Nagla Fathi, Sudan | Sudanese Culture House

Written by Fabiana Seitz, Photography Jenny Milow

“Until recently, I was living in Härkingen. A lovely and small village in Solothurn at the foot of the Jura mountains. Life there is quiet, the locals are friendly. In the bakery or in the Zumba class, the same question kept coming up: ‚Tell me, Nagla, where exactly are you from? Only a few people know my motherland, Sudan. And that’s what I would love to change.

I was born in Saudi Arabia. I went to school in Qatar and attended university in Sudan. I lived in Abu Dhabi for fifteen years. This is where I worked, got married and gave birth to my children. My three sons are my pride and joy. When my marriage fell apart, I was terribly afraid of losing them. Since my ex-husband moved to Saudi Arabia, the law there applies and he could have claimed sole custody. I wanted to protect my kids and give them the best opportunities in life. This is the reason we moved to Switzerland in 2015.

It means a lot to me that my children understand that nearly everything can be achieved. Even though there might be difficult moments, through hard work and with a clear goal in mind, you can go so far. Recently I have finally found a permanent position as a machine operator in a large company that makes technical products for the construction industry. This may not exactly correspond to my university degree in computer science, but you can’t guess how happy I am! At last I can earn my own money and apply for the B residence permit. I work a lot, but I still want to find time to improve my German. It’s essential for me to be independent and make my own decisions.

I have already lived in so many places, but my connection with Sudan is strong. I always look forward to spending time with my Sudanese friends. We meet for instance in a park and discuss how we can support each other. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you know that you’re not alone!

I dream of introducing the food, music, crafts, culture and traditions of my home country to others and of making intercultural encounters in Switzerland possible. I aim to create a place where everyone is welcome – no matter what nation, age or gender: the Sudanese Culture House. My fabulous team of helpers and I are still looking for a building, probably in Basel, but we have already achieved the first success: It took eight months and an incredible amount of paperwork, but we are now officially registered as an association called Sudanese Migrants! Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus disrupted our plans. It’s currently quite impossible to organize any activities or events. But we remain optimistic and are already planning for the future.

Life in Härkingen was nice, but it was a bit tight. The four of us shared two bedrooms. My sons are 19, 17 and 12 years old. More than old enough to have their own room. Now I can afford a bigger flat in Hägendorf thanks to my new job. We are really happy in Switzerland – but I truly hope that my boys will carry Sudan in their hearts. And understand that we all are humans, no matter where we come from.“

November 2020