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Sudanese use art murals to immortalise protest ‘martyrs’5 minutes read

The campaign had been launched in response to a brutal raid on a weeks-long sit-in in the capital on June 3

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Sudanese use art murals to immortalise protest 'martyrs'
Sudanese activist Eythar Gubara, is pictured in front of a mural painting of Mohamed Mattar, on the wall of a youth club in Bahri in the capital Khartoum's northern district on July 21, 2019. Mattar was among dozens killed in the June 3 raid on a protest camp outside the military headquarters. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudanese protester Walid Abdelrahim was shot dead last month in Khartoum but for his mother he is still alive — thanks to a colourful mural of his smiling face on a wall of their home.

“The painting keeps him alive,” said Maiyssa Omar, her voice choking as she talked of her son, who was killed during a three-day nationwide civil disobedience campaign in June.

The campaign had been launched in response to a brutal raid on a weeks-long sit-in in the capital on June 3 that left dozens of demonstrators dead and hundreds wounded.

READ: Sudan protests: Military kills nine demonstrators during Khartoum sit-in

“When I see his painting … it gives me strength. I feel proud to be a mother of a martyr,” Omar told reporters as she looked at her son’s face painted on the wall of their one-storey house in Bahri, a northern district in Khartoum.

The portrait is part of a campaign launched by Sudanese artist Assil Diab to draw murals and graffiti to commemorate demonstrators killed in the months-old protest movement that has rocked the northeast African country.

Sudanese use art murals to immortalise protest 'martyrs'
Maiyssa Omar (R), the mother of Walid Abdelrahim and Sudanese artist Assil Diab, sit in front of the mural painting of Abdelrahim ornating the family home in the capital Khartoum on July 21, 2019. Abdelrahim was shot dead in June in Khartoum but for his mother, he is still alive, thanks to a colourful mural of his smiling face on a wall of their home. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Doctors close to the protest movement say 246 people have been killed across Sudan since demonstrations erupted in December. Officials have given a lower death toll.

The protests initially broke out against the regime of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir. Following his ouster by the army on April 11, protesters continue to agitate against the ruling generals who seized power.

These murals are specifically drawn on the walls of protesters’ own homes or in their neighbourhoods.

READ: The battle for women’s rights in ‘new’ Sudan is not yet over

‘Immortalise their legacy’ –

Diab, a former employee of Doha-based Al-Jazeera television network, and her team got their motivation from a protest catchcry:

“Our martyrs didn’t die, they are alive among the revolutionaries!”

“The idea is to immortalise their legacy in their own homes and to make the people of their neighbourhoods proud of a martyr who sacrificed his life for Sudan,” Diab, 29, told reporters by telephone from Doha.

“Graffiti makes martyrs come alive and reminds people of them even if the people themselves did or did not support the revolution.”

Diab, who lives in the Qatari capital with her family but often returns to her homeland, said painting each mural costs her about $635 given the high prices of colours and tools she uses.

“But martyrs took to the streets and died for us. This is the least we can do for them,” said Diab, who has drawn about 30 portraits of protesters killed in Khartoum.

For years, such artwork remained underground amid censorship imposed by heavy-handed security agents of Bashir’s regime, who considered it anti-establishment or pure vandalism.

But artists say everything changed since the protests erupted, with dozens of murals flourishing across Khartoum’s walls since the initial weeks of the uprising.

The capital’s neighbourhoods like Bahri, a regular site of protests, became a canvas for artists like Diab.

One such painting on a blue coloured wall of a youth club in Bahri is of protester Mohamed Mattar, who was one of dozens killed in the June 3 raid on the protest camp.

Sudanese use art murals to immortalise protest 'martyrs'
Sudanese artist Asil Diab, walks in front of a mural painting of Mohamed Mattar, on the wall of a youth club in Bahri in the capital Khartoum’s northern district on July 21, 2019. Mattar was among dozens killed in the June 3 raid on a protest camp outside the military headquarters. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

“This painting inspires me to participate in the protests to achieve the demand of those who died for us,” said Bahri resident Mujahid Sadeq.

“I didn’t know Mattar before, but now we all know him.”

‘Dangerous experience’ –

A student in Britain, Mattar was back to visit family and had just celebrated his 26th birthday when he decided to spend a night with the demonstrators at the sit-in.

His death in the raid had evoked a campaign of solidarity on social media under the hashtag #BlueforMattar.

READ: Sudanese police tear-gas marchers during rally for ‘martyrs’

“We decided to draw his face here because this is a big area where the maximum number of people can see it,” said Eythar Gubara, a member of Diab’s team.

Some of the paintings Diab has drawn are also of protesters killed in a September 2013 crackdown on anti-austerity rallies.

They include Babikir Anwar whose face Diab has drawn on a wall of his family’s home in the neighbourhood of Shambat.

Sudanese use art murals to immortalise protest 'martyrs'
Pupils gesture in front of a mural painting of a protester killed during anti-government protests in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on July 22, 2019. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

“We will not forget you Bakur,” is written below the painting, referring to his nickname.

“It makes me feel that he is with me, as if he is sitting in front of me,” said Anwar’s mother Adawiya Mohamed, dressed in a black traditional robe.

“I’m happy that Sudan still remembers his legacy.”

Diab said drawing the graffiti had not been easy.

Often, her team faced resistance from the feared paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, who are accused by rights group of carrying out the June 3 raid.

READ: Protesters and army generals sign power-sharing deal in Sudan

“It was a dangerous experience, but worth taking the risks,” Diab said.

“I was interested in immortalising the legacy of these martyrs in the best way that I knew… through graffiti.”

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Entertainment

2Baba Releases New Album “Warriors”

The album is a key offering in the celebration of 2Baba’s 20 Years A King project.

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Award-winning Afropop icon 2Baba has released his new album titled “Warriors” earlier today, February 28. This album is released as part of his 20 Years a King (#20YearAKing) celebration, commemorating the two decades he has spent in the Nigerian music industry.

This new album contains just 13 tracks including previously released singles like ‘Important’, ‘Oyi’ and the Peruzzi-assisted smash hit, ‘Amaka’. The LP also boasts big-name collaborations like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Olamide, Tiwa Savage and Peruzzi. It also features appearances from AJ Natives, Symeca and his daughter HI Idibia.

The production of the album is handled by a galaxy of PBanks, Spelz, Blaq Jeerzy, Bolji Beatz, Speroach Beatz, Richie, Ploops and his longtime collaborator, Jay Sleek.

Interestingly, this is the first 2Baba album that comes with a title track, which also serves as the opener of the full-length project.

On Tuesday, February 25, the celebrated singer held a well-attended listening party for the album at the Artisan Lounge bar, Lagos.

His seventh studio album, “Warriors” is the long-overdue follow up to “The Ascension” which was met with mixed reviews upon its release in 2014.

Formerly known as 2face Idibia, 2baba is one Africa’s most successful artists, winning local, continental and international awards like BET and MTV Europe Music Awards.

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Feature News

Exporting African sounds into Italy

Nigerian migrants are introducing Afrobeat to one of Italy’s most popular cities

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Nigerians are slowly stamping their authority in Italy's music space. Photo credit: Quartz Africa

Migrating from Africa to Europe is a particularly tricky business. It is usually very difficult to obtain visas, and consequently, many people opt for the long, tortuous route that runs through the Sahara Desert and extends into the Mediterranean Sea. It is a risky journey in many ways, as desperate migrants get robbed, swindled, enslaved or worse still, meet their end in the hot sands and high seas.

There is also the small matter of reputation when it comes to successful migrants. There are those who believe that men and women who manage to avoid death or slavery, and ultimately cross the borders into Italy and Spain, are either involved in drug peddling, prostitution or unsavoury menial jobs like washing up corpses.

There is a small group of people, however, who are slowly changing the narrative. These ones are not only showing that there is more that African migrants can do in Europe, but they are also exporting Nigerian music in all its exotic nature and rich flavour into one of Italy’s major cities.

Palermo, the capital city of the Sicilian province, is slowly becoming the Southern European capital for the world-conquering Afrobeats scene. Social media has given a platform to musicians who can reach a wide audience without institutional support. There are more than a few cities in Italy that are not exactly kind to migrants, but Palermo has gradually become a haven for a number of young Nigerian musicians to hone their craft and attempt to carve a niche for themselves on European shores.

The influx of these musicians has had a significant effect on the city, too. For instance, Ballaro, a small neighbourhood in Palermo, was once known as one of the most dangerous places in Italy, no thanks to the activities of the Mafia. But with the arrival of African and Asian immigrants, the neighbourhood is now revitalised and less prone to crime.

Artists like RayJeezy, Brenex Baba and Thug Money make a living from performing at night clubs across the city. They hope that their hustle ultimately pays off and that they gain worldwide recognition, but for now, they are contributing to the transformation of a city’s music and culture. Things are looking up for the African migrant population in Palermo, and it’s not hard to tell that there will be more where the music came from.

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Entertainment

Netflix Announces First Original Nigerian Series

This comes just after the U.S-based streaming giant launched Netflix Naija.

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Popular media-services provider Netflix has announced the production of its first original African series to be headlined by Nollywood director, Akin Omotoso.

This would be a six-part series that features an all-star Nollywood cast of Kate Henshaw, Ade Laoye, Richard Mofe Damijo, Joke Silva, Fabian Adeoye Lojede, Kehinde Bankole and many others. 

Directed by a team of Akin Omotosho, Daniel Oriahi and CJ Obasi, the series tells the story of a reincarnated goddess who seeks to avenge her sister’s death.

This announcement comes just after the U.S-based streaming platform unveiled Netflix Naija on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

In a statement with Premium Times, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos revealed that “movies like King of Boys, Merry Men and The Bling Lagosians have shown how much our members love Nigerian movies. 

“So, we’re incredibly excited to be investing in Made in Nigeria stories – bringing them to audiences all around the world.”

Over the past year, Netflix has featured a number of Nollywood movies on its streaming platform. Among such movies include the culturally and commercially successful King of Boys, October 1, The Figurine, Mokalik, and Merry Men. 

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