In the face of amnesia, how does one exist? In this poem, Hawad speaks directly to Azawad, a silent figure whose name designates a portion of Tuareg lands divided among five nation-states created in the 1960s. This evanescent being, situated on the edge of the abyss and deprived of speech, space, and the right to exist, has reached such a stage of suffering, misery, and oppression that it acquiesces to the erasure implicit in the labels attached to it.
Through an avalanche of words, sounds, and gestures, Hawad attempts to free this creature from the net that ensnares it, to patch together a silhouette that is capable of standing up again, to transform pain into a breeding ground for resistance—a resistance requiring a return to the self, the imagination, and ways of thinking about the world differently. The road will be long.
Hawad uses poetry, “cartridges of old words, / a thousand and one misfires, botched, reloaded,” as a weapon of resistance.
About the Author
Hawad is Amajagh (Tuareg for “outsiders”). He is a poet and painter of the Sahara. Hawad writes in his own language, Tamajaght, which he transcribes in tifinagh, the Tuareg alphabet. The drama and resistance of the Tuareg people, of all people threatened with extinction, punctuates Hawad’s fictional universe. Christopher Wise is a professor of English at Western Washington University. For nearly three decades he has translated the work of Sahelian authors. Hélène Claudot-Hawad is a French anthropologist and director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research. She is the author of numerous publications on the Tuareg world.
“In this first book-length English translation of poetry by Tuareg writer-artist Hawad, language is weapon and pulsating sound, visual art, and physical gesture. Completed during the height of the Azawad revolt in Mali in 2013, In the Net also serves as a resistance to erasure. For Hawad poetry is anchor, promise, and presence; it is a mode of survivance that has the potential to keep the Tuareg people from oblivion. Thanks to the excellent forewords by the translators, who contextualize both the original Tuareg text and its metamorphoses into French and then English, these poems retain their explosive quality without sacrificing the sociohistorical context from which they were born. For whom is this book? Students of African studies, translators, artists of all kinds, those searching for homeland, and those seeking the shelter that can be found, for a time, on the page.”—Kristiana Kahakauwila, author of This Is Paradise
“In spare, fearless language, Hawad mourns the Tuareg’s loss and chronicles the death march that followed Azawad’s fall. In the Net is a forgotten story told in a tongue whose use alone is a political act, an epic made all the more poignant because its resting place, its shining Ithaca, is always already lost. Beautifully translated by Hélène Claudot-Hawad and Christopher Wise, illustrated with the author’s Tifanagh-character ‘furigraphy,’ the book is the first full-length translation of this major poet into English. ‘Essential’ is an overused word in book endorsements, but in this case, it is brilliantly, searingly, the only one possible.”—Susanne Paola Antonetta, author of The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here