When the Greek philosopher Epictetus said “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it,” he was perhaps imploring us to embody every aspect of the things we preach for, our beliefs, convictions, and moral stances. In Abu Araki al-Bakheit’s case, it is our art.
It is in this sense that Abu Araki al-Bakheit, at the zenith of war, has been dealing with the current reality of our country, embodying his art after having spent decades of his life explaining it to us.
One of the most acclaimed musicians of Sudan, al-Bakheit’s legacy speaks for itself. He added yet another mark to his renowned biography by the example he made when he refused to leave his house which is located in an area ravaged by war.
More than a month after the conflict erupted, he posted a picture on social media of himself from inside his house. The picture of the musician’s delicate face, the seniority that enveloped it, with his white hair and beard starkly contrasting the deep brown dots on his skin quickly circulated on social media.
The very first picture of Abu Araki from his house was posted on a Facebook page and amassed more than 14,000 likes. Source: Photos from Sudan
Music lovers across the country received the news with huge excitement. It is as if their hopes of returning back to their homes were restored, because “look, even our great musician AbuAraki is still in there!” One of them would think.
One of the many photographs of Abu Araki staying in his house. Source: Madameek
Defiant and Opposing Violence
If there is an artist who demonstrated his love of his country through his work, then it is definitely AbuAraki Albakheet. The 63 years old musician is maintaining the same cheerful, peace loving, and graceful character he has always been known for since his musical beginnings in the 1970s.
The work he produced back then consisted of notable resistance music that opposed violence and authoritarian oppression. In doing so, he had vexed authority and was consequently banned from performing. Aside from that, he also produced songs of romance, the beauty of the countryside, and many other aspects of Sudanese culture.
Al-Bakheit during one of the December revolution’s historic sit-in marches. Source: SUNA
Rightly, someone might view that romanticizing Albakheet’s stay in his house in a war zone is a dangerous thing. The most rational thing to do during a war is to seek refuge in a safer place, which might mean leaving your house at least temporarily. However, Albakheet’s rationale for staying is hardly graspable for most of us; it is so deep and logic-defying that even he himself will not be able to fully explain it.
The Neutrality of Art
Since the beginning of the war between the national army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the art scene had its positives and negatives, with the latter, unfortunately, dwarfing the former.
Only a few artists advocated for peace, whereas many others took sides, with some plainly supporting SAF and others, the RSF. An artist, by any measure, should not advocate for war. By taking sides, these war-positive artists demonstrated a negative example and perhaps influenced the collective consciousness of their many fans and followers.
However, Abu Araki al-Bakheit, without even having to produce a work of art, has demonstrated his peaceful values- as he has always done. Abu Araki al-Bakheit did not lift a finger to write or recite a line of song. He, as it appears, does not need that. His musical legacy already inspired multiple generations over the past decades. This time he just became his art.
In these times of unprecedented political divide and social disharmony, Abu Araki al-Bakheit is reminding us to let our love of Sudan transcend all the current and past pains, to long for peace and to not let the warmongers make the peaceful Sudan we’ve known (or aspired to) become a mere maudlin nostalgia.
Read our full editorial notice here.