Sudan's Artists of the Revolution

An interview With Mounir Khalil



Mounir Khalil Blue Night - Sudanese protesters overlayed with Van Gogh's Starry Night
Blue Night by Mounir Khalil



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 Mounir Khalil, a Sudanese graphic designer. 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?


Mounir Khalil: Talented Sudanese people have always found creative ways using different types of art to express how they feel, and this revolution helped them shine even more considering the fact that many creative fields have been repressed by the Sudanese government for years. After 30 years of complete corruption, this revolution helped open the doors for the privilege of freedom.



Mounir Khalil Blue Martyrs - smiling Mohamed Mattar and Abdelsalam Kisha surrounded by balloons and stars
Blue Martyrs, an image of Mohamed Mattar and Abdelsalam Kisha by Mounir Khalil



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


MK: My recent artwork is an illustration of the martyrs Mohamed Mattar and Abdelsalam Kisha. The blue color in the background represents the favorite color of the martyr Mohamed, who was shot protecting two women. Many people, artists, activists now use blue as a color for all the martyrs. The goal of my piece was to represent these two martyrs smiling so as to leave a memory for everyone to see them and remember them by. On July 13, millions went to the protests for the martyrs and offered their condolences to the families of victims of the massacre. They showed their love by lighting the candles and releasing balloons, they gave us the true meaning of sacrifice. They gave their soul for Sudan, they're in a good place in heaven now and this is where I got my inspiration.



Mounir Khalil Kandakaa - woman protesting in traditional dress over Sudan
Art by Mounir Khalil



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


MK: Art is the power to stop the destruction; it's like going to war but in beautiful way. It gives people the right to express how they feel in the streets and a desire to bring hope and happiness to everyone. Actually, the paintings on the walls around the place of the sit-in were one of the reasons more people started coming to this space. It made them feel like they belonged to the movement and they wanted participate in the sit-in.


Being an artist empowers me because it makes me feel liberated and able to express myself fully. That’s the main goal of our revolution: to bring freedom & liberation from a brutal government and give everyone their full rights.



Mounir Khalil Single protester running away from a truck of RSF members
This piece depicts a protester running away from the RSF, that continues to brutalize protesters in Sudan. Image by Mounir Khalil



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?


MK: Nothing in particular captured my eyes, as all the artwork done in the revolution was strong and meaningful. Each artwork has touched me in a way because every Sudanese artwork made for this cause represents Sudanese society and the cause we are fighting for. Each artwork had its own style and way of delivering the message and the goal of what the artist wanted to say and why he wanted to be heard now more than ever.



ML: Are there artists on the ground in the protests you're following?


MK: The sit-in will stay forever in our minds. We have learned from each artist’s perspective. Starting with Galal Yousif, Alaa Satir and Fly boy with their paintings that you can see everywhere around the sit-in. Digital designers and artists have also been encouraged by the sit-in and the revolution. People like Khalid Albaih, Abuobayda, Jaili Hajo and Wael Sanosi. Personally, they really keep inspiring me along the way.



Mounir Khalil The protest train
The Train by Mounir Khalil



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


MK: Art has always existed in Sudan in different beautiful ways and styles. The revolution has given artists a new path, a new focus and a new way to express how they feel about their country’s struggle through their art. Therefore, it's not exactly accurate to think that the revolution gave new meaning because artists here were already active and politically-minded and used all type of art styles to demonstrate it even before the revolution happened.



All art provided by Mounir Khalil.

For more, follow Mounir on Twitter and Instagram.


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




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Sudan, Art