During August 2020, a rubber boat packed with forty-five African migrants sank into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after setting off from Libya on its way to Europe. On board, was a young Sudanese poet, Abdel Wahab Yousif, twenty-nine years of age, known affectionately amongst the young generation of African poetry fans as Latinos. Born to a poor family in Manwashi, Southern Darfur, Latinos managed against the odds to study for a bachelor’s degree in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Khartoum. However, despite his qualifications, he was unable to get a job. Desperate to secure his future, and as a last resort, Latinos, like scores of Darfurian youth, made his way to Libya, a gateway through which successive waves of Africans continue to brave all perils in the hope of getting safely to European shores. On his departure from Sudan, he wrote:
I’ll run away from a homeland scourging my back with lashes day and night;
From a woman who doesn’t know how to feed my soul from her body’s nectar.
I’ll run from everything,
nonchalantly embrace demise.
His tragic departure sent shock waves among his friends and poetry fans in Sudan. Adding to the tragedy was the realisation that the way he died was a perfect demonstration of a scenario that was depicted in his recent verse:
You’ll die at sea.
Your head rocked by the roaring waves,
your body swaying in the water,
like a perforated boat.
In the prime of youth you’ll go,
shy of your 30th birthday.
Departing early is not a bad idea;
but it surely is if you die alone
with no woman calling you to her embrace:
‘Let me hold you to my breast,
I have plenty of room.
Let me wash the dirt of misery off your soul.’
The poet hit the zenith of despair in the last poem he published shortly before his death:
You are destined to go;
or the day after.
No one can halt the heavy wheel of destruction
running over life’s body.
It’s all in vain
no last-minute saviour will come
and rescue the world’s body.
It’s all in vain
no flash of light,
to scare away the darkness.
Everything is dying:
Songs. Love. Music.
All in vain.
Everything is gone,
except a violent vacuum
dead bodies wrapped in melancholic silence
and a heavy downpour of destruction.
Translated by Adil Babikir