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Digital illustration by Abo Obayda Mohammed on the fatalities of protests in Sudan.


The History of Art and its Impact in the Sudanese Revolution

Since the dawn of time humans documented their major events and ordinary daily life routines. From the cavemen who drew their observations of nature on the cave walls, passing by the ancient tribes of North America who documented their festivities using colored wood statues, through the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians who documented republican and royal ceremonies, uprisings, wars, diplomatic emissaries, nature, plagues, religion, and way of life.


During the golden age of arts throughout the renaissance era, artists outmaneuvered their predecessors in catching the details of everything in their lives including emotions in their paintings and statues. In the current modern era of digitization, artists are capable of recording emotions, events, details, their own opinions, and other insights using the available digital tools to produce digital illustrations, songs, poems, videos, and graffiti.


The December 2018 revolution in Sudan ignited the process of change and rebirthed a new era that reinvigorated the arts industry. On the 25th of October 2021, Sudan stumbled during the process of political change, but arts still prospered and assisted in raising awareness and documenting all of the wins and losses throughout this revolution.


Arts are capturing not only information, but the feelings underscoring different moments the artists witnessed, events they experienced, and what it felt for each artist to pour those feelings and experiences. Arts in various formats such as digital paintings, songs, poems, and graffiti are used in capturing this moment.


Milestones of the Sudanese revolution inspired many of the contents of the arts produced since the revolution started. There are various main themes that define the content of the arts. Different types of arts also have different topics they chose to focus upon. Each artist had his or her own character, which made them focus on specific aspects of the Sudanese Revolution. The data tells us many stories and in this article, we reveal the content to determine the trends.


Timeline of Produced Arts

The data collected for this article does not include all of the produced art about the revolution, but only those that appeared and were shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The arts recorded in the data were produced between December 18th 2018 and June 2nd 2022.


A data visualization for the number of arts produced since the start of the Sudanese Revolution in December 2018 up to June 2022


Milestones of the Revolution

In life, each process and project has its major events and milestones, and so was the case for the Sudanese revolution. It is interesting how artists reacted to each milestone by producing arts with specific themes and emotions. The concept of milestones used here is when a specific time period is associated to a milestone or an event, until another landmark is achieved.


The three most viral milestones of the revolution to artists were the dissolving of the pro-Islamist organization “Islamic Dawah”, blocking bridges with freight containers, and of course the military coup of the 25th of October 2021 with around thirty arts published per each milestone. These are followed by the start of the revolution in December 2018 and the “Arba’eeniya of the Khartoum Massacre,” which marked the 40th day since the massacre of June 3rd 2019 at the army headquarters, with around 20 arts published per milestone.


The number of arts produced about the Sudanese revolution from the start of the Sudanese Revolution until June 2022 according to the top milestones in the Sudanese Revolution.


Top Themes

The main themes of events that the artists were so keen to document in their arts were activism, which included; protests, employee strikes, civil disobedience, and sit-ins. These peaceful actions are usually countered by state violence, which includes; indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, torture, and unlawful imprisonments. Politics then takes center stage through art tackling political agreements, and diplomatic visits.

Then comes the other themes like healthcare, which focuses mainly on the COVID-19 pandemic, economic hardships, and sometimes plain emotions for Sudan’s uprising without a main event or context to define them. The least prevalent themes for artists were societal traditions and ways of life, governmental regulations, environment, laws, energy, transport, and general crises that were not directly related to any of the previously mentioned themes.


The main themes of the arts produced about the Sudanese Revolution


Top Types of Arts

Most of the arts produced about the Sudanese revolution were digital illustrations that were published on social media and websites. Later came songs, and surprisingly after the songs came one of the most traditional art forms, paper illustrations, and others.


Digital illustrations documented many aspects of Sudan’s Revolution, but they focused on activism, violence, and politics. Songs, paper illustrations, poems, wall paintings, and graphic designs focused mainly on activism. Graffiti focused mainly on violence and on the killings of innocent unarmed demonstrators.


Types of the arts produced about the Sudanese Revolution according to the tools and mediums used by the artists.


Short Biographies of the Artists with the Maximum Number of Published Arts


Digital illustration by Khalid Al-Baih on the military council and its political agendas


Numerous digital arts were produced by Khalid Al-Baih, who focused on politics in his digital illustrations. Khalid was the “political artist” of the revolution, as most of the arts that focused on politics were recorded by him.

Galal Yousif, used paper illustrations and wall paintings to document activism. Most of the art pieces that focused on activism were created by him, so he gets the title of the “activist artist”.

Abo Obayda Mohammed, used digital illustration to document violence, activism, and emotions. Not surprisingly, most of the arts that documented the emotions of the artist and/or the people of Sudan were created by Abu Obayda, so he gets to have the title of the “emotional artist”.

After Abo Obayda comes Mohammed Makki, who used graphic design to document activism mainly.


Graffiti by Assil Diab for the campaign "Blue for Mattar" and "Blue for Sudan"


Assil Diab, used graffiti to document violence and specifically the killings of innocent people by drawing multiple murals around Khartoum, adorning neighborhoods and homes with the faces of the martyrs who fell during the revolution in protests and other forms of activism. Most of the arts that focused on documenting violence exerted by security forces were created by Assil Diab, so, she gets the title of the “vigilant artist”.


She too faced the danger of death and/or other kinds of violence every time she went out to create graffiti. “I used to say: Ash-hado An La Elaha Ella Allah Mohammed Rasol Allah. Because I never knew what will happen to me whenever I went out to create graffiti,” Assil Diab.


After Assil Diab, comes the rest of the twenty-one artists who produced art about the Sudanese Revolution. The list may or may not include all the Sudanese artists, but it surely does include most of the popular artists on social media. A more comprehensive list of the revolutionary artists of the Army HQ sit-in can be found here



Most popular Sudanese artists who created arts about the Sudanese Revolution.


Conclusion

Arts had and still have a vital role in recording human history. The Sudanese revolution brought the artistic scene in Sudan back to life in a way we haven’t witnessed in the last few decades since the Bashir regime took hold of the country.


Milestones of the Sudanese revolution did help shape the content of the arts produced about the Sudanese revolution, but sometimes they did not. There are various themes and contexts of events in the revolution that defined the content of the arts.


Not all different types of arts had the same topics to focus on. Each artist expressed their own focus on particular themes and contexts of the Sudanese Revolution, all creating a rich content library to explore and understand the significant moments and people’s sentiments.


This article is published as a part of a series mining data for interesting patterns around art and revolution between 2018-2022. The project is supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and CultureArab Council for Social Sciences and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Ahmed El-Affendi

Ahmed El-Affendi is a coffeeholic foodie data journalist, writer, data scientist, and storyteller. He is always interested in exploring cultures of other nations, learning new languages, reading books, and cinematics