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"Art cannot remain marginalized forever, and the day must come when the artwork will illuminate the people and the country."

Yannis Ritsos - Greek poet


 Abdul Rahman Hamdan, Painter - Taken from Feed Art

Lately, there had been shocking news about sentencing Hajooj Kuka and 4 other Sudanese artists to 2 months imprisonment with a settlement penalty of SDG 5,000 based on faulty accusations. Social media was filled with outraged messages and petitions demanding the release of these artists immediately. Broad and strong solidarity was demonstrated from various institutions and active platforms, as well as from artists of different nationalities. South African producer, Steven Markovits, is leading a campaign through social media, speeches, and demonstrations calling for their release. Endless support and stands to force the judicial authorities and the Ministry of Culture in Sudan to disregard the case.

Hajooj Kuka, an award-winning Sudanese filmmaker and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which awards the Oscars, had directed Akasha and Beats of the Antonov to name a few. His films, which have been featured in many film festivals around the world, focused on the aftermath of wars in Sudan and the amount of damage it leaves behind. Kuka, being rebellious by nature, was also known for being an active player in the December revolution.


Hajoj Kuka, Film Director - Photo taken from The Hollywood Reporter

The 5 artists were arrested on the basis of causing a disturbance at the Feed Arts workshop on August 11th, 2020. It took place in Khartoum were one of the neighbors in Al Zuhoor neighborhood broke into the workshop and attacked Duaa Tarig. The police soon intervened and arrested everybody including Duaa, Kuka, and the others who were repeatedly beaten and harassed. Furious at the torture and unnecessary arrest, the artists began chanting against the police, which led the latter to charge them with public nuisance.


Duaa Tairg, an activist - Photo taken from Facebook

The ruling was made without any proven evidence, as the accusations were initially fabricated. This demonstrated to many that the judicial system is biased against the arts and freedom of expression in Sudan.

How could they compare the wrong-doing, if there were any, of these artists to the blood-stained and thieving criminals? And how is art a public nuisance that deserves spending 2 months in jail? What country does that?

This law, which decided to place Hajooj and the other artists in prison, had not changed since the public marched against it at the December revolution in 2018. Unfortunately, we still witness the same heinous practices the law enforcement implements. This is at the heart of what young men and women of the revolution fought for when they chanted "Freedom, Peace, and Justice."

Freedom of expression is neither a privilege nor granted from anyone, rather, it is a basic human right. Authorities that allow the insult and expression of hatred towards art or artist should realize that the December revolution is still thriving to abolish these abominations. Art is, by its nature, an act of resistance and cannot be stifled, especially in post-revolution Sudan.

This incident brings in distressful consequences to the youth, artists, and creatives who carved a safe space for themselves post-revolution. If it is not dealt with immediately, artists and art enthusiasts will continue demonstrating, blogging, and spreading awareness throughout news outlets and social media in the hopes of changing this reality and the future of the arts in the country. Those who were imprisoned today were not only the artists but the art in itself and the minds behind creating it. Since we plan to lead the country to a democratic nation, we have to defend and support the freedom of the arts. Hajooj Kuka, Duaa Tariq, Abdul Rahman Muhammad, Ayman Khalaf Allah, and Ahmed Al-Sadiq; were sentenced to prison only because they believed in the message of the art which is resistance. Resistance is prevalent to racism, wars, harmful traditions, and hatred.

Faiz Hassan

Faiz is a writer who is interested in documenting contemporary arts and artists in Sudan through in-depth reports, articles and interviews. Faiz won the Tayeb Salih short story award for youth in 2020 and one of his short stories was published in the book “Hasad” in 2016.