“Art Will Save the World, and We are the Soldiers”

 Street art has been an important symbol of the peaceful Sudanese revolution since its inception, providing both inspiration and a creative outlet for the country as a whole. Many around the world have been deeply motivated by the images of colorful, meaningful murals which circulated on social media. Through this expressive movement, public art has become much more appreciated and commonplace in Sudan - a welcome change for the nation’s blossoming yet underexposed art scene. The murals painted in Sudan’s sit-in at Al-Qiyada during April, May, and June of 2019 are historically important to the nation and a feature of the collective consciousness of Sudanese people around the world. For many artists, they described it as the best time for expressing oneself and expressing for others. Still, many do not know the stories behind the artists who created these symbolic pieces. 

Over one hundred artists have contributed to making murals and street art. Unfortunately, the majority of works were erased following the forceful dispersal of the sit-in on June 3rd 2019. However, the artworks have been preserved through social media and through online platforms. Below are excerpts from interviews with 13 artists from Al-Qiyada, who are now getting the chance to tell their story, some for the first time. 

  1. Assil Diab

 Assil Diab is an established graffiti artist from Doha, Qatar, who goes by the street name Sudalove. Assil is well-known for her long-standing work during the revolution to paint portraits of the martyrs. It was the first known street art project of the revolution, which she continued working on during and after the sit-in at Al-Qiyada. In the words of Assil, “Al-Qiyada was a safe place.” The real revolution featuring the kajr shadow militias, security forces, and janjaweed was outside, and “art was a weapon”.

Assil Diab painted the following mural for Idreesy Koum, who is the founder of El-Mastaba TV, and it is her only work in Al-Qiyada. The mural is painted in Assil Diab’s well-known portrait graffiti style and was made to represent the Sudanese woman. Assil colored it to represent the Sudanese flag with her use of red, black, green, and white throughout - even in the details of the eyes. Written across the face are words to do with the revolution including peace, freedom, imprisonment, love, and unity.

This mural was located on Clinic Street, Al-Qiyada, Khartoum. 

undefined

2. Merghani Salah

Merghani Salih earned his degree in Politics and Economics from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. He is an experienced professional who has worked in London, Dubai, North and East Africa. Outside of his professional career, Merghani is an avid digital artist who used his talents to contribute to the Sudanese revolution. He is most well-known for his large, striking mosaics that are made of thousands of photos, four of which were prominently displayed at Al-Qiyada.

Merghani Salih’s twin brother Osman printed the mosaics and hung them up in the sit-in area. A mosaic titled ‘The Kandaka’ was made to recognize and honor the brave women inside and outside of Sudan who were contributing to the Sudanese revolution. Merghani says, “a lot of Sudanese people can also relate to it as she almost represents the classic grandmother look and characterizes a lot of positive connotations in our culture.” The original photo was taken by the portrait photographer Fayiz Abu Bakr of the featured woman who lives in Al-Jazira State. Merghani’s mosaics have been widely shared across social media platforms and were even displayed at the UK House of Parliament and the Oslo Freedom Forum in May 2019.

This mosaic was located on Buri/Qiyada St. close to the Sudanese Navy Headquarters.

undefined

3. Ahmed Salah

Ahmed Salah (also known as Zool 249) is a visual artist and a graffiti writer. He is a co-founder of the 249Writers crew, which is the first and only street art and graffiti group in Sudan. Previously, they worked on dozens of murals around the capital and the Sudanese states, advocating for the culture and role of street art to have a positive impact on the community. Ahmed shared that part of his responsibility as a street artist is to “reflect the reality and deliver a message in a way that normal people can understand.”

When the sit-in began at Khartoum’s Military Headquarters, Ahmed and his friends began to think about starting a new project to deliver their messages as artists, and secondly to make a memorable contribution showing the Sudanese people’s magnificent revolution to the whole world. This mural was inspired by the conditions that Sudanese people faced during the revolution, and Ahmed describes it as intending to “show that the power of people is stronger than of the guns, and when people are united, nothing can stop their progress.” Later, Salah remembers noticing that his mural was shared globally on Twitter by the Human Rights Foundation and feeling in that moment that the message was successfully delivered.

This mural was located on Ma’arad St., Buri, Khartoum.

undefined

4. Mohaned Honda

Mohaned Honda has been drawing murals for six years and was one of the founders of the 249 Writers street art group. Through his graffiti work, both individually and collectively, Honda’s goal has been to speak on social issues through art. “The causes of the revolution will always remain the greatest among them,” says Mohaned.

The intent behind these murals was to start making work in Al-Qiyada that exhibited professionalism. Initially, others did not understand the goal of the art but with a little help from resistance committees, they started to believe in the positive impacts. His mural showing an empty tear gas canister holding a “protector of the barricades” sign was among the first works on the walls of Buri Cemetery. Mohaned says, “the idea was that street art would be one of the protectors of the sit-in, the revolution, and all its events.” Featured next to the spray-paint can caricature was “Tasgot Bas” (Just Fall) in block letters.

“Art will save the world, and we are the soldiers” - 249 Writers

This mural was located on Ma’arad St., Buri, Khartoum.

undefined

5. Reem Aljeally

Reem Aljeally is a 22 year-old architect and visual artist. When the sit-in started, Reem remembers seeing an Instagram story from Alaa Satir, another well-known creative, inviting artists to paint around Al-Qiyada. For Reem, it was a chance to participate and show why the Sudanese people went out to the streets. Painting at the sit-in was her first attempt at painting a wall to create a mural, and she found the experience fulfilling.

Reem says, “at that time I was interested in painting portraits of African females in general and Sudanese females specifically. My murals were mainly about the participation of Sudanese women in the revolution and the full rights women have to obtain in Sudan.” The freedom of expression represented at the sit-in was a new normal for creatives. Though she does not identify as a political artist, Reem remarked, “being able to paint in the streets of my city so freely was definitely a new feeling that I can say we all very much needed.”

This mural was located on Maarad St., Buri, Khartoum.

undefined

6. Almujtaba Altijany & Mohamed Gamal

Mohamed Gamal Awad is a student at the National University studying Business Administration. He started drawing graffiti as a hobby in 2017 and making calligraphy in 2018. Almujtaba Altijany is a university student and one of the founders of Galleryna Group for portrait art. He is a self-taught artist who started drawing in 2007 when he was in elementary school. Almujtaba was a part of a number of galleries and also Yalla Khartoum established by the Goethe Institute.

The idea first came from artists that were staying at Al-Qiyada to collect materials and draw murals in memory of the martyrs. Mohamed Gamal says, “we drew on that day in particular because it was the day after the martyr Maab Hanafi was killed, and we chose to draw on the closest wall to the place of his death.” While they were painting, there was gunfire happening close to them due to encounters with the security forces that were found inside the sit-in’s perimeter.

This mural was located next to the overpass on Gamhuriya St., Khartoum.

undefined

7. Suha Omer

Suha Omer is a recent graduate of Medical Laboratory Technologies from Nahda College and is passionate about art, sketching, and painting. She is a native of Khartoum and was the first place winner of the Afrabia Prize for Visual Arts in 2017. Suha is also a member of the Galleryna Group for fine arts. During the time of the sit-in, she completed two murals in Al-Qiyada, including one focusing on the crimes of Darfur. Suha says, “I was moved to make this mural to talk about the violence in Darfur and the pain and suffering that they have experienced.” The mural took three days of work to complete. As the quote reads, "Even if eyes turn blind to you Darfur, the eye of Al-Haqq (Allah) does not sleep." For Suha, the experience was full of hope and positivity for a better tomorrow for Darfur and all of Sudan.

The mural was located across from the Ministry of Defense and was one of the first murals to be erased after the sit-in.

undefined

8. Master Mt

Muman (a.k.a Master Mt) is an architecture student at Omdurman Islamic University, who has been drawing since he was five years old. Painting at Al-Qiyada was his first time ever creating a mural. Muman says, “I felt that I needed to put my mark on the revolution in my personal style, and it was a personal challenge for me. Being my first mural, it needed to be a solid piece of work and to be better than outstanding.” One of Muman’s goals was to feature the names of the martyrs that had died up until that time on the mural. And from this came the idea of painting wings laced with the names of the martyrs, which symbolizes that the martyrs are now angels in heaven. He added, “I wanted to portray that their sacrifices were for the sake of the nation, and used the colors of the independence flag for the wings.”

This mural was located by the entrance of Al-Qiyada from the Blue Nile Bridge and Nile Street.

undefined

9. Mutaman Swar

Mutaman Swar is an architect, artist, and entrepreneur who is passionate about anything to do with innovation and creativity. He is specialized as a Creative Director through Degraphy Studios, promoting the concept of design in all forms. Swar is also a member of the street art group 249 Writers and has participated in local and global conferences and competitions with the hope to use his ability to raise the profile of art and design in Sudan. This mural in Al-Qiyada was created with the help of Belal (a.k.a Bash 249) and was worked on alongside projects from Hazim Al-Hussien and Alaa Satir, each painted in one color of the Sudanese independence flag. The background color of Swar’s mural represents the “green” time of prosperity after the fall of Al-Bashir. The mural itself features an abstract character and talks about the phenomenal amount of art that “forced even the devil to submit.” Swar says, “the experience in the sit-in is something I cannot explain. It was the peak of freedom, collaboration, and unity. And the high level of consciousness showed us just how much Sudan is worth and how we should contribute to it.” Later with the help of the Sudanese Visual Arts Association, the area became a place for workshops on arts and mural-making for the Sudanese people to express their hopes and dreams.

This mural was located on Ma’arad St., Buri, Khartoum.

undefined

10. Abdelrahman Mohamed Abdelfatih

Abdelrahman Mohamed is a graduate of civil engineering and an artist by passion. Abdelrahman completed this mural at a time when many artists were working on projects in Al-Qiyada. To prepare the mural, he looked for a compelling photograph that represented the revolution and came across the photo of a young Sudanese boy on one of the Facebook groups. Abdelrahman began the mural and finished it in two days during the month of April following the ousting of former President Omer Al-Bashir and his successor Awad Ibn-Ouf. Abdelrahman says, “despite the severe pain that I feel when passing by Al-Qiyada now, the one thing that brings me patience is seeing that my artwork was not erased. It is something that I can say I participated in the revolution with, even though it was my duty.”

This mural is still located on Zubeir Pasha St, Khartoum.

undefined

11. Musab Mohamed

Musab Mohamed is a student of electrical engineering at Cambridge International College. He has previously been featured on the S24 Channel, speaking on the topic of practicing art between a passion and a career. Musab completed two murals in Al-Qiyada that were widely shared on social media, both featuring themes related to the peaceful uprising. Again, one recurring theme in his and many other murals was the colors of the Sudanese independence flag used from 1956 to 1970, signaling a shift back to appreciating the country’s African heritage. The blue, yellow, and green colors each represent the Nile River, the Sahara Desert, and the country’s rich agriculture.

His murals talk about the real scenarios of the revolution, as protestors consistently faced guns with peaceful measures. The first mural depicts a protestor in black-and-white Banksy-style throwing flowers, and the second mural shows a heavy artillery gun (common in the protests) that releases doves. Musab was inspired to make the murals to support the revolution using his art and passion as a voice. He says, “the experience was beautiful. I wished it lasted longer so that we could color all the streets.”

This mural was located on Clinic St., Al-Qiyada, Khartoum.

undefined

12. Arhectora Arts Group

Arhectora Arts Group is a student group at the College of Engineering at the University of Khartoum, consisting of talented artists in the areas of drawing, painting, Arabic calligraphy, and other arts. The goal was to develop talents to the highest level possible to represent a new addition to the art scene from students at university and outside. Arhectora puts on a number of exhibitions periodically, organizes training workshops, and participates in external art events. The group was founded in 2003 by the late Hassan Mokhtar and has been up and running ever since.

The idea for painting the mural came from Howeida Kheiry who asked Arhectora to express her written idea about the revolution as a mural in Al-Qiyada. The artists pitched the idea to members of the group, and Sujood Jalal (member of Arhectora) helped convert the text to a drawn artwork. Sujood says, “I was in Saudi Arabia at the time, so I wanted to participate with them by any means and leave my mark.” Then the team in Sudan brought it from paper to reality. Thoraya Eman, who helped paint the mural, says, “I wanted to do something simple to take part in the peaceful revolution, and art was the best way in my view.”

Mr. Abdal Moneim of Arhectora also says, “The experience was beautiful because of people’s hopefulness, the street movement around us, and everyone’s motivation. People used to come and take pictures with us, paint with us, and bring us food and water. There were even a few journalists who did interviews with us. The best part is that many people weren’t aware of art in Sudan, so we had the chance to express it with an audience that was impressed and interactive.”

This mural was located on Ma’arad St., Buri, Khartoum.

undefined

13. Mowaffag Elsadig

Mowaffag Elsadig is a student of civil engineering at the University of Khartoum and a self-taught artist. He completed several small-scale murals at Al-Qiyada during the time of the sit-in. Mowaffag says, “I think thirty years of injustice and offenses was enough of a motivation to make the mural. The experience was really amazing, it gave me the chance to meet other artists and creatives for the first time, whether they were singers, journalists, or visual artists.” The story of the mural is that the past regime tried to silence citizens from speaking truth to power, but people kept resisting and rising up until the regime fell on the morning of April 11th, 2019. The work is self-titled “Suppression” and features a man being silenced by the many long hands of the regime. The background is also painted in the colors of the Sudanese independence flag.

His mural is still located on Zubeir Pasha St., Khartoum.

undefined

 

This post is also available in: Arabic


Ilham Ali

Ilham Ali is a Sudanese-American engineer and technologist. She has interests in sustainable development, finance, arts, and public policy. Ilham is the founder of sudanrevolutionart.org and a director of the Sudanese Peace Music Festival. In her free time, Ilham paints and plays the guitar.