Principal Prince Claus Award Honours Visual Artist from Sudan

The Prince Claus Fund announced the Laureates of the 2019 Prince Claus Awards. The Principal Laureate was Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, a Sudanese visual artist.

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag

Kamala has been a pioneer in African visual art since the 1960s. Among the first women to graduate from the College of Fine and Applied Art in Khartoum, in 1960 she was a foundational figure in the modern art movement in Sudan. She was associated with the Khartoum School, which forged a modern artistic identity for the newly independent nation, drawing on both its 2 Arab and African traditions. A decade later, Ishag’s ideas had evolved. She rejected the Khartoum School’s emphasis on heritage and its seemingly male-dominated world view. With a number of her students, she founded what came to be known as the Crystalist Group. Their manifesto (1976) characterised the world as infinite and unbounded, like a crystal with its transparencies, multiple angles and reflections. Her own work has focused on the intangible aspects of women’s lives in Sudan, Africa and the Arab worlds. Her interest in women’s lives led to field research and large-scale paintings of Zār, a traditional Sudanese women’s ceremony that entails spirit possession and trancelike performance. The works and writing of William Blake and Francis Bacon were a large influence in Ishag’s portraits of distorted figures. Ishag 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.

Ishag’s solo show “Women in Crystal Cubes” opens on 31st October 2019 at the Prince Claus Fund Gallery and will be Ishag’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands. In December she will receive the 2019 Principal Prince Claus Award. Women in Crystal Cubes is co-curated by Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture and Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University (USA), and Hoor Al Qasimi, Director and President of Sharjah Art Foundation (UAE), and Women in Crystal Cubes was originally shown at the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2016

This year’s Prince Claus Laureates also included; Ambulante (documentary film organisation, Mexico), Mariam Kamara (architect, Niger,) Bill Kouélany (visual artist, writer, Congo-Brazzaville), Djamila Ribeiro (philosopher, Brazil), and Anocha Suwichakornpong (filmmaker, Thailand)

L to R: Anocha Suwichakornpong, Mariam Kamara, Ambulante Team, Bill Kouélany, & Djamila Ribeiro

The Next Generation Prince Claus Laureate Award is presented to an individual under the age of 35 for outstanding achievements and contributions in the field of culture and development. This year’s laureate was Mónica Ojeda Franco (writer, Ecuador). Mónica is a writer who is unafraid of taboos. She is the author of a volume of poetry, a short story collection and three novels, the latest of which is Mandibula (‘Jaw’, 2018). Her unflinching depictions of fear and pain, power and vulnerability, perversion and sexual desire encompass new genres that appeal to a younger generation. She writes from various points of view; taking in not only 4 a young person’s perspective, but also feminist, political, social and psychological perspectives. She says things that cannot be said about difficult subjects, including abominable, abject and obscene elements of contemporary society. In 2017, the Bogotá39 named Ojeda one of the best contemporary writers in Latin America under age 40. Ojeda has a degree in Social Communication with a minor in Literature, a master’s degree in Literary Creation, and a second master’s in Theory and Criticism of Culture.

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