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Emtithal Mahmoud wins Individual World Poetry Slam 2015

5th Nov 2015

Emtithal Mahmoud wins Individual World Poetry Slam 2015
Image: Photo by Román Castellanos-Monfil
The Sudanese Yale student, whose family left war-torn Darfur when she was a child, yesterday beat more than seventy other competitors from the US and around the world to win the Individual World Poetry Slam, a four-day competition that takes place annually in Washington DC.

Drawing on her own experience of her country’s traumatic history, Mahmoud’s poems describe the closeness of death and murder in Darfur, the strength of her mother in this environment and the different perceptions of people in the US.

Currently a senior at Yale University, she is studying anthropology and molecular biolog. When she finishes she hopes to work to help improve maternal and child health in disadvantaged communities around the world.

an active campaigner for refugees and those affected by the genocide in DarfurMahmoud first started writing poetry ‘to help my parents raise awareness for our people in Darfur,’ and she continues to be an active campaigner for refugees and those affected by the genocide in Darfur.

But Mahmoud very nearly pulled out of the poetry slam after learning of the death of her maternal grandmother on the first day of the competition. It was her parents who persuaded her to pursue it, insisiting it was what her grandmother would have wanted.

‘My grandma never learned how to read or write,’ she told Yale News. ‘They didn’t teach women to do that back then in my country [. . .] She was always over my shoulder: “Do your thing. Read, read, write.”’ Just before the finals, Mahmoud wrote a poem about her grandmother, which she then performed, helping her to secure her win.

She told the Guardian, ‘To me, the win means solace, that despite all that had happened, there are hundreds and hundreds of people out there reaching out in solidarity and hopes of moving forward towards peace.’

Check out Mahmoud performing her work here.