Sudanese Artist Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq Wins Prince Klaus Award

1 September 2019

The world has now come to stand in salute to a Sudanese female vanguard, Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq, not only in her creative work but also in the domains she entered with serenity and courage, to come out with an art that combines not only the cultural heritage of the country, but digs deep into its hidden half, women in the Sudan.

Sudanese artist Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq has won the 2019 Prince Klaus Award. This is an annual prestigious award that recognizes individuals and organizations for their ground-breaking work to progressive and contemporary culture and community development.

Ishag who has been a pioneer in visual art in Sudan and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region since the 1960s, was in fact among the first women to graduate from the College of Fine and Applied Arts in Khartoum, in 1960. She was a foundational figure in the modern art movement in Sudan.

She was associated with the Khartoum School, which forged a modern artistic identity for the newly independent nation, drawing on both its Arab and African traditions. However, a decade later, Ishag's ideas had evolved. She rejected the Khartoum School's emphasis on heritage and its seemingly male-dominated world view.

Now with a number of her students, she founded what came to be known as the "Crystalist Group." As expressed in their manifesto (1976) the Crystalist Group has characterized the world as infinite and unbounded, like a crystal with its transparencies, multiple angles and reflections.

Kamala explained in an interview that she could draw in every space and on every surface but she adorns large scale works because they give her more freedom therefore she is fond of murals and vast canvasses. She also said she loves peculiarity and ambiguity that characterise her portraits though she has the ability to draw realistic paintings.

Prince Klaus Award Fund described Ishag's work as being "focused on the intangible aspects of women's lives in Sudan, Africa and the Arab worlds. Her interest in women's lives led to field research and large-scale paintings of Zār, a traditional Sudanese women's ceremony that entails spirit possession and trance-like performance".

The works and writing of UK poets and vanguard in modern poetry, William Blake and Francis Bacon were a large influence in Ishag's portraits of distorted figures.

Another outstanding trait of Ishag was that she encouraged the young generation to develop and grow. It wasn't only verbal encouragement but she was described as remaining "active in organizing exhibitions with younger generations of women artists." Hence her participation in current social movements where women play a central, visible role.

"She continues to be an intellectual catalyst and inspirational force among a younger generation of Sudanese artists. "The Fund added.

A solo exhibition, Women in Crystal Cubes, featuring the work of Principal Prince Claus Laureate Ishag, will open on 31 October 2019 at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery in Amsterdam.

It is to be recalled that the Prince Claus Fund was established on 6 September 1996 as a tribute to HRH Prince Claus's dedication to culture and development. The Prince Claus Fund supports artists, critical thinkers and cultural organizations in spaces where freedom of cultural expression is restricted by conflict, poverty, oppression, marginalization or taboos, primarily in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.

The ceremony to hand over the awards takes place at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 4 December 2019.

Meanwhile Sudanese new Minister for Culture and Information, Faisal Mohamed Salih, was quick to send his personal and government congratulation to Ishaq for winning such an outstanding award, saying another national celebration and recognition awaits her in the country when she comes home.

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