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Sudanese women chant slogans during a demonstration demanding a civilian body to lead the transition to democracy, outside the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on April 12, 2019. - Sudanese protestors vowed on April 12 to chase out the country's new military rulers, as the army offered talks on forming a civilian government after it ousted president Omar al-Bashir. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Sudan’s Revolution Isn't a Fluke—It's Tradition

How Sudanese protesters tapped into their country's rich history of revolt to overthrow a dictator.

"The dawn has come, Atbara has arrived"

This was the chant bellowed by hundreds of people in Khartoum on Tuesday, April 23, as they tearfully welcomed in the train from Atbara, a city 300 kilometers away from the capital. The train was not only filled to capacity, it was overflowing with citizens both inside and on top of the train waving victory signs, posters, banners and Sudanese flags. The videos and stills from that day recorded a historic moment—and a full circle one, harkening back to the first major protest five months earlier on December 19, 2018.

On the other side of the world, I sat in front of my computer screen watching the train roll in and cried, for what felt like the millionth time that week.

Since April 6, the international community has been trying to understand what's happening in Sudan—its scope and significance.

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Arts + Culture
'The Bread Loaf' by AbdulRahman Alnazeer.

How Sudanese Art Is Fueling the Revolution

Young artists are using their work to voice the frustrations of the masses in a country yearning for political reform.

In 2012, I attended the launch of world-renowned Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi's autobiography, 'A Fistful of Sand', in Khartoum. During the Q&A; session, a man raised his hand to address El-Salahi. "While we appreciate your contribution Mr. El-Salahi, I fail to see the importance or influence of art in society."

Thirty years under the rule of Omar Al-Bashir and his self-dubbed "Savior" regime have led to acute brain drain in every discipline, and a complete disintegration of the arts.

So that man's dismissive attitude comes as no surprise; more so than proof of the violent repression in which the Sudanese people live, it is the natural result of three decades of economic hardship and impoverishment. As one friend put it, "Art was one of the casualties [of this regime] - who has the time for 'silly things' like creative expression and self-actualization when you're worried about your next meal?"

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