Sudan’s Phoenix People
“For the People of Sudan, the pain of gathering what little hope remains to muster a ‘final’ attempt at overthrowing any form of oppression is regularly met with bitter disappointment. As the world grows more connected, so do they also grow more numb to the atrocities against humanity, the international community seemingly nonplussed at the plight of the Sudanese. Again and again they rise as a united people against oppressors who were once brothers and sisters but are now no more than murderers, thieves and rapists. But they will rise, as they always have done and no matter the pain and loss, they will one day triumph. This is why my People of Sudan are the Phoenix People.” – Hussein Salim
The challenge of rising up is to pay attention. A waterfall decrying the current crisis in Sudan has recently spurted forth and the important, crucial response is to pay attention, to look, listen and support in any way possible.
For some this means sharing the few articles, statements and images that have come to be despite the blackout instilled in the country. For others, it is turning social media platforms Mattar Blue, a colour that has come to stand for all the individuals who have lost their lives during the struggle. To us, it is to create a space in solidarity with Sudan and to acknowledge our artist Hussein Salim, who was forced to leave Sudan in the early 1990s because the ongoing conflict. In Sudan, walls have been turned into posters, platforms for expression, murals, catharsis, information, while a few Instagram accounts share and highlight this work. To this, we must pay attention.
News media and governmental organisations may deploy strategies that ground conversations in politics and economics but it remains crucial to recognise the impact on people, on humanity. As neighbours on this expansive and complicated continent, but also as people in solidarity with others experiencing unjust hardship, taking time to acknowledge and think about Sudan is important. It is necessary to see those who express their pain and to acknowledge their experiences with compassion, consideration and empathy.
Hussein Salim is an artist whose journey across different countries of the world has links to the legacies of conflict in his home country of Sudan. His work has always carried the weight of the walking, running, wandering and thinking his life has presented. While the evocative colours and mystical patterning may offer respite, the work should be understood as a product of its context.
The atrocities currently occurring in Sudan vibrate across South Africa, where the memory of pain remains intimately and tenuously connected to our present. The horror and betrayal of violence as the response to calls for change echoes through the archives of our memories.
To turn to art as a process of grappling, unpacking, mediating and working through struggle is one we easily fall into step with. As such, this exhibition is offered as a statement of solidarity and care for those in Sudan and those who have had to leave their homes. We open this space for free conversation, information sharing and strength building, surrounded by the singing, energetic and embracing works by Hussein Salim.
– Clare Patrick