The Egyptian Worker2018
The Egyptian Worker, poem by Bayram Al Tunsi
Performed by Noor Haddad
This performance presents a passage from a poem by Bayram Al Tunsi (1893–1961). The original Arabic poem critiqued class divisions in Egypt, using the rhyming conventions and colloquial dialects of the zajal and maqama styles. Haddad’s contemporary performance in English draws attention to the subject’s enduring relevance today.
One of the earliest and most dynamic forms of expression across the Middle East and North Africa is the oral recitation of poetry. The exhibition From Visionaries to Vloggers: media revolutions in the Middle East (spring 2020) introduces audiences to a range of poets, from seventh century mu’allaqa poets to more recent famed socially active poets including Nizar Qabbani (Syria), Bayram Al Tunisi (Egypt), and Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish.
The exhibition’s discussions consider how poetry and performance can fulfil social functions, such as sharing in the beauty of language, as well as assembling people to witness protest.
Many media platforms can be used to spread messages of awareness and drive change, but voice is most powerful because there is no mediation between speaker and audience. Recited poetry can therefore be a call to action and a powerful tool for freedom of expression.
This and other poetry performances available in Explore Content featured in From Visionaries to Vloggers, and all were performed by students. You can also access the exhibition’s animations on poetry and storytelling in the region in Explore Content.