Radio Dabanga aired its first serialized radio drama – Tales from the Margin. The 10-part series follows Zanuba, Kuku, Kurdurdi and Anyiero, all of whom hail from regional and rural areas of Sudan, as they navigate the challenges of moving to the capital. To survive, they must fight precarious employment, prejudice, sexual violence and gender injustice.
The series, produced in partnership with Amalna South Sudan, was based on the lived experiences of Sudanese people who participated in a storytelling workshop at the end of 2020.
Dabanga’s head of programs, Ibrahim Jadelkarim, says the commitment to realism is key to the series’ success. “It was important that the drama reflect what happens in daily life. It’s about people and their destiny and how they deal with things.
Ibrahim added that this portrayal of reality can help audiences feel seen and understand their own situations and opportunities in new ways. “[Audiences] are curious about what people would do if faced with similar situations. These stories can help people reflect on, assess, critique and analyze themselves within their societies – and their roles as civilians, mothers and fathers.
Characters and storylines were created by workshop participants and then developed by Amalna’s scriptwriting team.
The stories thematically explore the obstacles and opportunities for Sudan to achieve gender justice and peace in this diverse country.
Lead screenwriter Esther Librato Bagirasas says her favorite storyline follows the character of Kurkurdi, who takes her daughters to seek safety and opportunity in the city after her husband’s mysterious disappearance.
“[This] was the beginning of real difficulties in his life. Kurkurdi seeks a low-paying job to feed his children but faces sexual harassment from his bosses,” Esther explained. Kurkurdi’s health deteriorates, putting his daughter, who replaces her at work, in danger.
“I liked this storyline because it uncovers the challenges that women and girls face in Sudan and South Sudan and the drama was able to address them in earnest,” Esther said. “Amid difficulties, threats and challenges, Kurkudi struggles to obtain justice for his daughter.”
For Ibrahim, his favorite storyline follows the character of Anyiero who falls in love with Marwa in college, but their relationship faces fierce condemnation from the family due to the couple’s different cultural and racial backgrounds. “I like the lover story…when people are in college, they don’t have their father’s glasses. They are free to imagine the future. Free to fall in love regardless of religion and culture.
The stories were brought to life by non-professional Sudanese actors working to a tight deadline.
“Most of the actors who have played in Tales from the Margin were people who had never acted in radio drama before, and training them on how to act for radio was not easy,” says Esther. “The two-day radio acting training was not enough, but we tried our best to rehearse with all the Sudanese actors and actresses to turn the written scripts into reality and dramatic in nature. During the recording, we were surprised to see the actors as if they had already performed for the radio, it was wonderful.
While Dabanga will still focus on news and current affairs programming, Ibrahim hopes that Tales from the Margin will be the first of the dramas to come.
“I think it’s important and it’s a way of distinguishing ourselves from a lot of other media,” he said. “And for listeners, radio dramas will be a new aspect and a new way to approach similar themes. Radio dramas and news programs can work cooperatively, to address themes such as national harmony, women’s rights, equality.
Ibrahim says radio drama can play a key role in supporting positive social change. “Because it stays in your mind. If you give statistics on the number of battered women…those numbers will disappear. But if you tell a story, those numbers will stick around for years.
All episodes of the series (in Arabic) are available online via Soundcloud and Youtube.