We the Sudanese are understandably sensitive about Western celebrity culture.
George Clooney sees himself (quite seriously!) as the guardian angel of a country about which he knows next to nothing. The same is true of Mia Farrow. In a discussion about the parenthood of Mia Farrow’s son (was his father Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra?) the Guardian writer John Grace wrote: “Mia Farrow has never set herself up as a role model and nobody really cared who she slept with and when she did so..” But, we may add, she has set herself up-without qualifications-as a Sudan expert who dared to describe President Obama’s special envoy General (Ret.) Scott Gration as “naïve”.
This background notwithstanding, I make an exception to welcome a certain celebrity involvement by the tennis player Andy Murray. He steered clear of direct politics but chose a theme that is dear to my heart. He joined the “Malaria No More UK” team and on 1 October 2013 wrote an article “Why I welcome the UK Announcement for the Global Fund”, a reference to the British government’s announcement that it will increase its financial contribution to the fund that supports the fight against Malaria. He wrote the article in Huffington Post (established by a Greek-born media entrepreneur Arianna Stassinopoulos-another factor that interests me-having been born in a Sudanese town “Kosti” which bears the name of an inspiring Greek merchant).
Andy Murray’s patience and perseverance until he won the Wimbledon crown for the UK last July after a 77 year British wait, reminded me of the tenacity of our Scottish headmaster, the legendary Mr. Brown who was in his fifties but ran with us the Hantoub cross-country race. He always told the ones at the rear (including myself) not to give up; but to slow down if necessary and finish the race.
Another Scottish name from my student days was Miss Smith (later Mrs. Abaza) who always corrected anybody who referred to her as “English”. I do not know where she is now; but have a good guess about the way she will vote in next year’s Scottish Referendum.
Mr. McRae was a remarkable Scottish teacher. As a poet he renewed the old curriculum and introduced modern poets like Ted Hughes.
The last British Head of our Department of English, Professor Macmillan displayed exemplary British fairness towards me. He deplored my politics and “disruptive” student leadership activities; but did not veto my British Council Scholarship and even invited me to a farewell party at his residence before my departure.
I’ll follow the progress of the Global Fund closely. My mother and millions of Sudanese were victims of malaria and I have a life-long battle with it. I hope Andy Murray’s endorsement will help us all win his next Malaria Championship match.
Khalid Al Mubarak