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‘Naga Now’

MiCT The Niles
The Niles correspondents travelled from Khartoum to the archaeological sites of Naga. Five encounters on a journey back to the roots of their culture.
10.11.2016  |  Naga, Sudan
 (photo: David Chipperfield Architects | The Niles)
(photo: David Chipperfield Architects | The Niles)

The portraits below are part of a cooperation between David Chipperfield Architects and The Niles, shown at the 2016 Architecture Biennale in Venice.

Name: Alhidai Jibril
Age: 27
Occupation: Excavation worker, gold miner, farmer, livestock herder
Meeting point: Naga archaeological site

“A poem for my camel.”

My friend Ahmed and I are employed by the Qatari-Sudanese project in the royal city of Naga. The archaeological season lasts only three months so we need additional jobs to make ends meet. I completed one year of basic school. The nicest time of the year is when I can be around my camels. This is also when I am at home with family and friends. We sing and memorise poetry. This is a poem about my camel: ‘Magician of the sunsets / sailing the sands / slim-waisted and high humped / ready for a long journey’.

Name: Igbal Mohammed
Age: 36
Occupation: Tea lady
Meeting point: Shendi service area

“I left my husband in the dead of night.”

I have been working as a tea lady ever since I came to Shendi two years ago. Originally I am from Dilling, a beautiful town in the Nuba Mountains. I ran away from my husband after many years of a bad marriage. I chose not to move to Khartoum because he might find me there and kill me. So I went even further away from home and settled in this remote place. I was confident that I would be able to make a living here with tourists passing on the Khartoum-Atbara motorway. I also took the daughter of my sister with me to help me with my work; she is 12. My 17-year-old son is still with his father.

Name: El-Amin El-Baagir
Age: 80
Occupation: Site guard
Meeting point: Naga archaeological site

“The security situation is good because we are united.”

I have served as Naga’s guard since 1976 – that is 20 years before the excavations on this site began. We hardly face any security problems since, as Shaigiya, we are a very close knit tribe. In the past our lands were covered with trees. The woods were home to wild animals that would scare both our children and our livestock. People were superstitious and ignorant. They didn’t know how to pray or how to memorize verses of the Koran. They would tell legends such as that of Abu Lamba [father of the lamp], whom they believed misled the unwitting in the desert at night using a mysterious light.

Name: Hiba Mohammed
Age: 20
Occupation: Student of natural sciences at the University of Khartoum
Meeting point: Naga archaeological site

“The ordinary people have always been on the outside.”

I grew up in the village of Hajar al-Asal, 200 kilometres north of Khartoum at the river Nile. It is the place where the semi-nomads of Naga send their live-stock for grazing in the dry season. The powerful civilisation of Kush with Meroë as its wealthy metropolis, and the flourishing city of Naga, could not have come into existence without the abundant resources of the Nile. I believe that the kings and queens of Kush are my ancestors. The archaeological sites show that they used to be exactly like us now: The kings and queens had their palaces, their ministers were next to them, and the ordinary people were outside those places.

Name: Mahdi el-Zaki
Age: 20
Occupation: Shoe salesman and assistant driver
Meeting point: Motorway next to Naga

“I dreamt of America.”

I’m originally from El-Obeid and I help my cousin ship iron sheets from Port Sudan to Darfur. My dream was to emigrate to the United States of America but I didn’t win the green card lottery. Now I would love to be in nature working as a farmer for part of the year and and would take care of our cattle the rest of the time.