Sudan and South Sudan have been under fire for decades from the perils of civil war, famine, poverty, corruption, Islamic jihad and other crisis that affect the countries politically, socially and economically as well as culturally.
Omnia Shawkat and Salma Amin Saad decided to build a contemporary platform to voice independent opinions of the diverse, intelligent, and peaceful youth that diverge massively from the mainstream that places them in tiny status-quo boxes.
Omnia and Salma started the online magazine Andariya for Sudan & South Sudan in both English and Arabic to lifting our spirits, sharing contemporary analysis and opinions & promoting creative arts ideas and events. Since the launch of the magazine they’ve also launched a photography project titled “MyKhartoum” to show the beauty of the capital city with a series focused on Juba coming soon. Omnia and Salma shared with us why online media is so important, why Andariya is different and what they’ve learned about organic growth.
Why do you think digital media matters in Sudan and South Sudan?
Sudan and South Sudan have a shared cross-border culture that was severed along with the political ties in July 2011. The current generation witnessed a tough time of great polarization and we had no time to heal, reconcile or mend our broken matter when the political secession came upon. This need to open the road of communication is one great reason why digital media matters right now; it transcends boundaries. The publishing industry is also lagging behind due to many factors (economic, censorship, access, language etc.) and a way to overcome some of these challenges and reach and engage a wider audience that is already online, beyond even the Sudans (there is a massive diaspora population from both countries) is through the use of digital media of various types.
What role would you like Andariya to play in the development of these two countries?
Our mandate is purely cultural, so if we are to perfect our mandate, the cultural footprint of the Sudans on the internet will be enhanced along with more offline engagement due to the conversations that spring up online. One underlying factor is to really connect both countries (both local and diaspora communities) over intersecting cultural values, opinions & aspirations. Both Sudans are in similar development stages, and cultural development is key in advancing all the other pillars of development.
What makes Andariya different from other youth focused media platforms?
There are the basic building blocks of being a bi-lingual digital cultural platform for South Sudan and Sudan. We target a larger age group- for once, the “youth” or younger generation is online and discussing matters of importance to them in a common platform that welcomes all views. More importantly, we are discussing issues that older generations have exclusively hashed out over the last few decades (i.e. identity issues, culture and acculturation, etc.) and adding our perspectives to the conversation. Another differentiating factor is our belief in using different mediums to reach diverse audiences, we’re across social media platforms but slowly growing into creating online-offline campaigns to engage more people.
Can you share your favorite story from the platform and why?
The way our community was formed is both interesting and inspiring; we practically found each other as if we were long lost souls. We have an incredibly harmonious relationship with more than 50 community members across the world, and we treasure this the most.
For your business to get to the next level, would you prefer funding or a high value mentor?
We’d prefer to have a mentor to help us reach that next level. We’re a very hands-on platform that organically adapts to challenges and opportunities and finding a mentor who can understand the climate we operate in and growth we’re aspiring to would be invaluable. So far we’ve taught ourselves what we discovered was needed, but a community of more than 50 people also means everyone brings wisdom and creativity to the table, so we’d like to think we’re currently being internally mentored.
What can we expect to see from Andariya over the next 6 months?
We’re launching a new website so we expect editorial growth. Our business model has shifted massively in the last four or five months so we’re experimenting with more offline engagement. A few online projects are also in the works, in addition to more visibility as we are actively pursuing expanding our network and partnerships base both inside the Sudans and outside.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned on your journey towards building Andariya?
Be flexible. Organic evolution can be disruptive but can also be harmonious.
By Afua Osei