Legendary Arab poet Antara rises as comic book superhero

The story cuts across class and race lines, says writer In a red cape, dark hair blowing in the wind, he crosses the dunes under a blazing sun: Antara, the famed 6th century Arab poet born a slave, is now a superhero. A pre-Islamic poet, Antara is celebrated in the collective memory of Arabs as well as in pop culture — a child born to a tribal leader and his Abyssinian slave who rose as a warrior-poet to free himself and demand his father recognise him as his son, and a free man. Now, he stars in his own comic strip, re-imagined as a shield-wielding, cape-wearing superhero by Egyptian writer Mumen Hilmi and renowned Indian illustrator Ashraf Ghuri. The story of Antara breaks across the class and race lines that frequently dominate society, the “perfect example of what it means to be a superhero,” Mr. Hilmi says. “Arabs like the exaggerated personality traits of heroes, and we thought why not transform Antara into a superhero like those you see in the U.S., Europe, Japan.” Antara is the first comic strip to be published by Kalimat, a publishing house based in the UAE emirate of Sharjah which specialises in Arabic translations of Japanese manga and U.S. cartoonist Nick Seluk’s series, The Awkward Yeti and Heart and Brain . The story weaves a tale of bravery, slavery, freedom, loyalty and love — and co-stars his beloved Abla, daughter of a tribal sheikh and object of Antara’s undying affection. Antara has served as the inspiration for artists and musicians around the world, with 19th century Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov dedicating a symphony in four movements to his story. Universal appeal The creators of the Antara comic strip believe the legend will resonate with modern audiences both within the Arab world and across the globe. “This story has universal appeal,” said Mr. Hilmi, particularly as it deals with racism. “We incorporated illustrations of what we imagined to be Antara’s childhood, when he first faced discrimination and mistreatment at the hands of his peers and his father.” Antara casts off the shackles of his early life to rise as a warrior and claim his rightful place as the son of Shaddad, leader of the Banu Abs tribe. But the facts of Antara’s life remain unclear: one tale holds that Antara ibn Shaddad al-Absi was born to an Ethiopian princess; another more popular tale holds that he was born to a dark-skinned Abyssinian slave. The comic strip narrates “the beginning of his life as a slave, mistreated by his tribe because of the colour of his skin and the status of his mother, to become a hero on the frontline,” Mr. Hilmi says.

Source  :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/legendary-arab-poet-antara-rises-as-comic-book-superhero/article25174006.ece

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