Sudan Visit: I know why the caged bird sings

Today in Brazil, over 50,000 people streamed into Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. Practical Action even has a team there, determined to ensure that total energy access for people in the developing world is high on the agenda.

Meanwhile, here in Sudan, hundreds of ordinary people participated in demonstrations campaigning against political oppression and economic austerity. I’m sure these protests failed to make the headlines in the UK, but in Africa they were big news. The demonstrators were greeted by police who used batons and tear gas to suppress them.

There is little personal freedom, and I have never experienced anything like it. Someone told me “it is like a prison here”.

There are sand storms today, the “Habob”, and the sand is everywhere – in my hair, my ears, my eyes, my nose, my mouth. Khartoum is a desert city – and the desert does not let you forget it.

Before I came to Sudan, three lovely colleagues in the UK gave me a poetry book – some soul food for my travels. Tonight, as I sit in my hotel room reflecting on my day, I find Maya Angelou’s poem “I know why the caged bird sings”. It’s a poem I have always loved, but tonight the last verse moves me more than usual:

“the caged bird sings

With a fearful trill

Of things unknown

But longed for still

And his time is heard

On the distant hill

For the caged bird

Sings of freedom”


2 responses to “Sudan Visit: I know why the caged bird sings”

  1. Jane Davis Says:

    Hi Ella, what a profound experience you are having.I am so glad that your colleagues gave you poetry to take on the journey – always useful to have soul food, especially in desert situations…is there local poetry, are people making songs and poems? have you experienced any of that? Maybe we could link up and you could do a post for the reader’s blog – we have a reading around the world series. Good luck with the rest of your trip x Jane

  2. Ella Jolly Says:

    Hi Jane
    Thank you so much for reading! Yes the poetry was a great comfort to have while I was experiencing so much. I tried finding some Sudanese poetry but as much it is often overtly political (and anti-government), it would not have been sensible for me to carry it on my person! I left my poetry book with my colleagues in Sudan in the true TRO spirit of sharing great literature 🙂
    Ella x

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