Sudan's Artists of the Revolution

An interview with Galal Yousif



Mantle Image Galal Yousif Sudan



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 Galal Yousif, a visual artist from Sudan, who has been a part of the protest movement. What follows is an interview conducted via email, edited for clarity.



Marie Lamensch: Has art always been a way for Sudanese 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?


Galal Yousif: For a long time, more than 30 years now, artists were the first people to get in tough fights with the old system. It’s not only painters; I mean all arts—music, art, and theater—and [the government] worked hard to destroy the arts in the community, even in the schools. They made Islam the reason, but for sure that’s not the real Islam. We know the real reason is that artists are the ghosts for them. Artists tell the real story. Artists can raise awareness. Artists can see what people do not see. Artists are on the right side for peace, and love, and rights for the people.


But the voices weren’t higher voices. The system was conquering everybody, not only artists. And I still believe it hasn’t fallen yet. They are still there in new masks, and we still fight and don’t feel freedom. Our art is not a trend. Our art will live longer and tell the real story. I know I painted the stones, but it’s touched the hearts of my people and I believe it will live forever. Time will prove that.



Mantle Image Galal Yousif Sudan Revolts



ML: Tell me about your most recent art piece. What is the meaning behind it?


GY: My recent piece was about conquering the people through blood. I am not talking only about the blood on June 3, 2019. The blood started a long time ago, and the world must know the history of the bloody days in Sudan. It’s not trending now, but the people here have been suffering and fighting for 30 years. So my recent piece is about writing history and making sure people don’t forget the people we lost on the way. We should not go back to bloody days. We have to build our beloved home, Sudan.



Mantle Image Galal Yousif Sudan Uprising



ML: What role did art and artists play during the sit-in? Do you think art brought people together? Did it bring you energy? Hope?


GY: Now there’s no sit-in for the people asking to get their rights. You can’t even walk in that area. But some of our art is standing well against [the Rapid Support Forces]. I know they will paint over it one day, but they can’t paint over the hearts we touched. We give [the people] more hope, more love, more ways to discover how we can do this for a whole city. The artists were working hard to spread the message of peace and love, and to make people as one. They did many things. We did the best we can for the people.



Mantle Image Galal Yousif mural Sudan Uprising
Photo by @Mos3abje



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?


GY: With most of the artworks I have seen, it’s great to see how the artists can speak about the life we live. All of the works touched me hard. I feel like they said the words I can’t say. I want to thank all of them for the great job they did, and I know them so well they don’t want to hear my thanks because they weren’t working to get credit. They believe this is our job in the revolution. Anyway, thank you so much my friends.





ML: Do you think the revolution has given new meaning to what it means to be an artist in Sudan?


GY: Most of the artists know the meaning of being an artist in Sudan, but the revolution gave the people the meaning of artists in their lives. They realized there are artists, and that artists are the voices of the people.



*All art courtesy of Galal Yousif. 

For more, follow Galal on Twitter and Instagram.


Don't miss the other interviews in our series with Assil Diab and Alaa Satir.



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Art, Sudan