Just the Facts: Ahmed Fouad Negm
Renowned Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm passed away this morning, Al Ahram reports. Known for his revolutionary works, Negm’s poems were widely read and sung, from the Six Day War in 1967 to the Jan. 25 revolution. The country mourns the loss of a true literary icon and an inspiring, unsilenced voice for change.
- Born May 22, 1929 in Sharkeya. He died at 84 years old and lived in Mokkatam.
- He grew up an orphan and was educated in one of Al-Azhar’s religious Kutaab schools. He has worked as a shepherd, mechanical laborer, worker for the Railway Authority and postman.
- After moving to Cairo, he met singer and composer Sheikh Imam, who he went on to work closely with as part of Egypt’s most famous political-artistic duo in modern history.
- Known as Uncle Ahmed, he was dubbed the poet of the people. He wrote in the vernacular, Egyptian 3ameya, and was considered a champion of the masses, the marginalized and the impoverished.
- He was sent to jail for three years early in his life for forging papers, during which he first started writing poetry. Under former president Anwar Sadat, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his biting anti-regime poems.
- A champion of freedom of expression and social justice, he has won numerous awards for his body of work, which combine his critique of power with a fiery sense of humor and his personal touch of unmatched charisma.
- His lyrical lashings left hardly any authority figure untouched, from Nasser and Nixon to Gamal Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood. His words have reverberated across generations, sung at protests and spray-painted on walls. And his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of those he inspired with his message of hope against tyranny and justice for the oppressed.
- “Glory for the crazy people / In this stupid world.” – He had this painted in yellow on the wall of his apartment in Mokkatam.
- “I still write like I’m 25, eat like I’m 25, and please a woman like I’m 25,” he told Al Jazeera.
- “The brave men are brave / The cowards are cowardly / Come with the brave / Together to the Square” – A common chant heard in Tahrir from his poem “The Brave Men Are Brave”.
- “The president is a compassionate man / Constantly busy working for his people / Busy, gathering their money / Outside, in Switzerland, saving it for us / In secret bank accounts / Poor guy, looking out for our future / Can’t you see his kindly heart?” – From his poem “What’s Wrong with the President?”
- “We are the constructing, we are the workers / We are Al-Sunna, We are Al-Fard / We are the people both height and breadth / From our health, the land raises / And by our sweat, the meadows turn green” – From his poem “Who Are They and Who Are We?”
- “Egypt is a candle submerged by the river,” he has told the New York Times. “When the earth is dark, Egypt comes out of the river and lights the world.”