The year 2020 – with the immense amount of time spent at home – certainly had the advantage of giving us room for creativity. Many artists have addressed the COVID-19 outbreak in different forms of art, and perhaps our featured artist for today is one of the most well-known in Sudan. Khalid Albaih is a Romanian-born Sudanese artist and political cartoonist who currently lives and works in Doha, Qatar, where he has been based since 1990. Anyone who follows him on social media is probably familiar with his famous tag: “Khartoon!”, a wordplay on ‘cartoon’ and our beloved Sudanese capital.
We should take a moment and appreciate the exquisite impact cartoons have had on the world of politics, as they are the alternative means of communication that carry thousands of words within them. Perhaps they always seem relevant due to the very nature of politics; which opens doors for ridicule and various opinions or criticism. Political cartoons often encapsulate what a dozen analysts can’t formulate into words, and with the rising culture of graphics, videos, and audiobooks, people are slowly drifting away from written content. Sure, written communication still has its audience, but we can’t deny that younger generations find memes and GIFs more intriguing than articles and newspaper columns. Many people view cartoons and grasp way more from the artist. They relate to different political events worldwide and admire the way the artist was able to perfectly convey their opinion. So not only are political cartoonists divine artists, but they are analysts, content creators, and opinion journalists all at once.
As a creative cultural producer, Albaih has been a source of inspiration for many Sudanese creatives and youth due to the cultural impact he sparks through his artistic projects. Let’s check out what he had to say to Andariya about the pandemic in Sudan, and how he managed to shed light on the COVID-19 outbreak throughout the past year.
The Unprecedented Beginning
12th of January of 2020 was when the WHO first confirmed that a novel Coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory disease in Wuhan, China. Little did we know that it would only take 2 months for our whole lives to change in Sudan. The 13th of March was when Sudan announced its first COVID-19 case, and ever since then, we have been struggling with the outbreak. Our team at Andariya has shared several articles on these obstacles including the hindrance resulting from Sudanese social norms and the way people deny and rationalize their nonchalant behavior towards following protective measures.
Made in China – 28 Jan 2020
Corona Planet – 11 Mar 2020 “Seems that all we talk about is the number of people infected or dead, never about how many have recovered.”
Flattening the curve – 23 Mar 2020 “Doctors are the real heroes”
The Challenges in Sudan
The past year has been rough on Sudanese people in general; from a fragile political atmosphere to severe economic deterioration, we have been desperately trying to recover from the damage done by the previous regime. There is no right time for the arrival of a global pandemic, but for us, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The whole country could not function and this has really taken its toll on different groups, from students to low-income citizens such as tea-ladies. Refugees and internally displaced people surely have suffered the most during the pandemic, and we attempted to highlight some of those issues from our trip to displacement camps in Al Fasher, Darfur.
“Even though the pandemic had hit worldwide, different response approaches such as social distancing, availability, and affordability of face masks and sanitizers don’t really apply to us in Sudan and most of the global south, but we need to survive.”
— Khalid Albaih
Social obligations – Corona – Sudan - 27 Mar 2020
28 Mar 2020 – “Refugees are running from yet another danger, this time it’s what the whole world is running from, but they don’t have a home to stay home.”
5 Apr 2020 – “The change we need. Fight the virus not each other.”
6 Apr 2020 – “In the first anniversary of Sudan’s revolution, Sudan faces a new challenge.”
Within the last year, Sudan has been fighting to carve a democracy out of decades of post-colonial rooted mayhem, failed attempts to gain independence, regional bullying, failed educational systems, and worst for our current situation: no healthcare system in place.”
- Khalid Al Baih
11 Apr 2020 – First Responders
16 Apr 2020 - The Fight Goes On – “All the weapons that governments spent billions building and buying couldn’t be on our side while fighting a virus. Instead, only nurses, doctors, scientists, and low paid workers are the ones defending us now.”
28 Apr 2020 – “’Stay at home’ is the first approved weapon against COVID-19, practice it!”
“In trying to make sense of things, most of the world took this chance to start meditating and enjoying the pause; but we didn't have the privilege of stopping how fast the world is going. Because our fast is not a 9 to 5 kind of fast, we exhaust our energy in what the rest of the world sees as the small stuff, while we see them as our means to survive.”
— Khalid Albaih
10 May 2020 – What Corona? We are Muslims!
17 May 2020 – Doctors vs. Kaizan (Members of the ousted National Congress Party)
26 May 2020 – “When you visit people this Eid you’ll bring him to them with you.”
22 July 2020
The Second Wave
People got tired, bored, and unmotivated. The disease had escalated to a vicious second wave in Sudan with a drastic rise in active cases and deaths, many people and medical workers have lost their lives by the end of 2020, and these are just the recorded numbers. Not long after, a second wave started rising and it devastated the thought of the situation ever-improving.
28 Nov 2020 – “COVID-19 second wave got so many of Sudan’s doctors and medical staff.”
23 Dec 2020 – “A new strain.”
Injecting Hope into The World
31 Dec 2020 – “While man plans a trip to Mars, made devices that give access to all knowledge with a swipe, in times where everything is bigger and stronger and connecting faster and faster, something as microscopic as a flu virus made the world stop. This SHOULD be The Great Reset.”
As this last artwork implies, this year has begun with real hope for most people. Despite the numerous rumors circulating around vaccines worldwide and in Sudan, they are our only glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Check out Andariya’s posts on debunking vaccine rumors and myths.
“Facing COVID-19 could have been done better, sure. But always remember, we are building as we go, no time to look back, we lick our wounds while standing in long queues, from bread to a free hospital bed, to convincing an at-risk relative of not going to a Janaza prayer.
I’m proud of our people for surviving. Always.”
— Khalid Albaih