Between 1960 and 1975, the Khartoum art scene was dominated by the renowned Khartoum School, an artistic movement that began in Sudan in the 1960s with the aim of creating a new visual language that reflected a newly independent Sudan. Notable members included artists Ibrahim El-Salahi and Sarah Elmur. In 1971, despite being a prominent member of the group, Kamala left and founded the Crystalist Group, advocating for a new Sudanese artistic aesthetic that was modeled on diversity and transparency.
The present lot demonstrates Kamala’s interest in Sudanese spiritual processes, especially a traditional practice called the Zār Ceremony. A Zār is an evil spirit that is known for possessing women in particular, causing a great deal of pain and sickness. The Zār Ceremony is the process through which the individual is rid of the evil spirit, rendering them into a pacified state. Kamala’s Preparation of Incense presents a group of intertwined possessed women soaring within an undefined space. Their faces contorted and pained, these women are grotesque with rows of missing or broken teeth. Usually rendered in delicate earth tones, Kamala’s women are almost always presented as a unit, prompting a feminist interpretation of the work. In Preparation of the Incense the parameters of the women’s bodies are completely undefined as they emerge out of green stems and swirling vines, with new foliage sprouting from their mouths.
Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq’s work has been widely exhibited at renowned institutions such as the White Chapel Gallery (UK), the Sharjah Art Museum (UAE), Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (USA), Camden Art Center (UK), among many others. The artist has also participated in several group shows including Breaking Veils: Women Artist from the Islamic World at the Porte d’Amboise in Rhodes and Forests and Spirits: Figurative Art from the Khartoum School at the Saatchi Gallery in London in 2018. In 2014, the artist enjoyed a solo exhibition entitled Kamala Ibrahi Ishaq: Women in Crystal Cubes at the Shibrain Art Centre in Khartoum.
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