An interview with Alaa SatirRevolution July 25, 2019
Editor’s Note: No revolution exists absent of art. From the creation of protest songs to iconic photographs, artists will always find themselves amplifying the cries of the people. Such has been the case in Sudan throughout the uprising. Where the people are, so is the art. The Mantle had the opportunity to speak with a number of artists including Alaa Satir, a Sudanese artist and illustrator. What follows is an interview conducted via email, edited for clarity.
Marie Lamensch: Has art always been a way for Sudanese artists to express their frustration with the government, or is this a rather recent trend? Do you feel like you have more freedom to be outspoken now?
Alaa Satir: Art, especially music, is very much integrated into our culture, but even though Sudanese people have always been outspoken when it comes to their political views it’s only recently that we could see these views translated into art, publicly!
Artists have always expressed themselves through art, not because it’s a “trend” but because it’s how the artist’s mind functions, but it was kind of underground; not that we have more freedom now as much as we are learning to be fearless in our pursuit of freedom.
ML: Tell me about your most recent piece. What is the meaning behind it?
AS: My recent mural was titled “a women’s place is in the resistance,” a very famous saying that I translated into Sudanese Arabic because, for me, it perfectly describes how we were fighting two systems at once. It was a fight that started way before the recent political uprising where we just struggled on a daily basis to be heard and included in a society that has very limited roles for us.
ML: What role did art and artists play during the sit-in? Do you think it has brought people together? Did it bring you energy and hope to the movement?
AS: The sit in was a small version of the Sudan we dream about. The murals, music and the performing arts at the sit-in were a visual representation of the values we want to carry with us and the things we want to plant in the new Sudan.
ML: Are there particular works of art you have seen throughout the protests that have really spoken to you? What was it about them that was so meaningful?
AS: The poetry of the chants used during the protest might have been one of the most inspiring forms of art. How our demands transformed into rhythmic words, words that were formed in the heat of the moment and perfectly captured what we were going through and what we are asking for, and most importantly how they fueled each one of us every time we collectively utter any of them.
ML: Do you think the revolution has given a new meaning to what it means to be an artist in Sudan?
AS: I think art has a powerful and major role in this revolution, it was another weapon of civil disobedience, a way to document every step and milestone, and it finally got us international attention. If that didn’t teach everyone how valuable and powerful art is, I don’t know what will.
All art provided by Alaa Satir.
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