Political Art and the #SudanUprising: Artist Enas Satir Creates Political Illustrations
This feature is part of an on-going series to spotlight the artists that are using their work as a form of protest in Sudan. We will be sharing one Sudanese artist every week to highlight the role of art in politics, and particularly in the current on-going uprisings throughout the country.
It’s amazing how quickly art mobilizes in the face of injustice. Throughout history, artists have used their skill and vision to address some of humanity’s lowest moments politically, economically and socially on global, local and individual levels. Over the last two months, Sudanese artists have mobilised in response to the #SudanUprisings, a revolutionary movement demanding for the end of Omar Al Bashir’s totalitarian regime. These protests - although not new to the Sudanese people - came after an economic collapse that has hit the country in the last year, which is the direct result of thirty years of austerity measures and social and political repression. While offline protests have reverberated throughout the country, an online mobilisation (with the hashtag #SudanUprising) brought Sudanese artists, writers, activists and cultural practitioners to the forefront of the revolts from the very beginning. We decided to put together a series of interviews titled “Political Art and the #SudanUprising” where we interview and feature the work of one Sudanese artist every week, in hopes of supporting their fight for justice and to give them a platform to share their own thoughts about the importance of art in resistance movements.
For this week’s installment of Political Art and the #SudanUprising we feature Sudanese artist and designer Enas Satir, who’s political illustrations have made rounds on social media. Enas’ political cartoons (which have been featured on sites like The Nib and Comics Beat) have become widely shared due to their satirical nature and infographic storytelling. Below is our interview with the artist, where she shares her work as well as her views on the role of art in political movements:
Hi Enas! Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Enas Satir.. Sudanese recently moved to Toronto. I started as an architect/ interior designer, which has started my fascination with 3D modeling which in turn has pulled me towards Graphic Design, I got a scholarship in Florence, Italy for my masters and that officially took me away from architecture and into graphics which is what I've been doing for the past 6 years.
As for my art, I have started at first with traditional art (watercolors, inking..etc), then moved into digital art. At the moment I am enjoying a mix of the two. I also recently received an Art Grant from Toronto Art Council, which enabled me to work on Ceramics. I find this new venture so exciting for me, the possibility of creating a 3-dimensional object and hold it in my hand continues to fascinate me. I am immensely enjoying this experience and grateful for it.
People generally think that I am stretching myself thin between different mediums, starting with Architecture and ending with ceramics, but I actually feel at home with all of them.. .To me, they are like the same language with different dialect.. and I feel I can easily transfer my skills and passion from one medium to the other.
Can you tell us a little more about the works you've created as a response to the uprisings?
I started the "Kezan and Why They Are Bad For You" series, which should later turn into a zine*, as a response to what's happening in Sudan and to the media that has failed in reporting accurately what's happening on the ground. ..and when the media steps down, it's time for Art to step up.
This has put the task of getting the word out on the shoulders of the Sudanese in general and artists in particular. and I would like to say that as a nation we have been delivering on that front. So many people came together to support in every way they can and a lot of Sudanese artists have been dedicated to producing "revolution art".
The idea of the series came to me when I started posting separate illustrations and fragments of the news on social media I realized how interested my friends (non-Sudanese) were to know what's happening in Sudan but at the same time, a bit confused as to what lead to the uprisings. I also realized they don't know much about Sudan in the first place. This made what lead me to create this series.
Also the nature of zines that makes it easy for people to understand and "digest".
What do you hope for those who see your work to understand about the situation in Sudan?
Sudan is often shrugged off as "another far-away third world country nobody cares about" and even depicted in Arab media as a source of jokes and mockery. I hope this series help, in whatever small way, to change this image and to show that we do have a rich history that no one knows about and that Sudan is home to a resilient nation that's standing up for itself and demanding better, cause we deserve better.
I also hope comparisons to the Arab spring will cease to exist when people realize that Sudan cannot be another Syria or Iraq or Egypt.. each country is different with its own distinct past, leading to its own distinct future.
I hope this series would help even in the smallest of ways to put some sort of context for the current revolution. That people would understand that it is not only "The Bread Revolution", but it is actually people revolting after being patient for so long.
*I have addressed this point in the series as well.:"Disclaimer: I have to mention here that I find how the media labels the Sudanese Revolution as “The Bread Revolution” or “The Revolution of the Hungry” quite distasteful due to the racist connotations and the double standards it carries. We need to acknowledge that when the economy takes a plunge and people demonstrate in a First World country, the media reports they are demonstrating for their rights, however when the same happens in a Third World country, the media then reports: people are demonstrating for bread, they must be hungry. #HumanRightsAreHumanRights "
What are your thoughts on art as an avenue for political discussion?
We are tired of politics, but thankfully we are not tired of art quite yet. Art brings back the human element that has the ability to stir the emotions, making it the perfect vehicle to make people care for one another. It helps people realize that news is not just "news" but is injustice happening to other people.
We have regarded politics as something detached from our daily lives, but what are politics anyway? We usually associate it with politicians in suits with hidden agendas under their belts. But politics are no longer confined to debate arenas.. but is closely integrated into our lives, and we must respond to it. Not to be complacent is political, having an opinion and making it heard is political standing up to yourself is political.
I think we might be moving away from "eye candy" Art, that's just a beautiful thing to look at, and we are gravitating towards art with a message and an attitude that's created with a purpose and is here to be discussed and debated. It is the kind of art that won't make everyone happy as it shouldn't.
Can you share other Sudanese artists who have been active in creating works as a response to the political situation?
This revolution has demonstrated the amount of talent Sudan has. There are so many artists I don't know where to begin...but I will select the three artists that I've included in my #FemaleArtistCrush series:
Dar Al Naim her art, and dedication are amazing, she has these beautiful ugly characters that I could look at for hours. She has dedicated her time to produce art for the revolution that she is selling through her Etsy shop. I was fortunate enough to purchase one of her t-shirts and I kid you not her t-shirt smells of Sudan.
Alaa Satir I know the fact that she is my sister, people might think I am being biased! but Alaa's style speaks for itself and has evolved so much recently and is currently producing jewels, she has the perfect mix of simplicity and complexity in her designs..I love her characters in the white crisp background, that is often geared towards feminism, my favorite alley.
Amna Elhassan << this young woman is gonna be very big very soon. I am a huge fan of her unique style. I am always surprised when she is depicting something very simple but in a way that is mesmerizing.
Yes, I am aware they are all women haha!
To see more of Enas Satir’s work you can follow her on instagram @enas.satir