"Body of Water" by Dar Al Naim, through the eyes of Medina Tenour

"Body of Water" by Dar Al Naim, through the eyes of Medina Tenour

Cover photo courtesy of the artist, Dar Al Naim. Titled “Mediterráneo” (January, 2019). Digital Illustration, Migration Series.

Written by Medina Tenour Whiteman

Think of the most subtle, powerful fractal possible: now make it a substance. It must be

capable of giving life to the dry powder of earth or body, or taking life as quick as a sharp

intake of breath. Nothing we can imagine comes close to water.

 

It cleanses, and it kills. It’s impersonal – whose disembodied foot has floated to shore in

that tennis shoe? – and dynamic enough to forge empires, lacing continents together

with trade routes that fueled civilizations (as uncivilized as they’ve so often been),

impartially conveying spices and silk or slaves and ivory alike. And yet is there anything

more feminine, more mutable and transparent, the clarity that reflects back at us a vision

of who we are?

 

Since human beings first stood at the edge of the ocean it has represented the untamable,

the unfathomable, too vast to embrace with one set of arms. Its history is just as

impenetrable; it seems water has existed on Earth since the very beginning, some 4.5

billion years ago, though no-one quite understands how. As Spanish-Sudanese artist Dar

al-Naim points out in her exhibition, Body of Water / Cuerpo de Água, our physical

bodies are mostly made up of water.

 

There are other mirrorings here too: when water ceases to flow it stagnates, like us.

When we become corrupted by hunger for short-term profits, we poison it – and thus

ourselves, a double reflection. Controlling water means controlling the people that

depend on it. And like ocean currents, we move. Evidence of Dar al-Naim’s semi-

nomadic life is noticeable in the locations – Khartoum, Ibiza, Madrid, Órgiva (Granada),

Oxford, Dar es Salaam – where she created the pieces that make up the exhibition.

I don’t usually get on with visual art. Lines don’t speak to me the way they seem to speak to

others. When I go to an art gallery my eye usually gravitates to the text in the labels,

seeking out the story in them. But Body of Water taught me a thing or two about

storytelling.

 

While the hypnotic repetition of geometric shapes, dots, dashes and abstract forms lends

Dar Al Naim’s work a shamanic urgency, it is the characters that she portrays – like

heroines and heroes of an epic mystical poem from an imaginal Africa where a single

word can bring the Tree of Life back from extinction and you can drop in on God for a

chat – that offer all the story I could ask for.

 

Her paintings and drawings are worked in multiple layers, often including her signature

woodcut stamp, hinting at patterned fabric, on women who could be in Sudan or

anywhere, gazing at something beyond the edge of the frame. These textures are

suggestive of hidden bodies, invisible on a global political stage that fails to acknowledge

Sudan – currently in the grip of a barely-reported revolution – and yet they invite the

viewer to wonder what lies behind the veils shrouding our perception.

 

One painting in particular took me somewhere a picture has never taken me before. Like

a glaze on a hand-thrown cup, ‘60% Water’ drew me utterly in, heart quickening with

discovery, the paper drenched with its aquarelle suggestion of a solemn, pensive face.

These are nuances of a trans-human world, felt and seen and known just below the

threshold of physical sensation, and in Dar al-Naim’s work it becomes tangible, fluid,

drinkable.

---

Medina Tenour Whiteman is a writer and singer based in Spain. She is the author of the collection of poetry Love is a Traveller, We Are Its Path, and Huma’s Travel Guide to Islamic Spain. Her website is www.cavemum.com.

 Dar Al Naim is a sudanese artist of the diaspora, her work emulates an international and global dialect, a new language, a visual language. With which, she attempts to communicate messages of peace and unity, along with a need to express her existence, as a human being and as a citizen of the world.

 BODY OF WATER/CUERPO DE AGUA will continue to show in Orgiva town centre until the 7th of March 2019. Ceramiq Art Studio Plaza Garcia Moreno 9, Orgiva, Granada, Spain (opening hours 10-14hrs Monday to Friday). Dar Al Naim can be contacted directly via email daralnaimart@gmail.com and you can follow her work closely on Instagram @daralnaimart

This is What Home Feels Like

This is What Home Feels Like

Fragments of a colonial past: Zarina Bhimji’s Lead White by Georgia Beeston

Fragments of a colonial past: Zarina Bhimji’s Lead White by Georgia Beeston