Will art be able to make change happen in Sudan? This is the question being faced by artist of various mediums, from filmmakers to cartoonists.
Hajooj Kuka is a Sudanese filmmaker. In his film Beats of the Antonov, Kuka captures the perspective of those living through civil war in the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. It will be shown at the Toronto International Film Festival next month. What this film tells is the story of those confronted with the challenges that accompany deep conflict, and how this strengthens their connection to their cultural music and identity. While there have been other films on the Sudanese conflict, this will be the first one done by a Sudanese filmmaker. The film has an insider’s touch to it, made with care that can only come from someone who is so personally invested in the situation and whose identity has been partially shaped by his nation’s disturbing history. Those filmed saw each cut of it as it went through the editing process. They had a hand in the final product that audiences throughout the world will see, and their input will surely resonate within the film.
Art VS War was a campaign started by Sudanese artist Ahmed Isam. Working from Cairo in collaboration with Nabta Art and Culture Center and the National Group for Cultural Policies, Isam began creating engaging posters that compare the money consumed by war to the money put toward the arts by the Sudanese government. Social media networks are his main vehicle for getting the word out, and his plan is to put out T-shirts, cups and bags with his designs and quotes on them. His awareness-raising art is reminiscent of the British artist Banksy’s style. His hope is that Art VS War will form a connection between the capital city and the marginalized areas, by creating a dialogue based on social peace.
Focusing on the deep divides between the conflict-riddled areas on the peripheries and the more dominant, rich capital of Sudan, both Kuka and Isam emphasize the importance of the centre’s role in resolving the war. Without this, they agree the road to recovery will be difficult. The common wish these two artists share is to show the effects that war and conflict have had on their people and their country.
Khalid Albaih is a Romanian born Sudanese who channels his political activism through his cartoons. All of his creations are found on his Facebook page entitled “Khartoon”, which is a sardonic play on the name of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Through his cartoons, Albaih provides social and political commentary on topical issues most often focusing on what is going on in Sudan at the time. In 2013, some of his work was exhibited at the Edge of Arabia gallery in London. Albaih found the mood around the time of the Arab Spring in 2011 particularly inspiring, and because of this he does not merely express a sense of political critique through his art but also a feeling of hope that could spur people to believe in the possibility for future change. “It’s a lot of people from difference sects, different religions, different countries talking about the same idea and if I change somebody’s mind with my drawing I think I have done my job.”
One outcome from these artists’ efforts could be simply planting a seed that shows others how to express their personal grief, sadness, shock, and anger at what they have gone through into mediums such as art, instead of channelling it into more violence. What more could be done? More outreach to those who have fled Sudan and are now living in diaspora communities in other countries, for starters. It is important that these individuals connect with each other and then have a way to unite their voices through a variety of creative mediums. As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
-Written by Francisca Stewart