Arts In Sudan

FROM ANCIENT TIMES, THE NILE VALLEY HAS BEEN A CONVERGENCE POINT OF EUROPE, ARABIA, AND AFRICA AND THE tradition continues, particularly in Sudan’s arts. Dietrich Wildung of Berlin’s Agyptisches Museum notes the “coexistence of Meroitic (Kushite), Egyptian, and Hellenistic elements of artistic expression” found in the upper Nile Valley’s ancient architecture and sculpture. One still hears European instruments, such as
accordion and violin, played to the beats of African percussion instruments behind Arabic lyrics. In painting, however, the arabesque designs common to Arabian art take a backseat to portraits and images of animals central to the African tradition.

Ancient Nile Valley civilization images regularly feature in the art of contemporary Sudanese. The regal bird,
notably, is found in the virile works of Rashid Diab, Muhammad Hussein Bahnas, and Shangal. European techniques are incorporated in use of materials and some of Sudan’s leading artists, prominent among them the late Dr. Hamid Al Kawad and Dr. Rashid Diab, were educated in European art faculties and chose European artists as wives. In Gamaan’s works, there are found obvious similarities with Picasso, whose cubism style was substantially influenced by African art. Rashid Diab’s overriding influence appears to be the ancient art of the Nile Valley, though he
displays the dexterity of a cosmopolitan virtuoso.

In architecture, Khartoum and Kano are sister cities, though the former being the national capital is more developed; both in their traditional mud structures, still prominent in number, feature influences of ancient Arabia that have been seen in Bilad al Sudan for not less than a thousand years. Both cities occasionally borrow modern architectural motifs from Riyadh and Jeddah; however, houses in Khartoum’s upper class residential neighborhoods
feature liberal glass content, which is  typical of North America and Europe. Rashid Diab’s Dara Gallery has the flavour of Andulusa, where Islamia of the Maghrib and Iberia converged, giving birth to an exotic civilization.

The significance of Sudan as a convergence point of Africa, Arabia, and Europe suggests that it is one of the world’s most important socio-cultural preserves. Moreover, its assimilation of modernization and Islamic orthodoxy makes Sudan a pacesetter in the Muslim world. Artistically, this holds out a unique cosmopolitan future, which will continue to reflect the actual character of Sudan, particularly the Northernmost regions, and invariably compel ideological compatibility from the political realm.

Isaam Abdel Hafiez’s colouring is delicious, frequently a fruit salad of mixed pastels, tasting to the eyes like  watermelon, guava, mango, banana, pineapple, oranges, grapes, grapefruit, and lime.

His forms represent enigmatic drama, the ever natural blend of the labouring human personality with the earth stage interactively crafted by God and man, the perennial student. Man as artist is the abstract enquirer, probing the significance of phenomena in all dimensions, creating aesthetic interpretations. It appears that, to Issam, the world is passionately tasty, despite all the unquenched thirst for liberty and bliss. The oasis is in the soul; not a mirage, but in depth of appreciation. Indeed, in God’s earth there is no dearth of beauty, if only one has the ingenuous sense of things to realize how fabulous is the cosmic labyrinth.

Thank God there are artists, and every true artist is in someway great. But then, there are the greatest, whose aesthetic brilliance flirts with the full moon, fluorescent in the indigo night…and who is to distinguish them? Maybe
the critic and the poets also intervene; the public at large decides whether to applaud, or buy, or not. Allah is the All Knower. Am I right to assert that the aesthetic purity of any work lies in its internal unity? But one must know how
to read the aesthetic pattern and tune in to all its dimensions. For the artist, it is as Shakespeare wrote for Hamlet: “To thine own-self be true and it shall follow as the night follows the day that thou cannot be false to any man.” That is to say, dear artist, tell it, craft it the way you see, hear, feel, digest, and leave the chips falling where they may.