Ahmed Fouad Negm
The Al Jazeera news network has announced a new show centred on acclaimed Arab poets and their own unique take on the changes sweeping the Middle East. "Poets of Protest", the latest series in the
Qatar-owned channel’s Artscape strand, portrays intimate profiles of six contemporary writers as they "struggle to lead, to interpret and to inspire".
"Ever since Tunisians chanted Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi’s ‘If the People Wanted Life One Day’ at President Ben Ali’s crumbling regime, poetry has been a key weapon of the Arab spring, used to taunt regimes refusing to see the writing on the wall - which also turned out to be poetry, graffitied by young artists," said a statement from the channel.
Poetry has long been a popular subset of mainstream Arab culture.
When the programme Prince of Poets applied the X-Factor formula to poetry, it had millions across the Arab world tuned in to make it one of the most popular Middle East programmes
Produced for Al Jazeera English by the Scottish Documentary Institute, the six part series will begin with a portrait of Egyptian poetry legend Ahmed Fouad Negm.
Immensely popular among fans and critics alike, "Uncle Ahmed" discovered poetry in prison in the 1950s and has been writing ever since, making a career challenging Egyptian presidents, from Nasser to Mubarak, often earning him more jail terms but making him immortal in Egyptian society.
When the revolution came in 2011, it was the words of Negm’s famous poems, like “The Brave Man is Brave”, that were chanted in Tahrir square.
"Now, as he becomes the 'voice of the revolution' which he’d always dreamed about, and people are looking to him for leadership, Negm finds himself unable to write. In Al Jazeera’ portrait, we witness him seeking his place in this revolution of the young, and searching for the inspiration to write again," said Al Jazeera.
"Poets of Protest focuses on writers, their political and artistic struggles, and their work, with beautifully filmed visual interpretations of the poems," said a representative from the channel.
Others who will be featured in the series include Syria’s renowned Hala Mohamad, Mazen Maarouf from Palestine, Manal Al Sheikh from Iraq, communist fighter-turned-poet Yehia Jaber from Lebanon and the “the poet of the rifle”, Al Khadra, from Western Sahara.
"Artscape: Poets of Protest" will begin airing by the end of August.