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Issue 36
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Birush in the cultural heritage of northern Sudan
Issue 36

Asad Abdulrahman Awadallah

Birush, (mats made of palm fronds), provide a source of income in Sudan. Sudanese women enjoy both social and economic benefits from making birush in their free time. Birush creates work for women in Marwi, where job opportunities for women are scarce and, when women contribute to the family income, they enjoy a higher status in the family and society.

A widespread craft, birush has aesthetic and practical value. People are drawn to this craft for financial, creative and social reasons.

Women use scythes to cut the palm fronds that are widely available in northern Sudan. With permission from farm owners, they can take whatever they need from palm farms, so there is no cost for raw materials.

Once the fronds have been cut, they are dried in the sun and stored in ‘Al Ballal’, (sacks used for dates during harvest season that keep the fronds moist and flexible for weaving).

There are different types of weaves – um ithnain, um thalathah and um arba’a – and each has a specific use.

This craft dates back a long time, and it plays a pivotal role in the region’s cultural legacy, influencing women›s roles and identities. Birush-makers are proud because making mats of woven fronds is an important economic activity for their society.