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CULTURE & COMMUNICATION / Malainin Lakhal: Sahrawi poetry, exile, and anti-colonialist struggle
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 12/02/2021
Translations available: Deutsch  Italiano 

Malainin Lakhal: Sahrawi poetry, exile, and anti-colonialist struggle

Milena Rampoldi ميلينا رامبولدي میلنا رامپلدی Милена Рампольди


The poems of the journalist, human rights activist for the independence of the last African colony, the Western Sahara, were published this year by ProMosaik in English, German and Italian. We are convinced of the importance of poetry in the service of the struggle for oppressed peoples, because we believe in the aesthetic-expressive intensity of poetry which is a universal language that not only expresses personal feelings, but also concepts, struggles and political commitments in favour of justice.

Sahrawi journalist, poet and human rights activist, born 1971 in El Ayoun, former victim of forced disappearance in Moroccan prisons, fighter for independence of Western Sahara, Malainin Lakhal was one of the founders of the Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union (UPES) and its Secretary General. He is active at Saharawi Natural Resources Watch. Since august 2019, he is Saharawi ambassador to Botswana.

For us, Sahrawi poetry rises to a dimension of anti-colonial struggle even if it does not speak directly of the resistance and focuses on themes such as the yearning for the homeland, exile, mother, woman, love and feelings in general.


The aspect that struck us most in Malainin Lakhal's poems is precisely this aspect related to the habitual, to the flow of life, and to a “normal” existence always founded on the sense of being in exile, outside and consequently oppressed.

The geographical distance from his own land to which there will only be a return when it is decolonised for the second time and becomes a Sahrawi Arab republic independent from the yoke of the Moroccan monarchy.

The human rights violations committed by the Moroccan monarchy continue undisturbed in the occupied territories.

For Malainin, there are no compromise solutions. The only option is to end the conflict.

And this only option is to give back to the Sahrawi people their territory so that here they can establish an independent Sahrawi Arab republic.

And this option would decolonize the whole African continent, as the Western Sahara is the last African colony.

Internationally, the Western Sahara is a country forgotten by all, a desert rich in resources stolen from the Sahrawi people for all to see.

The world is silent and the Western Sahara has continued to suffer for decades.

There are few voices opposing the King of Morocco.

The international community seems to be blind.

The destiny of the people of Western Sahara, scattered in refugee camps and fled abroad, is sealed.

There is no return to the homeland because it is colonised by Morocco.

The Sahrawi destiny is both similar and very different from the Palestinian, Uyghur and Rohingya fate.

We are convinced that poetry can do more than ever thought possible to oppose to the deafness of the world.

The poetical themes addressed by Malainin allow us to access the cultural world of the Western Sahara, its geography, and its ethnography.

Furthermore, they allow us to grasp the existential dimension of the oppressed poet, as he resists in a situation of colonialism he is unable to defeat.

Deep in his soul, the poet develops the feeling of alienation and suffering characterising both his life in his occupied homeland and outside as an exiled who cannot return to his homeland.

He dreams of returning with his head-on to the Sahrawi Free Republic for the national holiday.

All verses written by Lakhal are characterised by this search and by a poetical vision seen as a means of expression reflecting the situation of exile, of the yearning for the homeland transformed into physical symbols such as the eyes, and the mother's breast.

He writes how precisely this sense of alienation and unbearable exile is transformed into a poetic song, in the middle of a refugee camp:

The pain of being a stranger is in my soul

The pain of being a stranger marks my sighs

The pain of been a stranger is a rhythm composing me

Of nostalgia marking my voice

And putting the essence of my song

In a yellow prison looking like a mirage.


In the poem entitled "Leyla", also dedicated to the homeland as a female dimension of life, Lakhal evokes the poet's task which does not consist in crying, but in narration.

His task is to speak out his pain, to make it known to the world in order to prepare the struggle for freedom and decolonisation.

Then the winds of the desert shout at your face:

You were abandoned to forget her love,

You were abandoned to have a love story to tell,

So sing, and stop crying,

Sing and stop crying.

The heart of the exiled is a heavy heart, a suffering heart, full of memories of the desert, its moon and its sand.

For the poet, the exile is a Bedouin obsession.

The night represents the pain, the silence, the suffering and the cruelty, which, combined with the love for the lost homeland, turns into poetry.

Again the perception of the homeland is a perception of absence and lack, which nevertheless never loses sight of the political utopia of decolonisation and liberation of the Sahrawi land from the Moroccan yoke.

Malainin Lakhal
Poems from the Western Sahara


ProMosaik/Epubli, 2020

ISBN 9783753127231

44 pages

Read excerpts


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Courtesy of ProMosaik/Tlaxcala
Publication date of original article: 07/02/2021
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Tags: Malainin LakhalSahrawi poetryOccupied Western SaharaMoroccan occupationAfrica's last colony

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