.
tiffchiang Photography
In maintaining professional Etiquette, Rania said that the collective will be guided by ethical principles that will set high standards for others.
“We are fortunate to have highly professional and exceptional leaders in our organization. The level of professionalism demonstrated by our team helps dispel certain stereotypes about our community. The Canadian public is able to see that our people have the ability to organize and conduct our affairs with utmost professionalism.”
Spoken word artist  Rua El Khasheef  edutaining the crowd.
Spoken word artist, Rua El Khasheef, edutaining the crowd.
tiffchiang Photography
The SpeakSudan founder paid glowing tribute to her colleagues who are making a huge difference in the community.
“All of us do community organizing outside our collective. For example, Mariam is involved in different initiatives while people like Mazin run Ifreecan. This is important because it gives us perspectives and we learn from different efforts. Our team members volunteer enormous amount of their time because they are driven by their love for our community, our people and youth.”
At the event to deliver powerful, inspirational speeches were Keynote speaker, Kim Crosby, an award-winning multidisciplinary artist, activist, consultant, facilitator and educator and guest speaker, Dr. Rima Berns-McGown, an adjunct professor of diaspora studies with the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto.
In an electrifying atmosphere, the public was treated to mass edutainment by singers Alysha Brillinger, known for her jazz and fado influences; Manny Manolo, a new artist on the infectious Afro-fusion music scene, and spoken word artists, Rua El Khasheef, Yusra Khogali, Mutendei Akhaya Nabutete and SpeakSudan’s own, Mahad Mohamood.
Videographer Vivek documenting the historic launch.
Videographer Vivek documenting the historic launch.
tiffchiang Photography
An occasion for everyone: A thrilled mom holding her lovely baby getting ready for the launch.
An occasion for everyone: A thrilled mom holding her lovely baby getting ready for the launch.
tiffchiang Photography
The inaugural edition of Putting Down Roots magazine on display  during the event.
The inaugural edition of Putting Down Roots magazine on display during the event.
tiffchiang Photography
Multi-cultural youth enjoying their time during the intermission of the magazine launch.
Multi-cultural youth enjoying their time during the intermission of the magazine launch.
tiffchiang Photography
Guests arriving at the Daniels Spectrum.
Guests arriving at the Daniels Spectrum.
tiffchiang Photography
Guitarist and Griot Kobe Acqua-Harrison (left) with singer Alysha Brillinger.
Guitarist and Griot Kobe Acqua-Harrison (left) with singer Alysha Brillinger.
tiffchiang Photography
The SpeakSudan team receiving a standing ovation from the floor at the end of the launch.
The SpeakSudan team receiving a standing ovation from the floor at the end of the launch.
tiffchiang Photography
Singer Alysha Brillinger performing at the event.
Singer Alysha Brillinger performing at the event.
tiffchiang Photography
For more info: www.speaksudan.org
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