Lot 37
  • 37

KAMALA IBRAHIM ISHAQ | Preparation of Incense - Zār Ceremony

70,000 - 90,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq
  • Preparation of Incense - Zār Ceremony
  • signed and dated 2015 (lower centre)
  • oil on canvas
  • 139.5 by 141cm., 55 by 55½in.


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner


London, Saatchi Gallery, Forests and Spirits: Figurative Art from the Khartoum School, 28 September-25 November 2018, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Original canvas. The canvas is sound. Unlined. Please note that there are minor stretcher marks along all four edges of the work. There are small flecks of what appears to be varnish in places, however this appears to be contemporary to the work and only visible under close inspection. Overall the work appears to be in very good original condition. UV Light Report: Reveals no signs of restoration or repair. Frame: The work is presented in a simple wooden frame. Not examined outside of frame. Further enquiries: Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6323 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq is recognised as both a pioneering member of the Sudanese art scene as well as a feminist icon and one of the most important female artists operating on the African continent today. The artist was one of the first women to graduate from the College of Fine Arts in Khartoum in 1963 and was dedicated to challenging the male dominated Khartoum art scene as well as traditional Sudanese artistic practices, which had been largely defined by men. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Art in London (1966) Kamala returned to live and work in Khartoum where she was appointed head of the Painting department at the College of Fine Art, Khartoum. 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.