ART BLOOMS IN UNCERTAINTY: SUDANAugust 2021
Sudan is going through a period of transformation. In 2018-2019 a popular uprising toppled a corrupt government that had reigned for 3 decades. During the revolution, neighbourhoods were strengthened with a renewed sense of organized work and collaborative action, consolidating networks of trusted individuals to ensure neighbourhoods were safe spaces for people in those tumultuous times. Art was at the heart of the revolution, with pop up events, mass-concerts, poetry, music graffiti and multidisciplinary performances taking over neighbourhoods, including the Qiyada sit-in that popped up across different states between April and June 2019. This led to conversations on the impact of 30 years of Islamo-Arab governance on the art and culture sectors. The revolution also sparked new artist-activist movements such as Feed Arts, Rift Digital Lab and Civil Labs around Khartoum, and generated new art spaces and cafes that catered to a young, artistically tuned audience. In 2020 and 2021, many of these initiatives grew into larger, mainstream grassroots activities in neighbourhoods and began feeding into larger institutions, organizations and infrastructures, building on the foundation that neighbourhood committees had started during the 2018 revolution.
However, when COVID-19 hit in 2020, the political situation in Sudan deteriorated and remains uncertain today. These two inflection points, of Covid-19 and political repression, have been detrimental to the arts movements, causing many set-backs and problematic occurrences such as the arbitrary arrests of artists, restrictions on movement and cancellations of events. The sector as a whole has suffered from these circumstances resulting in widespread closures, fear among many that an impending crackdown is approaching, and widespread financial difficulties. Nonetheless, initiatives and projects are still surviving and popping up, often drawing on a combination of diasporic and local talents seeking to mobilize funding, cross-pollinate ideas and train artivists on digital and holistic security practices. This project will explore how artistic initiatives, at the grassroots level and beyond, are coping with the renewed apparatus of an oppressive regime, after the gains made in the 2018 - 2019 revolutionary period, and how they are navigating the multi-layered political, social and economic crises of the present.
Omnia Abbas Shawkat graduated with a BSc in biology with a focus on environmental studies from the American University in Cairo in 2008. She has a Master’s degree in Environment and Resource Management with a focus on water and climate policy from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After six years in development and environmental management, Omnia rerouted her career to become a digital storytelling curator and cultural manager. Omnia is one of two founders of Andariya, a bilingual digital multimedia cultural platform and cross-cultural enterprise launched in 2015 in Sudan and South Sudan, and in Uganda in 2018. Andariya has partnerships with more than 30 regional cultural entities and operates with a core team of 14 across the Sudans and Uganda and more than 100 freelancing creators across the globe.