Today’s Doodle, illustrated by guest artist Nora Zeid, celebrates Sudanese–Libyan poet, playwright, and diplomat Muhammad al-Fayturi. Thread together by the language of revolution, al-Fayturi’s work breathed new life into contemporary Arabic literature with a fusion of mystic philosophy, African culture, and a call for a future free from oppression.
Muhammad Muftah Rajab al-Fayturi was born on this day in 1936 in Al-Geneina, a town on the western border of Sudan, to a Libyan father and Egyptian mother. At 3 years old, he moved to Egypt, where he spent the remainder of his childhood. He went on to study literature and the sciences at university and found work as an editor for Egyptian and Sudanese newspapers following graduation.
In 1956, al-Fayturi published his first collection of poems entitled “Songs of Africa,” which explored the impacts of colonialism on the collective African identity and encouraged his readership to embrace their continent’s cultural roots.
He published numerous plays, books, and other poetry collections as he lived and worked as a writer and journalist across North Africa, from Lebanon to his birth country of Sudan. Almost 50 years after the release of his first collection, al-Fayturi’s literary career climaxed with the release of his final two books in 2005. Today, he is widely regarded as a trailblazer of modernist Arabic literature.
Guest Artist Q&A with Nora Zeid
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by guest artist Nora Zeid. Below, she shares her thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q. Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A. I enjoy nudging people's perception of the status quo through my illustrations. Neocolonialist ideas have a great impact on how we perceive ourselves and our environment in Egypt and the region as a whole. Challenging such ideas, as Muhammad al-Fayturi did, is a must, which is why this topic was very meaningful to me.
Q. What were your first thoughts when you were approached about working on this Doodle?
A. My thoughts were a mix of excitement and worry. Excitement because I was eager to create a Doodle honoring al-Fayturi. It's a dream project to be quite honest. Worry because I questioned whether or not I could do al-Fayturi's work justice through my illustration. His poetry tackles topics of racism and colonialism in the region, which are still relevant today. So it was very important for me that I do his work justice.
Q. Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A. The following version from al-Fayturi's poem “Sorrows of the Black City” (translated by Anna Murison from Poetry Translation Centre online) really struck a chord with me:
"And yet, on the streets of the city,
when night constructs
its barriers of black stone — they stretch out their hands,
in silence, to the balconies of the future.
Look, there they are,
heads slumped in silence. And you think they are calm.
But you're wrong. Truth is, they're on fire…."
Al-Fayturi's poetry is extremely descriptive and vivid. The bustling market scene is a reflection of that. Additionally, I sensed it was sombre while still inspiring hope, hence the mix of emotion etched on his face.
Q. What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A. The topics al-Fayturi tackles in his body of work are still very relevant today. Which is why I hope this Doodle motivates people to read more about him and his work.
Early drafts of the Doodle