[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.]
Name: Ahmed Fouad
Last Name: Negm
Father’s Name: Muhammad Izzat
Mother’s Name: Hanem Morsi
Date of Birth: 1929
Place of Birth: Kfoor Negm
Children: Nawara / Zainab / Afaf
Ahmed Fouad Negm
- Born on 22 May 1929 in a village called Kfoor Negm.
- His father, a police officer, died on 8 July 1935 when he was six. After that, he had to make his own living. He worked as a house-servant, an agricultural worker, an ironer, and a tailor. Negm had sixteen siblings.
- His mother was called Hanem Morsi Negm.
- Got married several times. The first marriage was to Fatima Mansour with whom he had Afaf. He then married the artist Izzah Balbaa and the writer Safinaz Kazem with whom he had Nawara Negm, a journalist and activist who gained prominence in the Egyptian revolution. After that, he married the famous Algerian theater actress Sonia Mikiew. Lastly, he got married to Omaymah Abd Al-Wahhab with whom they had Zainab. He has three grandchildren from Afaf: Mustafa, Safaa, and Ameinah.
- Nicknamed Al-Fagomi (the impulsive).
- Worked as an employee at the Railways Establishment from 1951 to 1956. Then, he was transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs and after that, to the Mechanical Transport in Al-Abbassiyah district.
- Met communist printing press workers in Fayed city on the Suez Canal. He participated in the demonstrations which erupted in 1946.
- In 1959, he was sentenced to thirty-three months in prison for embezzlement and was released in May 1962. After that, he worked in the Asian-African Solidarity Conference.
- After the annulment of the Egyptian-British treaty, the National Movement called on the workers in British camps to leave these camps and he abided by the call. Employed as a worker by Al-Wafd government in a workshop at the Mechanical Transport Authority. During that time, a group of officials stole some equipment from the workshop. When he stood in their way, they accused him of forging purchase forms. This led to a three year sentence in Qorh Midan prison (Ahmed Fouad Negm acknowledged, in a television program, the he was actually guilty). In that prison, he met his sixth brother, Ali Muhammad Izzat Negm, for the first time.
[Egypt, You Glorious Mother poem, recited by Ahmed Fouad Negm]
- While in prison, he met novelist Abd Al-Hakeem Qasem, and discovered himself as a poet. He was encouraged by one of the prison officers who was fond of literature. This officer typed his poems using a typewriter and sent them to the Ministry of Culture, which was holding a poetry contest. He won the first prize of the contest with his collection called “Images from Life in Prison.” Suhair Al-Qalmawi wrote the introduction and he became famous while still behind bars. The ministry published the collection in 1962.
- Met the blind singer Sheikh Imam Issa, known as Sheikh Imam in 1962.
- In 1964, he worked at the secretariat of the Asian-African Solidarity Organization in Cairo. He stayed there until 1969 when he was arrested on a political charge.
- Deeply affected by the defeat of June 1967 after which he started writing political poetry which Sheikh Imam wrote the tunes for and sang. Their songs became famous and they received huge material temptations. However, they refused them and remained in their humble room in Al-Ghorieh district.
- The poet went to jail nine times, the longest of which was three years during the era of President Gamal Abdul Nasser. He ordered his imprisonment along with Sheikh Imam after their song "Al-Hamdo Lillah"(Thank God). Negm attacked the authorities in this song after the war of 1967, also known as “Al-Naksa" (the setback). He was sentenced to life in prison but was released after the death of Nasser. The periods he spent in jail varied in length from two weeks to three years.
- In November 1977, he was arrested and charged with reciting a poem called “An Important Statement” in one of the faculties of Ain Al-Shams University. President Anwar Al-Sadat ordered that he be referred to a military court which sentenced him to a year in prison.
[The poem Egypt, You Glorious Mother by Ahmed Fouad Negm, performed by Sheikh Imam]
- Arrested in 1981, in a house of two French researchers. These researchers held a press conference in Paris, which was published in the French newspaper Le Monde. They said that they were tortured in the Al-Qal`a Prison and that Negm was also tortured in Torrah Prison. While in prison, he declared that he would go on a hunger strike until death if he was not released.
- In 1984, he went on a tour with Sheikh Imam. During this tour, Sheikh Imam sang in Paris, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. After this tour, they became increasingly at odds and Sheikh Imam decided to return to Egypt without him.
- In 2004, and after the establishment of the Kifaya Movement, he became one of the most prominent symbols of popular movements which flourished in Egypt. He wrote a caustic poem called The State’s Groom criticizing Gamal Mubarak.
[A Statement Surrounding the Ticket of a Prisoner poem by Ahmed Fouad Negm]
- In 2007, he was chosen by the Arab delegation in the UN Poverty Action as a Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for the world`s poor.
- Joined Al-Wafd Party in mid-June 2010, after Dr. Al-Sayed Al-Badawi Shihata won the elections for party leader. However, he resigned in mid-October 2010 due to the crisis that Al-Badawi caused when he sacked Ibrahim Issa, the editor in chief of Al-Dustour newspaper, which prominent Wafdists had bought that year.
[Part of the documentary film A Statement Surrounding a Ticket of a Prisoner, which is part-two of a
series of documentaries hosted by Al-Jazeera Channel about Negm`s political songs]
- After the January 25 Revolution, he participated in establishing the Free Egyptians Party.
- A film called Al-Fagomi (The Impulsive) based on his personal diary was produced.
His Most Famous Writings:
- Peace for Earth salam lil ardh, I Intend to Pray nawyt osalli, The Grand Pharaoh Khufu al-fira’oun al-akbar khufu, The Cinema al-seema, Haha’s Cow baqret haha, Nobel Prize, The Bird Hunter sayyad al-toyoor, In Detention fi al-mo’takal, Two Words for Egypt kilmatain li masr, The Madam’s Dog kalb al-sit, The Introduction of Abu Al-Ola 90 moqadimet abu al-ola 90, The Song of the Fish mawal al-samak, Mickey, How Lovely are Poems mahla al-qasayed, Hello marhaba, Nawara, Welcome Love hala bi al-hob, Who Are They and Who Are We homma meen wi ihna meen, A Sheet of Paper from the Stubble File warqa min milaf al-qasabah, Oh You Comfortable ya mrahrah, Peace Squared salam morabba’, Students have Come Back rigo’o al-talamtha, Peace Song oghniet al-salam, Wake Up Egypt isshi ya masr, The Eloquent Procurer al-qawad al-faseeh, Crosswords, Prohibitions al-mamno’at, The Swing al-morgaiha, The Strongman is Strong al-gada’ gada’, Thank God al-hamdo lillah, The Magician al-hawi, The Noble American al-khawaga al-amrikani, The Replica al-khale’ al-nate’, This Handwriting is Mine al-khat dah khatti, Sinbad, Sheikh Ashoor, The Curlew’s Prayer do’aa al-karawan, Letter Number 1 al-risalah raqam 1, Hallucination, South Lebanon, Hide and Seek istighmayah, Ibrim’s Dates balah ibrim, My Country and My Love baladi wa habibti, Bahiya, Guevara Died mat guevara, A Prisoner’s Ticket tathkaret masgoon, Boutiques boutikat, Welcome Tarzan shobash tarazan, Morning has Broken tala’a al-sabah, Ayoub’s Patience sabr ayoub, To the Station a’ al-mahatta, To the Rababa a’ al-rabab, To the Shrine a’ dhareeh, Uncle Assayed a’m al-sayyed, Your Eyes e’naiki, Best of Words o’yoon al-kalam, Build Your Castles shayyed qosarak, The “If” Tree shajaret lao, Abd Al-Mone’m Riyadh, Love has Passed adda al-hawa, The Government’s Bridegroom a’rees al-dawlah, The Yoyo, The Tanbour, An Important Statement bayan ham, I Love You bahebbak, An Invitation da’wah, Valery Giscard d`Estaing, Love has Passed fat al-hawa, A Riddle fazoorah, We don’t Make Alliances la nohalef, A Palestinian-Egyptian Song mawal falasteeni masri, The Most Bitter Words mor al-kalam, A Court mahkamah, Nixon, The Eid’s Crescent hilal al-eid, Ho Chi Minh, By Yourself wahdak, Oh, Palestinian Woman ya filasteeniah, Oh, Egypt ya masr, A Letter to Prison risalah ila al-segn, Oh, Arabs ya a’rab, First Words awal kalam, Master Ahmed ahmed afandi, The Story is Actually .. A Boy asl al-hikaya walad, The Circassian al-sharkasi, The Wondrous Drink al-sharbah al-a’geebah, Expatriation al-ghorbah, Silence al-samt, I Went to the Castle ana roht al-qala’a, Waiting intizar, Our Neighborhood haretna, People’s War harb al-sha’ab, Oh Words, Go and Search as You Please dawer ya kalam a’la kaifak dawer, Viva My Countrymen ya’ish ahl baladi, Al-Ahli and Al-Zamalek, Gaza at the Heart of Arabs ghaza fi qalb al-arab, A Song for the Young ghinwah lil shabab, A Forest ghabah, The Government’s Bridegroom a’rees al-dawlah, As If You’re OK ka’anak ma feesh.