السبت، ٩ يونيو ٢٠٠٧

Austria’s truest eye

German Language Migrant Literature in Austria and Trotzdem singe ich by Ishraga Mustafa Hamid

Tanja Binggeli
Department of Germanic Studies
German Honours IV Long Essay
Supervisor: Dr Andrea Bandhauer
University of Sydney

“[T]he truest eye may now belong to the migrant’s double vision”
Homi K. Bhabha

Ishraga Mustafa Hamid

Ishraga Mustafa Hamid is a Sudanese-Austrian currently living and working in Vienna. Ishraga arrived in Austria in 1993 after being accepted as a student at the University of Vienna.

Ishraga was born in 1961 in Kosti, a city approximately 250km south of the capital, Khartoum and part of the coutry’s majority muslim north. Born into a Muslim family, Ishraga attended primary school and high school in Kosti, before moving to Omdurman in 1985 to study at the Islamic University of Omduran. Here Ishraga completed a degree in Publizistik and journalism*.[1] Ishraga completed her degree with the result “very good with honour” and after this continued on with work Hamid commenced as a student in 1985 as a freelance journalist. Hamid also had a number of articles, poetry and prose published during this period. In 1991 Ishraga returned to study, enrolling in the Postgraduate College at the University of Khartoum where, in 1992, Ishraga completed a ‘high degree Diploma in Communication’. After the completion of her second degree, Ishraga worked as a radio journalist for ‘Radio Obdurman’ on a program called ‘People and the Environment’ before preparing to leave the Sudan for Austria.

Ishraga had begun her political involvement while at highschool in the Sudan with the feminist movement. This was for Ishraga not just a political awakening, but Ishraga recalls “[d]urch mein Engagement hat sich mein Bewusstsein entwickelt und auch verändert. Ich hatte mich zum ersten Mal als Frau wahrgenommen.“[2] Through her involvement with the feminist movement Ishraga began to become occupied with politics in the Sudan, the situation of women in her country, the environment, as well as the war in the South.[3] However, with the coming to power of the Military Regime in 1989 under General Lieutenant Omer el Beshir, life became very difficult for those who were or had previously been politically active. “Nachdem das Regime…an die Macht kam, kamen alle Personen, die politisch aktiv waren auf die Watchlist. Es was schwierig, einen Job im Sudan zu finden, obwohl ich mit sehr guten Noten abgeschlossen hatte.“[4] So amidst the political unrest that was taking over Sudan, Ishraga left for Austria.

Ishraga moved to Austria in 1993 after being accepted as a student by the University of Vienna. Ishraga enrolled in a Masters (Magister) program in Pubizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, however, before undertaking study towards her Masters, Ishraga had to complete a number of courses prescribed by the University, aswell as complete a Diplomarbeit as her studies in Sudan were not completely recognised. After the completion of her Diplomarbeit in 1997, Ishraga commenced work on her Magister and also worked on a number of studies into the situation of immigrants n Vienna, particularly that of African women. One of the first studies which Ishraga completed in Vienna, “Integration zwischen Regen und Fata Morgana, Ansichten und Aussichten afrikanischer Migrantinnen in Wien”, was completed during 1997 and 1998 and was presented at a Work Conference at the University of Graz in 1999 entitled “Black and White – African European Identities”.

Ishraga has also worked closely alongside Dr Erwinn Ebermann in his research on the state of the African population in Vienna. Dr Ebermann’s book, Afrikaner in Wien (2002) features a number of studies and surveys undertaken by Ishraga Mustafa Hamid as well as summary of the results written by Hamid herself (as referred to in the second chapter).

Whilst working towards her Magister in Austria, Ishraga has worked for a number of organisations and institutions, as well as having had a number of articles and works of literature published as well as having been a lecturer at the University of Vienna in the Institute of Political Science since 2001.

In 1998/1999 Ishraga was a coordinator of seminars to raise awareness on the topic of ‘The development in Africa from a Genderperspective” in Osttirol. Ishraga also worked during this time as a researcher for the Wiener Intergrationsfond and following this, Ishraga was contracted by the advocacy group Frauensolidarität and and the City of Vienna as a researcher into issues concerning women’s health and rights.
In 2002 Ishraga was hired as a Project Manager by the Wiener Institut für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (VIDC) on a project called ‘Gender Pool’.[5]

Between 1997-2002 Ishraga had several articles published in the magazine for Frauensolidarität, dealing primarily with issues concerning the question of gender, democracy and development. Ishraga has also made contributions to a number of anthologies published by Milena Verlag. These include „Die Spraches des Widerstandes ist alt wie die Welt und ihr Wunsch“ (2000) and „Eure Sprache ist nicht meine Sprache“ (2002). In addition to this, Ishraga’s work appears in an anthology of 100 authors whose work was compiled by Helmuth A. Niederle called “Fremde in mir”.

In August 2005 Ishraga was the convenor of a conference in Vienna which was run in conjunction with an NGO co-founded and chaired by Hamid called NilDonau: für Entwicklung und Friedenskultur. The conference was given the title “A Networking Conference Across Borders: The Challenges and Strategies of Sudanese Women for Democratic Change and the Rebuilding of Sudan.” and the aim of the conference was to bring together female representatives of civil society from all parts of the world to work on “perspectives” for the rebuilding in Sudan, and particularly to focus on the unique contribution that women are able to make toward the peace and democratization process.[6] In regards what is required for a successful rebuilding of the society in the Sudan, Hamid says:

Aus meiner Sicht braucht es die Trennung von Religion und Staat, viel Bewusstseinsbildung bei den jungen Menschen und eine aktive Beteiligung von Frauen am Friedensprozess.[7]

In another article reporting on the conference, Hamid shares her strong belief in the need for a ‚culture of peace’, „Wir müssen eine Kultur des Friedens schaffen. Nur ein Abkommen zu schließen reicht nicht“.[8]Hamid explains that women need to take an active role in the peace process as they are good examples in the area of “Bewusstseinsbildung und Erziehung”: Sie können sich leichter die Hand reichen und miteinander versöhnlich sprechen.[9] The conference brought together women representing Sudan’s Islamic north wth women representing the Christian south. Hamid said was deemed by Hamid a success as “[d]ie Frauen aus dem Süden haben mit den Frauen aus dem Norden gesprochen... und [sie] haben das mit viel Kraft und Humor gut geschafft“

Hamid describes her self a human rights activist and feminist: “[m]eine
Basis sind die Menschenrechte und die Frauenrechte im Besonderen“.[10] However, Hamid is often asked how she balances her feminist convictions with her muslim faith. This is Hamid’s reponse in an interview after the NilDonau conference last year:

Was den Feminismus betrifft, so kann ich nur sagen, dass ich mich für Frauenanliegen einsetze. Dass diese mitunter in muslimischen
Gesellschaften andere sind als in westlichen, ist klar. Ich analysiere die Lage sozusagen als „Feministin aus dem Süden“.[11]

By contrast to other poetry with a political message by other African writers in Austria, the tone of Ishraga’s poetry tends to be on the whole much more peaceful and positive, focused on hope

The aftrican community is so networked and because of marginalisation and stigmatisation that is truly is a new location from which to speak. Speaking on behalf of many.

Autobiographical aspect to Hamid’s poetry
In the foreward to the collection of poetry, Hamid introduces the collection as follows:

Mir bleibt die Hoffnung, dass meine Worte eure Herzen berühren und eure Körper und Seelen bewegen mögen. Denn das bin ich, ich bin voller Hoffnung, die von Schmerz und Leid begleitet wird. Trotzdem singe ich.[12]

This summary by Ishraga of herself is a profound summary of the poetry in this collection. It would appear that it can be derived from this opening few lines that much of this poetry can be viewed as being strongly autobiographical. At the end of the quoted opening lines Hamid repeats the title of the collection: “Trotzdem singe ich”. Based on the assumption that much of the content of Ishraga’s poetry may be considered autobiographical, the poems which follow this brief introduction could be considered Hamid’s ‘song’.

As a result of this assumption, I will refer often to the sentiments expressed in the poems as being those of the author herself. The potery seems to provide a mode of expression for Hamid as well as (according to the introduction) bridge of communication between herself and a German-speaking white Austrian audience.

Due to the short nature of many of her poems it has been considered best to look at a number which particularly show a spectrum of the thematic material covered by Hamid in this collection


In Afrika
In Österreich
In Deutschland
In Südamerika
In Asien
Oder in Nordamerika

Die Menschen sind meine Heimat

The concept of ‘Heimat’ in the German language is one which is often played on in Migrant Literature.[13] The German word can not easily be translated into English. ‘Heimat’ carries a much deeper sense of belonging that the English word ‘home’. Given this depth of meaning and the emphasis on the concept of belonging captured in this word, it is a highly relevent term in the language of those who struggle to know where it is they belong. Hamid has a unique take on the usage of this word in this poem entitle Heimat.

As the first poem in the volume, ‘Heimat’ would appear to be of special significance. In a way, this poem acts as a short preface to the poems in the rest of the collection by pointing to several key themes which are to appear again and again in the poems which follow.

First of all, ‘Heimat’ introduces the idea that the author has a fairly global perspective. Hamid is someone who thinks across borderlines, oceans and racial lines. Very quickly, the reader is transported from the secure concept with the title ‘Heimat’, around the ‘four corners’ of the globe. The concept of ‘Heimat’ is defined by borders and antithesis. The word ‘Heimat’ is often used to refer to the ‘homeland’, clearly emphasising the sense of solidarity with those who reside within the nation’s borders. In her poem, however, Hamid effectively empties the word of this meaning. In the poem, the concept of ‘Heimat’ is stretched almost inconceivably to a German-speaking reader to encompass the entire world, effectively emptying the word of its traditional meaning. here we see Hamid’s playing subtly with the German language (Entfremdung) in a way which is (almost?) beyond a native speaker.

Knowing German as a foreign language, the words sit above a pre-existing framework of meaning in Hamid’s mind. It is, therefore, easier for Hamid to understand fairly objectively the power of meaning of the word ‘Heimat’ and use it to communicate in a new way.

Ishraga creates a (geographical) tension in this poem between the title and the places named in the first 6 lines. This tension, however, is resolved by Hamid in the last line:

Die Menschen sind meine Heimat[14]

With this line the first tension is resolved, only to establish another. The geographical understanding of the word ‘Heimat’ is replaced by a very abstract concept. The German-speaking audience is being challenged once again to be flexible with the meaning ascribed to the word ‘Heimat’.It is not, however, that Hamid intends to empty the word of its meaning entirely. The objective appears to be to stretch the meaning of the meaning in order for it to be able to be applied to a different, perhaps even new, object. The association of belonging is to be disconnected from a geographical location and applied to a universal humanity. The ‘Oder’ in the last line of the poem disrupts the rhythmic flow of the poem, creating a pause. This pause could be considered a pause of reflection before continuing with the final place name, “in Nordamerika”. This could possibly be a political statement against the administration in the US and their actions on the world political stage. (Hamid is a muslim who may be at odds with the Bush administration’s Christian policies.)

Rosen für Omofuma

Wir weinen nicht um dich
wir weinen um die Sonne der Freiheit, die unterging
als zwei Vögel auf deinen Schultern geschlachtet wurden
in deinen Augen wurden unsere Träume getötet
auf deinen Lippen wurden Wolken gefangen

Wir weinen nicht um dich
bis unsere Qualen enden
trotzdem singen wir
unsere Trommeln verstummen nicht
wir pflanzen dich in unsere Kinder

Es blüht ein Baum, bunt
in seinem Schatten
singen wir für Gleichheit

This poem by Hamid refers directly to the death of Marcus Omofuma who died whilst in police custody in 1999.

With political overtones and the feel of a song of solidarity, this poem speaks of a collective sadness at the loss represented by the death of Marcus Omofuma at the hands of an Austrian State authority. However, Ishraga lifts the mood of the poem half way through with a message of hope in the face of persecution.

Ishraga uses the first person collective pronoun “wir” in this poem, indicating that her voice in the poem represents the sentiments shared by many others.

The central theme of this poem is hope.

Wir weinen nicht um dich
wir weinen um die Sonne der Freiheit, die Unterging[15]

The poem appears to be communicating a fairly political message. Rather than an obituary to Marcus Omofuma, who does not appear to have been personally known to the author, this poem opens by mourning what the death of Marcus Omofuma at the hands of the Austrian police represents to the collective African community in Austria. What this act represents to the African community is the violence of the Austrian police in its attitude and behaviour towards the African population. Not only this, in the trial of the police who were involved in the incident, the officers were given extremely light sentencing.[16] This demonstration of a seeming ambivalence towards violence against Africans is a very significant blow to a population already very aware of the hostile attitudes of the ‘white’ Austrian majority around them.

Ishraga uses powerful images from nature to depict the loss that this event represents from her perspective. The image of the people crying as they watch the sun go down is one of great hopelessness, as if the sun has gone down for the last time. The images become more violent, representing Omofuma’s death as the slaughtering of two birds on his shoulders. In his death, he has embodied the death of the dreams of the collective group and an unwelcoming future.

in deinen Augen wurden unsere Träume getötet
auf deinen Lippen wurden Wolken gefangen[17]

According to Hamid in this poem, the death of Omofuma represents a huge defeat in the eyes of the African people who have been struggling for recoginition and respect from a white, European society. The fact that Ishraga should see Omofuma’s death a loss for the African population[18] as a whole shows Ishraga’s belief that Omofuma’s death is as a direct result of Omofuma’s race. In this case, it represents such a great loss bu substitution – it could have been anyone of African descent so mitreated in his place, and follows that it could happen to anyone of African descent in the future. Therefore, dreams of living peacefully and in solidarity with their white Austrian neighbours & authorities were crushed through the event of Omofuma’s death.

In the second stanza the poet shows a solidarity with Omofuma personally and puts his death more into the context of the racial struggle of the Africans.

Wir weinen nicht um dich
bis unsere Qualen enden[19]

Here it would appear that Ishraga is saying that the African people can not mourn for him until their suffering has ended, which would appear to imply that Omofuma’s mourning can not begin until the political agenda which his death has raised, has been dealt with. The ‘Qualen’ appears to refer to politcal and social oppression experienced by African immigrants in Austria.

What comes next is very characteristic of Hamid’s poems, particularly when dealing with the theme of hope. Oftening in the midst of lamenting the plight of the African population in Austria in a poem, the first half will present a bleak picture of their situation. However, around half way through the poem there will be a turning point, from which the mood of the poem is lifted completely. The mood shift is usually implies a triumphing over adversity

trotzdem singen wir
unsere Trommeln verstummen nicht
wir pflanzen dich in unsere Kinder[20]

In the second half of the second stanza, Hamid shows her solidarity with Omofuma and alludes to the strength of the African people. Hamid presents the very evocative aural image of the African drumming to represent their collective protest at Omofuma’s death. The image of “planting” Omofuma in their children is used to express the tribute to Omofuma’s life that the African community will pay by ensuring that his name lives on for generations to come.

Particularly interesting in the images chosen by Hamid in this part of the poem is their allusion to fairly stereotypical images held by Westerners of the African ‘Orient’. In the first stanza, Hamid speaks in terms of events in nature to express the sense of loss experienced by the African community at Omofuma’s death. A common assiociation in Orientalist discourse with the African Orient is nature.A western stereotype, which as has been shown, still exists today, is that African people share a special bond with the natural world. Through the use of powerful images from nature to communicate the message in this poem, it appears that Hamid is appealing to these stereotypes in the minds of her German-speaking Austrian audience. Equally, the aural depiction of drumming and singing are two other images closely associated by the West with African tribal traditions. The idea of “planting” Omofuma in their future generations evokes a sense of storytelling. The oral tradition of story-telling is another stereotypical characteristic of people of the Orient in the Orientalis discourse. Hamid, therefore, seems to embrace many images considered, now, fairly stereotypical of the ‘Orient’.

The last stanza features, again, stereotypical images of ‘African’ people. The aural image of collective singing evokes the sounds of the harmonious full tones of an African choir. Singing, particularly in times of oppression, is also an aspect of African culture which the West has clung onto as a part of the ‘Other’ African cutlre. The strong ‘African’ flavour of this image is further strengthened by the fact that the singers are depicted singing outdoors under the shade of a tree that blossoms brightly.

Es blüht ein Baum, bunt
In seinem Schatten
singen wir für Gleichheit[21]

Here another political message in the poem is conveyed., The united chorus of the African community in Austria singing for equality.

In this poem Hamid portrays a tragic loss of hope in the face of the treatment by the Austrian police of fellow African Marcus Omofuma. Hamid, however, shows that through the solidarity of the African community, the “wir” of the poem, this injustice can be overcome, and indeed there is hope for a more positive future. Despite the brutality of the crime and prejudice agaist which Hamid protests, the images of the African protest in the poem are colourful, inspiring and peaceful. Hamid seems to be suggesting that the nature of their protest is at the present time a peaceful one, or perhaps she is calling on fellow people of African descent in Austria to remember their roots and traditional ways and not to answer violence and hatred with more of the same.

Meine Schwarzen Schwestern

Meine Schwarzen Schwestern
Sind meine stärke
Meine Lieder
Mein Stolz
Sie sind meine Sterne
Mein Durst
Meine Sehnsucht
Nach Verzeihen

Schwarze Schwestern
Hand in Hand
Herz an Herz
Auf dem Weg zu unsere Befreiung
Umarme ich euch

Here Hamid demonstrates the passionate solidarity that she feels with other (‚black’) African women.

The repeated use of the possessive pronous ‘Mein’ in the poem indicates the internalization of sentiments shared amongst women in the African community, as well as identifying vicariously with their struggles and victories. Hamid reeps strength, joy hope and pride from her identification with other African women. The depiction of her “Schwarzen Schwestern” as her “Lieder” links Hamid with the image of singing which is considered by the West as being an inherent part of African tradition. It is also and image of and expression of overflowing sentiment, either joy or sorrow. The description of her ‘sisters’ as being her “Sterne” is an image which is full of hope and inspiration with the reader picturing Hamid literally looking up to them

. In the second half of the first stanza Hamid captures the passion with is intensified by a collective identity. When one shares so passionately and intimately the joys and pain of a whole group of people, the sentiment runs more deeply and becomes a larger issue. Through sharing an issue with many others, the issue will be talked about, cried over and celebrated more frequently and for longer as each person within a community acknowledges the highs and the lows with each other member. The experience, therefore, is all-encompassing and is felt at a completely different level than it otherwise would if it were a private and personal struggle.

Hamid refers to her longing for “Verzeihen/Vergessen/und Liebe” which is also expressed through her relationships with her “Schwarzen Schwestern”. The longing for forgiveness and forgetting appears to allude to great and painful difficulties in Hamid’s past, the memories of which Hamid longs to be free from. The longing for forgiveness could perhaps refer to Hamid’s decision to leave her homeland, Sudan. As shown above, Hamid is passionate about working towards the rebuilding of Sudan, as she says in an interview for the magazine Stichproben: “Es ist wichtig, dass der Widerstand aus dem Sudan kommt, nicht aus dem Ausland. Wir helfen nicht viel. Die, die im Sudan aktiv sind haben ihre Füße am Boden, wir sind weit weg.”[22] At the end of the stanza Hamid expresses her longing for “Liebe” which is expressed, too, through her reaching out to and finding comfort and common ground in her “Schwarzen Schwestern”

This poem, too, ends with a strong and positive image of solidarity, hope for a better future. The first three lines of the second stanza encapsulates Hamid’s message in this poem:

Schwarze Schwestern
Hand in Hand
Herz an Herz

The image „Hand in Hand“ alludes to affirmative, collective action taken by women in the African Community to work together towards “Befreiung”. “Herz an Herz” refers to the shared emotional openness amongst African women which Hamid celebrates at the beginning of this poem. The “Befreiung” which Hamid refers to could have a number of different levels of meaning. As Hamid is engaged in the process to bring peace back to Sudan, it could be a reference to the ‘freeing’ of her homeland. However, Hamid is also passionately engaged in working with African women in Vienna against the racist attitudes and behaviour they face in Austria. Since the image presents a collective move towards the “Befreiung”, it would appear to be freeing from a collectively suffered oppression, as opposed to freedom from a personal and private struggle in the lives of the women.

Eure Sprache

This poem is about the solidarity that Hamid feels with fellow African women. Hamid also expresses the pride she takes in her identity as a ‘black woman’.


Gefährten sind wir auf dem Weg
verbunden in Traum und Leidenschaft
unsere Hërzen sind verflochten, wenn die Erschöpfung uns besiegt

Eifrig bin ich dann und heiter
wenn er mich unsichtbar berührt

Meine Träume stehen aufrecht
voll Leidenschaft
und Wehmut
und sehnsüchtig entrücke ich
wenn er erblüht
wie Buchstaben
wie verstreute Sterne
die mich erkennen

Ich bin eine Frau
eine Frau für die Armen
eine Frau für die Gedanken der Frauen
und für das Seufzen meiner Heimat

Ich bin eine Fremde

Er begleitet mich
in meiner Ausgrenzung
in meiner Einsamkeit
und Wehmut

Er tantzt mit mir am Anfang
und in der Mitte des Traumes
er verlässt mich erst
wenn die Früchte meiner Hoffnung
in Buchstaben erblühen
Gefährten sind wir
unsere Herzen verflechten sich ineinander
wenn die Erschöpfung uns besiegt

Fremde sind wir
mein Bleistift und ich

In the poem Gefährte Hamid describes her relationship with creativity, particularly as expressed through writing. The ‘Gefährte’ to whom Hamid refers in the poem is her pencil, symbolic of a tool which enables creative expression. Hamid implies that this creative expression is an outlet which acts as a means by which to survive and that it accompanies her wherever she goes, whatever ever experience she may be living through:

Gefährten sind wir auf dem Weg
verbunden in Traum und Leidenschaft

The poem is self-reflective, in the sense that it is the product of the process of creatio described by Hamid in this poem.

Hamid exposes in this poem her feelings associated with being ‘foreign’ in a foreign land. The first of these is “Erschöpfung”. In a beautifully lyric and melancholy phrase, Hamid writes how she and her ‘Bleistift’ are “besiegt” by exhaustion. By her use of the first person plural throughout the poem, experiences which may otherwise sound stark and lonely, are given a warmth since they are described throughout as being shared with a companion. The ‘Bleistift’ is further personified as it is described as an active subject:

Eifrig bin ich dann und heiter
wenn er mich unsichtbar berührt

Making the ‘Bleistift’ the active subject of this sentence emphasises the important role that the outlet of creative expression plays in Hamid’s life. Hamid’s dreams as described full of “Leidenschaft” and “Wehmut” as blossoming into letters. As demonstrated by her political engagement and by the passion she feels for the collective cause of her fellow African ‘sisters’, Hamid is very passionate and this is clearly reflected in her writing. Hamid’s writing also demonstrates her suffering, both in personal struggles and her collective struggles in the policitical engagements with the African community. Writing however, ‘delights’ Hamid as she sees her inner feelings, passions and suffering blossom “wie Buchstaben/wie verstreute Sterne”. According to this description which depicts creativity as an act of new birth, it is fact that the writing process produces tangible ‘blossoms’ and communicable expression and artistic beauty (“Sterne”) which brings Hamid such delight. For her experience is able to be translated into a product which reflects her and “knows” her. It is perhaps recognition for which Hamid longs. Recognintion comes through understanding, and understanding through hearing, and hearing through telling. Through writing Hamid is able to tell her story. And now, Hamid is able to communicate her story to, not only a new audience, but an audience which has been perhaps out of reach of people in her position in the Austria society. Hamid, a member of a marginalised minority, has been able to use the language of the majority to communicate. This is an extremely empowering act. The idea of being known, conveyed in the last line of the second stanza by the word ‘erkennen’ appears to be at the heart of the objective for writing, as described in the poem, and indeed of this very collection of poetry.

Hamid’s use of the language does not represent and embittered protest, however simply a competent and artistic mode of expression. In other examples of migrant peotry by Black authors, such as examples by May Ayim or Grace M. Latigo, the German language is treated very differently. One significant difference between Hamid’s writing and that of Ayim or Latigo which is worthwhile making note of, is Hamid’s use of capitalisation. Hamid shows respect for the capitalisation rules of German grammar by upholding capitalisation of the nouns. When a poet has chosen not to follow German rules of capitalisation, the text takes on a strong sense of protest. The poem comes across as an act of defiance, whereby the author decides to disregard the language rules and legitimise expression without an adherence to them. With Ishraga’s poetry, there is a greater sense of respect for the German language, where the language is viewed as a means to an end: communication between the a representative of the African minority and the Austria majority. As previously mentioned, the empowerment is perhaps more found here in the ability to communicate rather than dominate.

Another element of being a foreigner in a foreign land expressed by Hamid in this poem is her solidarity with her homeland. In this stanza Hamid describes herself as “eine Frau/… für das Seufzen meiner Heimat”. Here Hamid shows that she hears the„Seufzen“ of the people of her homeland and is committed to them. Hamid shows here the impossibility for her of leaving behind completely the troubles suffered by the people of her “Heimat”. Here the use of the word “Heimat” demonstrated the inherent connectedness one feels to their place of origin. Even though it is described as a place of tears, Hamid is not willing or able to turn her back on it. Hamid also refers to her particularly strong commitment to the “Gedanken der Frauen” and the cause of feminism (feminism ‘des Südens’).

Approximately half-way through the poem Hamid exposes the theme has underpinned the poem to this point, and continues to the end.

Ich bin eine Fremde

Hamid makes a simple and unambiguous statement which exposes what lies at the heart of the issues presented in the poem: foreignness. The results of her foreignness in Austria are presented in the following stanza as “Ausgrenzung”, “Einsamkeit” and “Wehmut”, as already stated in the first stanza.

The creative process is alluded to again at the beginning of the next stanza in the image used of ‘dancing’:

Er tantzt mit mir am Anfang

The creative process is described again using imagery from nature as a productive process. The products of the creative process are “die Früchte [ihrer] Hoffnung”. In the self reflective nature of this poem, this line is very significant. Here Hamid describes her poetry as the fruits of her ‘hope’, or perhaps ‘hopefulness’. This is very meaningful as this can often be clearly seen reflected in Hamid’s poems, and indeed in the title of the collection. As has been already been seen in the above analysis of “Rosen für Omofuma”, a common characteristic of Hamid’s poetry is a turning point midway through, where the mood of the poem is raised by Hamid adding an injection of hope. In the poem Rosemarie the beginning presents a bleak situation:

Steine wurden mir in den Weg gelegt
mit Steinen werde ich beworfen
meine Seele schmerzt[23]

However, immediately following these lines, Hamid writes:

Aber noch träume ich
noch sind meine Schritte wach[24]

The second half the poem (which appears to be written about Rosemarie Zehetgruber, the person to whom the collection is dedicated) is filled with warmth and hope:

du bist die Rose
die mir Kraft gibt
du, Marie, ein schönes Lied
das wir anstimmen
die Kinder, die Sonne und ich[25]

Likewise the poem Ilse is neatly divided into two halves. Without the need for careful analysis, it is plain to see that after the mentioning of the name “Ilse” at the beginning of the second stanza, the picture being painted by Hamid is not nearly so desolate:

Mir ist die Welt zu eng
kein Platz für meine Seele
wie ein nackter Baum stehe ich an der Weggabelung

du bist wie eine Regenwolke
deine Seele öffnet sich mir so weit
wie ich mir die Welt wünsche
du bist wie ein Regenbogen
der den nackten Baum
mit Farbe schmückt

Ich bin nicht allein
der knorrige Baum blüht[26]

The last line summarises the metamorphosis of the poem with the image of new life springing from a gnarled old tree. There are a number of such examples of this characteristic turn in Hamid’s poetry. Often signalled by an image depicting new life, many of Hamid’s poems communicate the unceasing hope that Hamid has, the fruit born of her “Hoffnung”.

At the end of the second last stanza of the poem Hamid repeats an idea initially raised in the first stanza:

unsere Herzen verflechten sich ineinander
wenn die Erschöpfung uns besiegt[27]

This repetition shows that this is a cyclic process in Hamid’s life. Life as a foreigner in s foreign land is continually exhausting, however, the creative process inspires the hope within Hamid and the fruit of this hopefulness is born, poetry is created. By the end of the poem, the “Einsamkeit” mentioned earlier in the poem is resolved when Hamid concludes in the first person plural:

Fremde sind wir
mein Bleistift und ich[28]

Wann führen meine müden Schritte mich nach Süden
die Träume und Lieder meiner Sehnsucht sind erschöpft

Ich will zurück
dorthin wo ich mich zurechtfinde
wo ich singe für eine Welt ohne Grenzen

Wann kehre ich in mein altes Zimmer zurück
zu meinen alten Liedern
zu meinen alten Träumen

Ich will zurück
in eine neue Heimat
die Frauen leidenschaftlich umarmt

Meine Schritte sind müde
die Fremdheit frisst mich auf
ewige Trauer umhüllt mich
ich bin entfremdet

Ich bin einsam
entsetzt, wenn ich die Plakate lese
Wien darf nicht Chicago werden
Ausländer raus
entsetzt, wenn ich Jobangebote lese
Nur für Inländer

Mein Engagement
meine Qualifikation
lehnen sie ab
weil ich eine Frau bin
weil ich eine Schwarze bin
weil sie finden,
dass meine Sprache komisch klingt

Sie lehnen mich ab

Wann führen meine müden Schritte mich zurück
in den Schoß meiner Heimat
die schon lange auf meine Rückkehr wartet.[29]

The poem Ablehnung is the cry of an exhausted woman who is being ‘eaten up by foreignness’ and longs for the relief of familiarity.

The place of longing is described in the first line as the “Süden”. However it appears throughout the poem that is not simply her homeland for which Hamid longs. Hamid write in the second stanza that she wants to go back to “Muttererde/wo [sie] sing[t] für eine Welt ohne Grenzen”. It is not clear what is being denoted by the name “Muttererde”, although it seems to be a term chosen by Hamid to encapsulate the associations of acceptance, warmth and freedom which appear in stark contrast to Hamid’s feelings of foreignness. The world without borders is a utopian images with echoes of Hamid’s poem Eine Erde für uns alle, where Hamid writes:

Heute bleibt meine Sehnsucht
zwischen Himmel und Erde gefangen
meine Füße wollen die Erden spüren
wollen vor offenen Türen stehen[30]

The world without borders echoes Hamid’s description of a world of „open doors“. However, in Eine Erde für uns alle Hamid recognises the utopian nature of her longing:

es brannte die Sehnsucht nach einer Welt
die nicht existieren will[31]

Hamid describes in the third stanza of Ablehnung her longing to return to things of her past, her ‘old’ room and ‘old’ songs of her past. However, directly following this Hamid does not express wanting to go back to the ‘old’:

Ich will zurück
in eine neue Heimat
die Frauen leidenschaftlich umarmt[32]

As if to acknowlege the shortcomings of her homeland, for which in the end Hamid was forced to leave, Hamid longs for a „neue Heimat“. The concept of a new homeland is itself inherently contradictory. “Heimat” denotes a place of origin, by its very nature originary and therefore unable to be updated or replaced.

In the the stanza which follows, Hamid reflects on the destruction and the exhaustion she feels as a result of her foreignness. The “ewige Trauer” exposes the depth of the pain felt by Hamid by her foreignness. The following stanza outlines the reasons for which being a foreigner in Vienna is particularly painful.

Ich bin einsam
entsetzt, wenn ich die Plakate lese
Wien darf nicht Chicago werden
Ausländer raus
entsetzt, wenn ich Jobangebote lese
Nur für Inländer[33]

Hamid makes a statement here about the blatant and outward racism which features in the Viennese society; about racist headlines and discriminatory employment advertisments. Hamid records that the effect of these is loneliness and disgust. Hamid follows this paragraph which a listing of her achievements which are simply rejected by the society of her new country.[34] Despite the tertiary studies completed by Hamid in Sudan, including her Masters degree, the University of Vienna insisted that she had to complete a ‘Diplomarbeit’ before she could commence her Magister studies at their institution.[35] Hamid also makes a connection between discrimination for being a woman and for being black:

lehnen sie ab
weil ich eine Frau bin
weil ich eine Schwarze bin[36]

According to Hamid, sexism and racism are inextricably linked and discrimination can not be simplified by assigning it a label as one or the other. In her interview with the Stichproben magazine, Hamid says:

Sexismus, Rassismus, Kolonialismus- das alles ist irgendwie verbunden. Es ist den meisten Frauen zwar bewusst, dass sie diskriminiert werden, jedoch nicht, dass das Geschlecht ein sehr wichtiger Bestandteil dabei ist – Rassismus kann unmöglich von Sexismus getrennt werden.[37]

Continuning on from this, Hamid refers to discrimination on the basis of her „Sprache“. It is this form of racism, in particular, that Hamid is fighting in producing lyric in German. The question remains, however, whether the fact that Hamid’s poetry has not yet been recognised through academic engagement with it (until now) is yet another form of persisting racist attitudes.

The conclusion of this paragraph is that the white majority of Austrians reject Hamid’s idenity, her whole self.

At this conclusion Hamid returns the the beginng and re-states her tired plea to be returned to the comfort of the “Schoß [ihrer] Heimat”.[38]


Als ich in mein Paradies zurückkehrte
fand ich nur den Schutt der Erinnerungen
und die Asche alter Erzählungen

Fremde bin ich in meinem Paradies
wo sind meine Sterne geblieben
wo ist ihr prophetisch glänzendes Gesicht

Als ich zurückkehrte
war ich nicht mehr ich
ich war eine andere
die Sterne erkannten mich nicht

Nur die Sehnsucht nach der Vergangenheit ist geblieben[39]

This poem is about the change that a person undergoes upon crossing a frontier, which becomes most evident when that person tries to return from whence s/he came. Hamid questions her own notion of identity and depicts the complex loss one feels when losing a sense of one’s one identity.

In the first line Hamid refers to what appears to be the land of origin as her “Paradies”. By using the word ‘paradise’ to describe the country of origin, Hamid captures the way in which a migrant will develop a romanticised idea of their homeland while being away in the adopted country. When a migrant lacks a sense of belonging, it is common to have overly positive memories of their home country which is a projection of everything which they feel they are missing in their new society. The stark reality is brought home in the second line where, in place of her ‘paradise’, Hamid only finds “den Schutt der Erinnerungen/und die Asche alte Erzählungen”.[40] Hamid highlights the hollowness of the comfort of memories when the migrant returns to their homeland.When romanticised impressions of their country of origin have been base upon memories of good times, it is a particularly great shock to come home to the reality that those former times have past and the country as you remember it no longer exists.

In the second stanza Hamid mourns the fact that she now feels like a foreigner in her own country.

Fremde bin ich in meinem Paradies[41]

The tragedy of this is clear in the juxtaposition of the ideas of paradise and foreignness. Hamid no longer has a place in a land which she had conceived as her paradise. In the following lines Hamid depicts her sense of disorietation at this great loss:

wo sind meine Sterne geblieben
wo ist ihr prophetisch glänzendes Gesicht[42]

The stars here could represent a guiding force, as in the next line she refers to the ‚face’ of her paradise as ‚prophetic’. Hamid has lost her guiding stars, her sense of direction.

Hamid alludes to another reason for being a foreigner in her own paradise as being that she had fundamentally changed:

Als ich zurückkehrte
war ich nicht mehr ich
ich war eine andere
die Sterne erkannten mich nicht[43]

Aside from the fact that the country has no remained as Hamid remembers it, Hamid herself has also changed. The image of the stars no longer recognising her, is a very poignant image. Not being recognised by people that Hamid considers the very ones to whom she belongs is a very painful realisation. As has been seen in the poem Gefährte, as a foreigner Hamid has longed for recognition. Now, upon her homecoming, the ‘stars’ have not recognised her. The image is one of stark loneliness.

This image of the stars conveys to a Western reader a sense of the cliché idea that people from Africa associate more closely than Westerners with nature. The personification of the stars could appear to allude to a relationship with the stars that one may have in Africa. It may also, however, be no more than simply symbolic,

The sense of loneliness is only further developed in the last line:

Nur die Sehnsucht nach der Vergangenheit ist geblieben

Longing for the past is not only futile, but in this context it is also tragic. Not only a foreigner elsewhere, Hamid has come to feel like an alien in her own country, amongst her own people. When one is fundamentally changed upon crossing a frontier, however, once there, can not belong, the only place in which s/he belongs is the past. Hamid powerfully depicts the loneliness of being a citizen of the past.

This poem could be based upon Hamid’s experience during the first trip which Hamid made in 1999 back to the Sudan, six years after having arrived in Austria. In an interview with Stichproben, Hamid says the following in regards to this trip:

Ich war jetzt nach sechs Jahren im Sommer zum ersten Mal wieder im Sudan. Das war für mich ein Schock. Ich habe mich in meinem eigenen Land fremd gefühlt... Einen Monat lang war ich total fremd, insgesamt war ich drei Monate dort. Ich kenne niemanden mehr, alle Gesichter waren mir fremd, ich traute niemandem. Ich hatte Angst, auch vor meiner eigenen Familie; die haben das aber auch gemerkt. Wenn ich in einem bestimmten Zimmer war, und sie wollten sich mit mir unterhalten, bin ich einfach gegangen. Wenn sie zu Besuch in den Hof kamen, bin ich ins Haus gegangen. Dieses Gefühl hat mich einen Monat lang beherrscht. Ich habe geweint, ich habe auch ein Gedicht geschrieben. Die Fremdheit wird mich als Frau überallhin verfolgen. In Wien hier fühle ich mich fremd, und dort fühle ich mich auch fremd.[44]

Hamid reports having written a poem during her this time, and despite not being able whether this is that poem, it does reflect the sense of feeling estranged from the past and thereby the homeland. In Vergangenheit Hamid refers to the “Asche alter Erzählungen”, which is a vivid depiction of an event which is finished and belongs to the past. In the same article Hamid refers to her shock at what she viewed as backward steps that had taken place in the feminst movement since her time living in Sudan:

Früher gab es im Sudan eine starke Frauenbewegung, die sehr viel erreicht hat... Aber unsere erkämpften Rechte haben wir verloren. Eine Frau auf der Straße wird immer kontrolliert. Ich habe das selbst…erlebt. Ich war mit meinem Mann unterwegs, und der Taxifahrer hat uns gefragt, ob wir Dokumente haben, die uns als Ehepaar ausweisen.[45]

Hamid talks about the activism which had changed legislation to move the country towards gender equality in the 1960s, which now upon her visit back to Sudan appeared nothing more than issues discussed amongst activists, „Asche alter Erzählungen”.[46]

Read after the poem Ablehnung, which appears earlier in the collection, the sentiments expressed in this poem are particularly tragic. In Ablehnung, the object of Hamid’s longing is her return to her homeland, “die schon lange auf [ihre] Rückkehr wartet”.[47] However, according to Hamid in Vergangenheit “Als [sie] zurrückkehrte…die Sterne erkannte [sie] nicht”[48]


Wir sind gleich
auch wenn der Norden Nord genannt wird und der Süden Süd genannt wird
auch wenn die Jugend des Südens in den Traum vom Norden
in den Traum, in Würde zu arbeiten, zu leben
in den Norden der Gerechtigkeit
und des Respekts vor den Menschenrechten

Wir sind gleich
Zeitungsverkäufer, du läufst durch den Schnee
und deine schwarzen Augen brennen wir Kohlen
halten Ausschau
nach Arbeit in Würde
nach Identität
nach Gerechtigkeit

Lass mich nicht allein, Zeitungsverkäufer
gib mir dein Herz
deine Arme
lass uns kämpfen gegen die Armut des Südens
lass uns singen für die Sonne
die sich hinter den Kakao- und Kaffeefeldern hebt[49]

In the poem Gefährte Hamid writes that she is “eine Frau für die Armen”.[50] In this poem Hamid shows her compassion for and solidarity with the marginalised in a delicate and powerful poem, Zeitungsverkäufer.

As mentioned above, Trotzdem singe ich is dedicated to Rosemarie Zehetgruber, “die niemals vergessen hat, ihre Arme für [Hamid] zu öffnen. Sie hat [Hamid’s] erschöpften Seele Mut und Kraft gegeben“.[51] In the poem entitled Rosemarie that which Hamid celebrates utmost about Rosemarie is her „Menschlichkeit“:

Inmitten meines Kummers und meiner Trauer
stehst du mit deiner beruhigenden Menschlichkeit[52]

‚Menschlichkeit’ is a theme of much of Hamid’s poetry. In Zeitungsverkäufer Hamid demonstrates own ‘Menschlichkeit’ by way of solidarity. However, unlike such demonstrations in other poems such as ‚Rosen für Omofuma’ and ‚Meine Schwarzen Schwestern’ here Hamid is identifying with a white Austria who, like the African population, resides in a marginalise position in society.

In Vienna the newspaper salemen stands on streetcorners, near bus stops and in U-Bahn stations. Their goods – newspapers and magazines – are laid out along the ground and they wear an oversized flourescent yellow or orange rain jacket with the name of one of the newspapers they sell emblazened across the back.[53] The newspaper salemen work long hours; they ‘open’ in time to catch the morning peak hour, and are still there when people are returning from work of an evening. The salesmen often stand outside without any protection against the elements, even in the winter months.

From the opening line in this poem, Hamid demonstrate her commonality with the newspaper salesmen: “Wir sind gleich”.[54] Despite the difference in background which may exists between them, Hamid sees them united through current circumstance. Hamid refers to projections of the ‘northern’ European states with which people from the ‘south’ (the African states) grow up and even ‘flee’ their home country to enjoy: “den Traum, in Würde zu arbeiten, zu leben/in den Norden der Gerechtigkeit/und des Respekts vor den Menschenrechten”.[55]

The second paragraph, however, presents a picture of someone living under the system of the ‘north’ who strives to uphold the values of the north, however, this integrity comes at a fairly high price. Hamid refers the exposure of these men to the elements by her allusion to the snow, and the long hours they work in the depiction of their intense gaze, watching and waiting for customers:

Zeitungsverkäufer, du läufst durch den Schnee
und deine schwarzen Augen brennen wir Kohlen
halten Ausschau[56]

According to Hamid, these salemen strive in their efforts to uphold an honest occupation and thereby identity with integrity. They also seek ‘justice’. Despite their different paths, Hamid can relate intimately with the struggles and hardship which are endured by figure in society such as the newspaper salemen who work hard without seeing much reward. Hamid presents these figures with compassion as men of strength and dignity, despite what adversity they may face. The ‘Schnee’ which need to plough through is also symbolic of the hardship faced by them daily, including facing their position in a society which shows little regard for them.Hamid pays tribute to them.

In the final paragraph, Hamid demonstrates her passionate solidarity with them their common struggles. Hamid not only accepts the ‘Zeitungsverkäufer’, she extends her arms to embrace them, asked them to offer her their ‘heart’, containing whatever sorrows and dreams they may possess. Hamid suggests a shift in focus for the ‘Zeitungsverkäufer’, that they may “kämpfen gegen die Armut des Südens”, an empowering suggestion implying that the newspaper salesmen’s existence can represent more than selling newspapers to an unappreciative society. Hamid here, again, ends the poem on a very positive note, with images infused with images from nature and with an ‘African’ (or at least, non-European) flavour:

lass uns singen für die Sonne
die sich hinter den Kakao- und Kaffeefeldern hebt[57]

As in Rosen für Omofuma the sun represents hope, which, as presented here by Hamid, resides in the cocoa and coffee fields of the African countryside. This idea resolves the unfulfilled vision of the ‘north’ that people of the ‘south’ possess in their youth by suggesting that now hope may truly lie in the difference which they can make in the lands of the south.

[1] The female students were required by the University to wear a veil. About this experience, Ishraga reflects, “Im Sudan hat mich das damals sehr gestört und ich habe dagegen gekämpft. Frauen sollen anhaben was sie wollen und nicht gezwungen werden, etwas Bestimmtes zu tragen. Für mich ist es erstaunlich, dass sich mein Bewusstsein zu diesem Thema in Österreich sich verändert hat. Jetzt solidasiere ich mich mit den Frauen, die Kopftücher tragen!“ Zimt duftet in Wien
[2] Zimt
[3] Zimt
[4] Zimt
[5] The VIDC is an Institute of the Österreichisch Entwicklungszusammenarbeit. On their website, their objective is outlined as follows: „das wiener institut für entwicklungsfragen und zusammen arbeit engagiert sich vorrangig in forschungen zur entwicklungszusammenarbeit und nord-süd-themen. die abteilung
[6] http://auslandshilfe.diakonie.at/Data/content/MediaDB/content/AH/content/downloadable-files-allgemein/1136196504/Jahresbericht%2004%20Diakonie%20Auslandshilfe.pdf

[7] ibid
[8] Standard

[10] auslandshilfe
[11] ibid
[12] Forward TSI
[13] Can you find where?
[14] TSI 24
[15] TST 14
[16] Website and expanation
[17] TSI 14
[18] Who says it’s them – maybe its leftist politics. NO!
[19] TSI 14
[20] TSI 14
[21] TSI 14
[22] Zimt 91
[23] TSI 15
[24] Ibid
[25] TSI 15
[26] TSI 18
[27] TSI 10
[28] ibid
[29] tsi 41-42
[30] tsi 13
[31] tsi 13
[32] tsi 41
[33] tsi 41
[34] It is not clear whom Hamid is referring to when she writes that they reject her “Engagement”. It is possible that it refers to the gross racial imbalance amongst relief workers in Vienna. In an article on the subject by Beatrice Achaleke, Achaleke reports the reluctance of aid-workers working with African imigrants to employ people of African descent, despite an apparent unique qualification for the position. Achaleke writes: Nach dem Motto: "Ihr seid ja so arm, aber macht euch keine Sorgen, wir sind für euch da", werden MigrantInnen afrikanischer Herkunft ständig in die Opferrolle gedrängt. Mit viel Mitleid, vorgetäuschter Einfühlsamkeit und Fürsorge werden sie auf raffinierte Art und Weise zum Schweigen gebracht. Anschließend wird ihnen Inkompetenz, mangelnde Qualifikation, Faulheit etc. vorgeworfen.“ Perhaps Hamid is referring to an unwillingness on the part of her ‚white counterparts’ to work together. (http://igkultur.at/igkultur/kulturrisse/1086766500/1086769086)
[35] Zimt 88
[36] tsi 41-42
[37] http://www.univie.ac.at/ecco/stichproben/Nr2_Christiansen_Englert.pdf
[38] 42
[39] TSI 62
[40] TSI ibid
[41] TSI 62
[42] tsi 62
[43] tsi 62
[44] Zimt 91 & 93
[45] Zimt 93
[46] TSI 62
[47] tsi 42
[48] tsi 62
[49] tsi 40
[50] tsi 9
[51] tsi iii
[52] tsi 15
[53] Most wear a jacket sponsored by the “Kronenzeitung”, a tabloid newspaper read by approximately 3 million Austrians daily and which has in the past aligned itslef closely with FPÖ campaigns and policy. Ironically, many newspaper sales-people are immigrants.
[54] tsi 40
[55] tsi 40
[56] tsi 40
[57] tsi 40

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david يقول...

each option has its consequences and results,which judged positively or negatively depending on the constants of the community to which the individual belongs.