Sudanese Graffiti Artist Honors Anti-Government Protest Victims

06 April, 2019

Sudanese officials are seeking to end months of anti-government protests. More than 50 people have died in the unrest.

Now, a Sudanese woman is creating street art portraits to honor those killed.

Assil Diab lives in Qatar. But earlier this year, she returned to the country of her birth.

Diab says she came to honor protesters who were killed in demonstrations against the Sudanese government.

"Once I got here, I heard a lot of stories about the martyrs. And it was very emotional, and I just knew that I had to do something about that."

Diab began visiting the families of protesters who died. She then went to work painting pictures of the victims on the walls of the buildings where they once lived.

Abubakr Omer's 24-year-old son, Abdulazeem, was killed in January. He reportedly was shot by police during a protest.

Omer told VOA that Diab's painting has brought back memories of his son. He added that whenever he sees the painting, he feels like Abdulazeem is still alive.

Diab also creates portraits of those killed in earlier protests, like Adiyla Mustafa's son Musab. He was shot during protests in 2013.

Mustafa says that she was not present when Diab made her son's painting. When she saw it for the first time, she was surprised. She added that his image is a painful memory for her.

At least 50 people have been killed in Sudan since the demonstrations started in late December 2018. Protesters criticized the government for price increases and fuel shortages. They soon began calling on President Omar al-Bashir to leave power.

Rashid Diab is a Sudanese artist whom many consider a leader of Sudan's modern art movement. He says Assil Diab's graffiti art is empowering the protests.

He adds that freedom of expression in painting is very important. He said it gives actual value to the revolutionary act and increases its power and importance.

Assil Diab's paintings of protest victims can be found in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities, such as Omdurman and Bahri.

Diab says her street art provides a way for people to talk about how unarmed protesters lost their lives.

"And once I start painting a martyr in the streets, people as well, the audience, they stop and ask as well. It connects me with the families and the families with the public and there's an immediate connection between everyone that walks past the art work."

As Diab prepared to leave Sudan this month, she visited the families of those who died in the protests.

Diab says she hopes that on her next visit to Sudan, there will be fewer portraits for her to paint.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Naba Mohiedeen reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

martyr n. a person who is killed or who suffers greatly for a religion or cause

portrait n. a painting or image of a person that usually only includes the person's head and shoulders

graffiti – n. a picture, image or words added secretly, often illegally, to a wall, building or marker