One if the things I like about walking about Khartoum is the many metal gates lining the city streets. A lot of people live in compounds with a high wall and several small buildings behind it which they share with family members. The gates often decorative, colourful and unique. Here is just a small example. Pinterist door lovers eat your heart out!
Take a look around you, what do you see? A golden sun collapsing into the dark dusty clouds below. A woman carrying a large plate on her head filled with tied plastic bags of popcorn, peanuts and seeds, her red and orange tobe flapping in the wind. Sudan is a place of beauty if only you take a closer look.
This is what photography teaches us. To look at the world as if you were capturing it forever on a piece of paper.
A growing number of people in Sudan are seeing photography as an art form. Aside from advertising, family portraits and weddings, Sudanese are not known to use the camera. Today, however, there are young photographers trying to show this country and it’s cities in a new light.
The annual 500px Global Photo Event showed some forty or so camera enthusiasts make their way to Manshia to take part in a photography event aimed at highlighting Khartoum’s burgeoning photography scene.
“I like to photograph weird things,” said Abdelrahman Hejjai (pictured above). “I want to participate in international events, to enter competitions, I want people to pay attention to us.”
If the international community is looking away from Sudan these days, the people are looking inwards.
“Photography is awesome. I take a picture every day, everything I see.” Mazen, a student using his phone to photograph patterns on a wall said.“Cameras are expensive, but everyone has a smart phone”.
Mazen uploads his images to online image sharing programs like Instagram. Without instruction, a decent SLR or even a computer, Mazen can share his ideas to the entire world without ever leaving Sudan.
“What we need in Sudan is a place to teach photography, and more events like this,” he said.
There is a different type of street art in Khartoum, Sudan. The bright, spray painted swirls and skulls smoking joints of the West do not exist here. Instead there is an abundance (if you look) of pencil sketches on buildings. I have started to document them, but alas only on my phone, which has bad resolution. Don’t worry I intend to go back to every nook and cranny with my Canon to show you all.
However, there is another phenomenon worth mentioning here. Hand painted children’s art adorns schools and day care buildings and is magical and creepy and wonderfully out of place (a sentence that essentially sums up everything I like.)
Here is a small example from a walk last week, including Khartoum cemetery and a pretty metal gate.
Travelling means you set up shop (so to speak) wherever you go. You don’t have your childhood toys, photographs of friends, cards and artwork from your uni days, your nice furniture, that dyed woollen rug your mother made and all the other things (clutter) that go into making your house a home.
I miss it!
So I try to recreate any sort of homeliness I can, in every place I stay long enough to care to.
Some ideas to improve your spirit and your décor: photos on the wall, pick flowers and leave in glasses or tin cans, chalk drawings on dark furniture (washes off so who’s to complain!), drawings and art work hung around the room. Semi precious stones take up very little room and add a lot of glimmer to the darkest rooms. I also tend to leave jewellery out too or hang it around for a nice wall accessory.
Remember that in Sudan the variety of vegetables on offer is very slim. Apart from cucumbers, eggplant, potato, white and red onions and garlic, there is very little else except for frozen produce-imported and of dubious quality. This means meals can get boring and tripe very quickly. To keep our taste buds alive, we have started to use an abundance of spices-of which, Sudan has plenty!
Making simple meals with clever incorporation of different spices we can create delicious meals of very few ingredients.
This is my spicy potatoes with pepper salad
Ingredients: potatoes, assorted spices: cumin, fenugreek, red chilli, cardamom, mustard seeds.
cucumber (Lebanese, diced), sliced garlic, white onion, green chilli diced, Greek yoghurt, black pepper.
Boil potatoes and cover in salt, spices and oil. Cut and mix salad together and serve with potatoes.
Welcome the taste explosion in your mouth!