Queens, the badassery of women, & collective effervescence

There is an image that you find it impossible to forget even after a few days seeing it. For me, it’s this image of 22-year-old engineering student Alaa Salah leading a revolution in Sudan, standing on top of a car above a sea of people with her arm raised in the air, finger pointed toward the sky. The image, taken by Lana Haron shows her all clad in white and sporting visibly gold moon earrings, standing above all the rest, leading a chorus of fellow protestors, who joined her along with chants of ‘thawra’ (revolution) and lilting ululations.

The video of her here, is an embodiment of one of my favourite phrases — ‘collective effervescence ’. It refers to the ‘electricity’ that lifts people up as they occupy a space, those fleeting moments in which they come together in some form of unifying, excitement-inducing activity — becoming the root of what holds groups intact.

The whole translation of the song is here.

The image, along with her choice of outfit, has very great significance to the Sudanese. “She’s wearing a white tobe (outer garment) and gold moon earrings,” tweeted Hind Makki. “The white tobe is worn by working women in offices and can be linked with cotton (a major export of Sudan), so it represents women working as professionals in cities or in the agricultural sector in rural areas.”

“Her earrings are the gold moons of traditional bridal jewelry (Sudanese, like many Arabic speakers, often use moon-based metaphors to describe feminine beauty) and the entire outfit is also a callback to the clothing worn by our mothers and grandmothers in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s while demonstrating in the street against previous military dictatorships.”

“Sudanese everywhere are referring to female protestors as Kandaka, which is the title given to the Nubian queens of ancient Sudan whose gift to their descendants is a legacy of empowered women who fight hard for their country and their rights,” Makki added, especially since two-thirds of the Sudan uprising are comprised of women.

I always have pictures of badass women on the front cover of my notebook as a ‘guardian’. Currently it’s this picture of Ceyda Sungur, the Woman in Red from 2013’s Gezi Protest in Turkey.

Maybe for my next Moleskine, I’d have the picture of Alaa Salah guarding my book.


  • Arthur Asseraf asks us to read this article from The Guardian, and urges us to ask why the (foreign) media only got interested to cover the Sudan uprising only when there was a picture of a woman leading it.
  • Radical book club Because We’ve Read offers free pdf copy of book and articles to help us better understand what is happening in Sudan right now, and how we can support as needed.

Comment 1

  1. Pingback: Today on Women Are Amazing – Two Kinds of Intelligence

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