Kamala Ibrahim Ishag Sudan

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag web

2019 Principal Prince Claus Laureate

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag (Omdurman, Sudan 1939)

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag has been a pioneer in African visual art since the 1960s. Among the first women to graduate from the College of Fine and Applied Art 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. A decade later, Ishag’s ideas had evolved. She rejected the Khartoum School’s emphasis on heritage and its seemingly male-dominated world view. With a number of her students, she founded what came to be known as the Crystalist Group. Their manifesto (1976) characterised the world as infinite and unbounded, like a crystal with its transparencies, multiple angles and reflections. Her own work has 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 William Blake and Francis Bacon were a large influence in Ishag’s portraits of distorted figures. Ishag has remained active in organising 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.

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