Gambian musician Sunton Susso put his inspirational fingers on his African wooden musical instrument, the kora, to give a musical illustration to the poetry of Kurdish poet Sara Omar during the two artists’ performance in Nottingham, the city hosting the ten-day World Event Young Artists festival showcasing 1,000 artists from 100 nations from 7-16 September.
Twenty-six-year old Sara Omar, who spent her childhood in both Denmark and the Middle East (Iraqi-Kurdistan & Syria), says her poems reflect her personal life and puts the spotlight on societies’ social and political ills such as corruption, war, abuse, rape, women oppression, forced marriage, and violence.
“I have been through a lot in my life. I have been in war, I have been living in different places, felt homeless…and it’s about my life actually. So if you read my poetry you will have a clear image about how I have been living.”
Omar is also a volunteer activist in women's rights organisations, and through her poetry, tries to give a voice to women in the Middle East.
“I am trying to give the power back to Middle Eastern women, just to come up and say yes we are here and we can, and no one can stop us,” Omar added.
Omar’s poetry was illustrated through the rhythm of the music of the kora - a West African instrument with twenty-one strings, combining features of the harp and the lute.
“Basically, I am from West Africa, Gambia, a country called Gambia. All the family play Cora, all the family is musician, they are all musicians. They are good family so I learnt kora when I was like five years. So I grew up there and then I studied in school,” explained Sunton Susso who performed side by side with Omar.
Susso explains how Omar’s words and his music create that powerful artistic fusion.
“It's like… it gives me a lot of feelings, it gives me a lot of feelings because she is like talking and I am playing. When she’s talking, when I am playing, I just feel very very big feeling happen,” he added.
And for Omar, African music and her poetry are the perfect combination.
“African music is so beautiful, you find a harmony in the music and you just feel it and you can express yourself through the music. So when I am reading my poetry and having this kind of music in the background, I am just not there…I am there, but I am just not there, I am on my own world and it gives me a kind of peace,” said Omar.
Nottingham’s World Event Young Artists showcases a selection of other international talents, also featuring short films, photography, illustration, musical performances and poetry.
The ten-day festival which ends Sunday, was hosted by UK Young Artists and supported by the Arts Council England, Cultural Olympiad East Midlands, Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham City Council.