Featured
Photo Credit: Mazin Elzain

Reem Aljeally is Leading Sudan's Burgeoning Art Scene

Community is at the forefront of Reem Aljeally’s artistic pursuits, as she empowers artists just like her.

Sudan’s art scene is a hidden gem. The country’s capital, Khartoum, has been a budding attraction for creativity and expression, though inextricably linked to the uprisings that shook the country in 2018. Art was deployed as a tool to register discontent on rising prices and the removal of subsidies on basic goods. Artists became an integral part of months-long protests that saw Sudan experiencing numerous marches, strikes, and protests.

Among such artists were Reem Saif-Aldin Aljeally, who created three murals depicted the involvement of women in the sit-ins at the military headquarters in Khartoum.

"My murals, which showed a woman wearing a white toub while carrying people forward, garnered a lot of attention," Aljeally told OkayAfrica. "One mural was erased by the military but two are still there.”

According to Aljeally, the immense expression of creativity was both a result of loosening restrictions on freedom of expression and, at the same time, a catalyst for further change. The 24-year-old artist, who grew up in Khartoum, directs efforts towards helping other emerging artists realize their dreams.

Trained as an architect, Aljeally remembers how she was always fascinated with art. Growing up, she would try to create and put color to almost everything that she owned. While in grade four, Aljeally signed up for extra art classes and she had her first exhibition experience.

“My fascination with design has also been nourished from my childhood. I remember constantly building models and cities of cardboard for games," Aljeally said. "I think that enriched my interest in pursuing architecture, as art was not a practical option for me back then."

Aljeally started taking art more seriously in 2016 after joining a painting competition. She eventually joined her school’s art group and hosted her first solo exhibition in 2017, which was inspired by the Harry Potter movies.

\u200bAljeally with pioneer modernist Kamala Ishaq.

Aljeally with pioneer modernist Kamala Ishaq.

Photo Credit: Abubakr JarElnabi

Besides her abiding presence in the art scene, Aljeally, who is also curator, channels her passion towards addressing social issues. Additionally, she draws her inspiration from personal reflection, observations, and by curiosity. She is also eager to be part of new projects, meet new people and know more about their ideas processes.

“This curiosity led me to be a curator and every day I pick myself up and work," Aljeally said. "There is so much more to be done and to be explored.”

In 2019, her efforts led to the launch of The Muse Multi Studios, an enterprise that works towards building a platform for the local art community. So far, The Muse Multi Studio has been able to train 90 artists on various skills in art including painting, drawing, and illustration. The platform has been able to work closely with almost 40 artists to bring their ideas to life in terms of solo exhibitions or group shows including working with the pioneer modernist Kamala Ishaq to curate a collection of her drawings.

Currently, Aljeally’s studio is hosting its first residency program that includes three researchers, three painters, and three photographers in a project that aims to enrich the critical and visual skills of its residents and assist them in materializing their ideas. The Muse Multi Studio has also worked with children in various programs including the “Stories from the Cubs” that focused on art therapy training for children in a reformatory centre in Khartoum.

Aljeally’s curatorial journey has been both extremely challenging yet satisfying at the same time. Her studio has collaborated and worked with professionals, amateurs, and art lovers in different ways. Some of the partners whom they have worked with include: Rift Digital Lab, the Spanish Embassy, and Education without Borders, providing guidance and assistance to organizations and individuals in regards to artistic projects and with sourcing artists to fulfill a certain role.

“Our focus is to present professionals’ work to the audience through curating it into exhibitions and projects that display the true potential and value of it,” Aljeally said. “While with our art sessions, we focus on youth, children and the community to involve them in the creation process and provide them with a fun environment to create and connect with others. We believe that we only go as far together, hence we try to work with other organizations or individuals in our community."

In July 2020, Aljeally debuted Bait Alnisa, a platform dedicated to all Sudanese women both in the country and diaspora. The platform showcases, supports and empowers Sudanese female artists and promotes their work.

“Bait Alnisa works through exhibitions, online content and articles, training and documentation. Being involved in the art scene, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of presence and representation of female artists and their work,” Aljeally said. “As I believe the female generated art comes in many different unusual forms in our society and it should be represented in more various ways. It has also given me the chance to meet and discover many artists and females leading important careers and visions in our country.”

Reem Saif-Aldin Aljeally headshot

In July 2020, Aljeally debuted Bait Alnisa, a platform dedicated to all Sudanese women both in the country and diaspora.

Photo Credit: Reem Saif-Aldin Aljeally

Haneen Khalid, 22 years-old, born and brought up in Khartoum, Sudan is one of the beneficiaries of Bait Alnisa. According to Haneen, it has been an enlightening journey with Reem who continuously inspires and encourages her.

“She always encouraged my ideas and never boxed me into my creativity,” Haneen said. “My pictures left my small digital space for the first time and it was being showcased for hundreds of people. It was just an immersive experience. I felt very empowered sharing the space with women who came from different backgrounds exhibiting various art. All thanks to Reem’s space that brings us together, empowers us and gives us exposure.”

Throughout her journey, Aljeally dedicated her time to work on her exhibitions. Since debuting in the industry, she has had three solo exhibitions with the fourth coming up in August at the French Institute, Khartoum. However, she has been part of numerous group exhibitions in South Africa, USA, Kenya and Sudan.

Her first artist residency online was in 2020 with the Sudan Moves project with Goethe Institute, Khartoum, where she collaborated with a German art therapist to create a project together titled Non-verbal Dialogue. Aljeally plans to own a gallery in Khartoum that will introduce contemporary art to the community, and to work with artists on uplifting their profession and skills. She would also like to turn The Muse Multi Studios into the first art institution in Sudan, as she continues to build a name for herself locally and internationally.


Popular
Image: Getty

Here's What You Need To Know About The Political Unrest In Sudan

Thousands have been protesting the Sudanese government over the weekend, supporting the military's plans for a coup.

Sudan's transitional government is in turmoil as thousands of citizens conducted a sit-in protest against them, over the weekend. A group of Sudanese citizens have called on the military to disestablish the nation's current government, as the country struggles with the greatest crisis they've seen since the end of former dictator Omar al-Bashir's controversial ruling, two years ago. The weekend's pro-military protests come as anti-military protestors took to the streets earlier this month to fight for civilian-ruled laws.

Military-aligned demonstrators assembled outside of the famously off-limits entrance of the Presidential Palace located in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum on Monday. Gatherers set up tents, blocking off access to two main intersections, cutting off access to the capital for those inside. Police attempted to wave off crowds with teargas, with Khartoum state officials saying they had, "repelled an attempted assault on the seat of government," in a statement issued Monday.

The assembly was called for by a coalition of rebel groups and political parties that support Sudan's military, accusing the civilian political parties of mismanagement and monopolizing power under their ruling. Demonstrations began on Saturday, but Sunday's gathering saw a lower attendance. According to Reuters, by Monday afternoon, thousands, between 2,000 - 3,000, had returned to voice their concerns. 52-year-old tribal elder Tahar Fadl al-Mawla spoke at the helm of the sit-in outside of the Presidential palace saying, "The civilian government has failed. We want a government of soldiers to protect the transition." Alongside a 65-year-old Ahman Jumaa who claimed to have traveled more than 900 kilometers (570 miles) from Southern region Nyala to show his support.

Protesters are demanding the appointment of a new cabinet that is "more representative of the people who participated in the December 2019 revolution that eventually led to the ousting of former president Omar al-Bashir", Al Jazeera reported from Sudan. Protesters headed towards the Presidential Palace, where an emergency cabinet meeting was being held when they were met by police forces.

Pro-civilian political parties have plans for their own demonstration on Thursday, the anniversary of the 1964 revolution that overthrew Sudan's first military regime under Ibrahim Abboud and brought in a period of democracy that the country still struggles to uphold.


Sudanese Twitter users shared their thoughts online, with many drawing similarities between the current unrest and other political crises the nation has faced.


get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

Sudan Commemorates One-Year Anniversary of Khartoum Massacre

Today marks a year since over 100 protesters were killed in Khartoum, Sudan, during mass demonstrations which lead to the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir.

Sudanese Government to Hand Over Former President Omar al-Bashir to the ICC

Sudan's Sovereign Council has agreed to hand over former president Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face charges of genocide and war crimes.

Sudan Has Launched an Investigation into Crimes Committed During the Darfur Conflict

The state prosecutor says the investigation will focus on "cases against former regime leaders."

Sudan Celebrates the Anniversary of the Country's Uprising

It's been one year since the nationwide protests that led to the ousting of then Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir began.

popular.

Sudan has Appointed a Prime Minister to Govern During the Transitional Period

Abdalla Hamdok says that peace and resolving the economic crisis are his top priorities.