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By Amira Sayed

The first things people think of when they hear the word "Nubia" are the colourful houses overlooking the Nile, the delightful dioramas of local Nubian folklore and the traditional clothes and language. This image is etched in people's minds possibly because of the numerous films and soap operas that focus on these aspects of the valuable Nubian heritage.

Trying to correct the stereotypes and to provide people with an authentic image of Nubians, a young Nubian called Mohamed Thomas decided to launch an initiative called "Komma", which has gained remarkable momentum in the past few years. The word Komma in the Nubian language means "story".

"There is more to us than this. We have a drive to benefit our society in diverse fields. Nubia should not be confined to traditional dances or natural scenery. This is a superficial image. This unrealistic and deeply-rooted image of the Nubian community has served as a catalyst for this
initiative," the 30-year-old Thomas told The Egyptian Gazette.

The initiative, according to Thomas, is aimed both at developing the Nubian community by shedding light on the success stories of many Nubian people in various domains, and at bringing the rest of society more knowledge of its Nubian component, its history, challenges and future. The initiative was launched in 2014 and has made headway with young people.

"TedX talks inspired me to launch the initiative. That is what the initiative is called Komma because it seeks to narrate the stories of Nubians, their suffering after being relocated and their plans for the future," he said.

The Nubians used to live in south Aswan but due to the construction of Egypt's High Dam, they were relocated and resettled in villages built for them in the area of Kom Ombo.

"The names of our events also include some Nubian words in the hope of enabling people to learn more of the Nubian language," said Thomas, who is a graduate of the faculty of commerce.

Speaking about the initiative's first goal, namely developing Nubian society, Thomas said he hoped to promote more integration within it. "We want the future generations to be proud of their Nubian roots. Also, we want young people to learn about the success stories of their peers, so they can be motivated to follow in their footsteps. Once they are able to serve and benefit their small society, namely Nubia, they will be able to serve their larger society, namely Egypt," he added.

So far, the initiative has held five events in various places including the American University in Cairo (AUC).

The role of Nubian women cannot be overlooked and ,for this reason, Komma launched a series of sessions called "Kendaka".

Historically, the word Kendaka was used to refer to strong female leaders and fighters. We want to show people that the Nubian woman is powerful, successful and can help define her country's future. Her abilities are not confined to drawing Henna designs at traditional weddings, said Thomas.

Henna is a dye prepared from a certain plant and is used to adorn skin. It is a tradition practiced among women in weddings and other occasions.

"At these events, we invited successful Nubian women to tell their stories. We have female aviation engineers, fashion designers, translators and researchers who managed to achieve dazzling success inside and outside Egypt," Thomas said.

What makes this initiative distinctive, according to Thomas, is that it helps open up new horizons for Nubian youth in particular and Egyptian youth in general. "Many young people, who are Nubian, have attended our events and they were surprised to find many role models in a wide range of fields. This interaction is essential to achieve social change," said the founder of the initiative.

One of the comments that Thomas can never forget is the one made by a five-year- old Nubian girl after she heard the story of a woman who became an aviation engineer. She said that she was dreaming of becoming an aviation engineer, just like her.

"This is exactly the kind of reaction we want to produce with our message. We want to instill in young Nubians an unending drive for success," he said.

Many non-Nubian young people thanked me for opening their eyes to the complete image of Nubian people not just the cultural angle.

" I hope that that Komma will soon become an association not just an initiative. I would like it to offer a helping hand to all young Egyptians, through the many events we are planning to organise nationwide," Thomas said.