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Serpentine and Sharjah Art Foundation with The Africa Institute present Kamala Ibrahim Ishag

October 7, 2022–January 29, 2023

A significant exhibition by the groundbreaking Sudanese artist Kamala Ibrahim Ishag (b. 1939) will be on display in London this autumn thanks to the efforts of Serpentine and Sharjah Art Foundation and The Africa Institute. The Serpentine South in London will host the show from October 7 to January 29, 2023. The display expands upon the significant solo exhibition of the artist’s creations organized by Sharjah Art Foundation and displayed there in 2016.

Ishag has created a distinctive and wide-ranging approach that is not constrained by a particular movement or style. Her artistic endeavors embrace and convey the various earthly and spiritual landscapes and histories of Sudanese visual culture over many centuries. Along with these themes, the artist bases her work on her personal experiences with women, spirituality, Zar rites, flora, and stories from her mother and grandmothers.

The exhibition highlights the breadth and significance of Ishag’s practice and includes works from the 1960s to the present, including those produced during her time in London studying at the Royal College of Art (RCA) from 1964 to 1966, as well as brand-new paintings produced in her Khartoum studio and shown for the first time in this exhibition. Ishag also uses calabashes, screens, and leather drums in addition to large-scale canvases and works on paper. A sample of the artist’s graphic design work and items from her personal collection will be used to contextualize her lengthy career and experiences.

Ishag’s paintings, including Women in Crystal Cubes from 1984 and Four Faces of Eve from 2016, which are on display at the exhibition, reflect on the cyclical cycle of life and shared female experiences. Her recent, substantial works will be among the highlights. Faces are depicted as floating balls connected by growing plant-like structures in Blues for the Martyrs, 2022, which is set against a watery blue backdrop. It pays tribute to the many individuals who perished during a peaceful sit-in on June 3, 2019, which came to be known as the Khartoum Massacre (Majzarat al-Qiyada). In her picture, Ishag imagines the young people who were forcibly taken away and drowned in the river turning into trees. In Bait Al-Mal, 2019, this relationship between humans and plants is also studied. Ishag uses figures connected to one another by the roots of the trees that surrounded her childhood neighborhood, Bait Al-Mal, to map her recollections and the intricate relationships between the families and landscape there.

The artist’s first monograph will be published on the occasion of the exhibition by Sharjah Art Foundation, The Africa Institute, Serpentine and Koenig, and will be available early 2023.

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation and Serpentine, in collaboration with The Africa Institute, Sharjah. It is co-curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director, Sharjah Art Foundation; Salah M. Hassan, Director, The Africa Institute, Sharjah, and Professor at Cornell University; and Melissa Blanchflower, Curator of Exhibitions and Public Art, Serpentine, with Sarah Hamed, Assistant Curator, Serpentine.

Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA