"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
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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her work closely on Instagram @daralnaimart