Radio Dabanga has broadcast its first serialised radio drama – Tales from the Margin. The 10-part series follows Zanuba, Kuku, Kurdurdi and Anyiero, who are all from regional and rural areas of Sudan, as they navigate challenges of moving to the capital. To survive, they must tackle insecure 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 in late 2020.
Dabanga Head of Programmes Ibrahim Jadelkarim says the commitment to realism is key to the success of the series. “It was important for the drama to reflect what happens in daily life. It’s about people and their fate and how they cope with things.”
Ibrahim added that this depiction of reality can help audiences feel seen, and to understand their own situations and opportunities in new ways. “[Audiences] are curious to know about what people would do if they face similar situations. These stories can help people to absorb, to evaluate, to criticise, and to analyse themselves within their societies – and their roles of civilians, mothers, and fathers.”
Characters and plots were created by workshop participants, and then further developed by Amalna’s scriptwriting team.
The stories thematically explore barriers and possibilities for Sudan to achieve gender justice and peace within the diverse country.
Lead scriptwriter Esther Librato Bagirasas says her favourite storyline follows the character of Kurkurdi, who takes her daughters to seek safety and opportunity in the city following the mysterious disappearance of her husband.
“[This] was the beginning of real hardship in her life. Kurkurdi looks for a low paying job to feed her children but faces sexual harassment from her bosses,” Esther explained. Kurkurdi’s health deteriorates, placing her daughter, who fills in for her at work, in harm’s way.
“I liked this storyline because it unveils the challenges women and young girls faced in Sudan and South Sudan and the drama was able to address it seriously,” Esther said. “Among the difficulties, threats and challenges Kurkudi struggles to seek justice for her daughter.”
For Ibrahim, his favourite storyline follows the character of Anyiero who falls in love Marwa at university, but their relationship faces fierce condemnation from family due to the couple’s different cultural and racial backgrounds. “I like the story of the lover boy…about when people are in university, they don’t have the glasses of their fathers. 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 acted in Tales from the Margin were people who never acted in radio drama before, and training them on how to act for radio was not easy,” says Esther. “The two day training on acting for radio was not enough, but we tried our best to rehearse with all the Sudanese actors and actresses to transform the written scripts into reality and dramatic in nature. During recording we were surprised to see the actors as if they acted for radio before, it was wonderful.”
While Dabanga’s focus will always be on news and current affairs programming, Ibrahim hopes that Tales from the Margin will be the first of more dramas to come.
“I think it’s important and it’s a way of distinguishing ourselves from many other media,” he said. “And for the listeners, radio drama will be a new aspect, and new way to engage with similar themes. Radio drama and news programming can work in cooperation, to engage with themes such as national harmony, rights of women, equality.”
Ibrahim says radio drama can play a key role in supporting positive social change. “Because it stays in your minds. If you give statistics about how many women were beaten … these figures will disappear. But if you tell a story, these figures will remain for years.”