Sudan’s renowned octogenarian artist Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq has said she is greatly honoured to become a Prince Klaus laureate – an annual award in the Netherlands that recognises contributions to contemporary culture.
The pioneer and feminist icon was one of the founders of the Khartoum School, a modernist art movement in the 1960s in newly independent Sudan.
She told BBC Focus on Africa radio that she had no idea she was going to get the Dutch award, announced on 4 September.
“Ishaq 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,” said the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development.
Much of her work focuses on distorted human faces with a demonic appearance.
“This demonstrates a sort of cult practised here in Sudan, it’s called Zar, women get possessed by spirits and they dance and dance. Then they feel well, it’s for healing,” she told Focus on Africa.
Ishaq describes her art as figurative abstraction and her work draws on Arab and African traditions.
She said that her most recent painting dealt with the uprising in Sudan that saw Omar al-Bashir ousted as president in April and the subsequent crackdown by the security forces on the pro-democracy protesters camped outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.
”I am still painting, a large painting like 3m by 2m, it will be about what happened at the uprising, when all the people died in the massacre,’’ she said
The artist said she lived near the area of the protests and saw many horrific sights: “We witnessed so many things, unbelievable.”