Tag: photography

In the Press…

Issraa El-Kogali shows clothing in Sudanese style in Stockholm as a part of her art project. 
Photo: © El-Kogali with assistance from Paul Abrigo.
Issraa El-Kogali shows clothing in Sudanese style in Stockholm as a part of her art project. 
Photo: © El-Kogali with assistance from Paul Abrigo.


A New Generation behind the Camera
Sunday, October 21, 2012 – 08:00
Written by Linn Hjort and published in ETC Magazine. Translated to English by Karolina Lindén.
To read the original article in Swedish click this link.

After a golden age in film and documentary the small film industry which existed in Sudan has been completely shut down. But by small means new filmmakers are starting to make an effort to get through.

Thirty year-old Issraa El-Kogali is in the starting blocks as a documentary filmmaker. Now she studies in Sweden.

In Sudan 1920 Gadalla Gubara was born, known as “Africas first filmmaker”. He made 31 documentaries and four of the countries eight domestic fiction films. When he turned blind at the age of 80 he continued to produce film by the help of his daughter.

But the time in which Gadalla Gubara made his films was radically different from the circumstances Issraa El-Kogali and other young filmmakers face today. In the 1940’s and 50’s the capital Khartoum was an exuberant city with many night clubs and entertainment. There were several outdoor cinemas, and Gadalla Gubara worked for the government and produced educational films which were spread through mobile cinemas all over the country, an area as large as 2,5 million square kilometers.

After the coup 1989 sharia laws were introduced, the second time around in the country’s post-colonial history in addition to a strict censorship. Sudan’s only distributor of local and international film was shut down by the Ministry of Culture a few years later. “Today there is no proper film industry to speak of in Sudan, only  ventures by the Goethe Institute among  few others,”  Issraa El-Kogali says.

Made a film in a month
For the past 15 years only three fiction films have been made in The Sudan, and the documentaries which are made are being sponsored by foreign organizations.

Issraa El-Kogali has also participated in a course in documentary filming at The Goethe Institute in Khartoum. That is where she made her first documentary In Search of Hip Hop“I used the workshop’s cameras when no one else needed them and made my own film during the last month of the course,” she says.

In In Search of Hip Hop Issraa El-Kogali introduces Sudanese hip hopers who rap in both English and Arabic. It has been screened in Sudan, at an international film festival in Lagos, at an exhibition in London and a few weeks ago in Stockholm.

Born in Sudan, she has been moving between Khartoum, The United States and Great Britain until she moved back to her homeland in 2003, to work as a photographer and a writer. “I think it is easier for me than for a young man. I smile a lot and people easily start talking to me when I’m working out in the field. That makes it easier to photograph them. You need to have a license to take photographs in most places in Sudan, and I have never actually had problems getting permission – I think it helps being a woman”.

Issraa El-Kogali is hopeful about the future for Sudan’s young filmmakers, since there is now bigger opportunities for education and development in the country. She ended up in Sweden when she was searching for a sanctuary from the fatigue which came after years as a freelancer in the tough job atmosphere in Khartoum. Now she is here to study one year at the Royal Institute of Art’s guest program in Stockholm.

“My project is called Nora’s cloth. I’m trying to present an alternative female identity which I can relate to personally, in contrast to the representation of Muslim and Sudanese women which I encounter in film and media”.

Right now the focus is set on her education and training, but the dream is to make fiction films. “I like happy stories – don’t we all? I don’t see myself as the typical investigative documentary filmmaker. Maybe it’s a bit shallow to think that way about one’s work – I just want it to bring a positive message,” she concludes.

 Photo Caption: Issraa El-Kogali shows clothing in Sudanese style in Stockholm as a part of her art project. 
Photo: © El-Kogali  assisted by Paul Abrigo. 

Zeina: A Photo Iconography

Zeina Icons Collection 2007 - © Issraa El-Kogali
Blue Window, Wawa, Northern State, Sudan. 2007 from Zeina Iconography Collection


Zeina: adj. good or beautiful in northern Sudanese dialects of Arabic

When the word “Sudan” is heard one seldom thinks of anything but photos of Darfur from international media with the bleak images of dry land and women wrapped in multi coloured toubs at IDP camps. There are a few who may think of palm trees, or the River Nile. But there is a definite lack of visual references of Sudan as a whole. Following this line of thought I was inspired to go in search of Sudanese cultural icons beginning with the northern region of Sudan. The region has been written about for historical reasons such as the long trip south for the British infantry during the Mahdist revolution and the significance of Dongola “city on the bend of the Nile” as a half way point between Upper Egypt and Khartoum.

In 2007-2008, I initiated and completed Zeina: A Photo Iconography, which successfully identified and introduced positive visual icons of the Northern State in Sudan. This major undertaking further solidified my commitment to building my career as a Sudanese photographer. Zeina, a collection of symbols and portraits, represents the Northern State known as “Alshamaliya” in its current day while honouring its ancient Nubian heritage.

The project resulted in a week-long exhibition at the Waterloo Gallery, London, in April 2008, a two-week exhibition at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London (UCL), in May 2008, and a one-day exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, in May 2008. My exhibitions were publicised in London publications such as Time Out, the Evening Standard, and by the respective venues.  The exhibitions in London targeted audiences with a general interest in Sudan as well as those who have lived and worked there, including the Sudanese diaspora. In December 2008 the collection was exhibited at Universal Cafe’s gallery in Khartoum.

Click here to view a slide show of Zeina-Icons

Hope & Continuity

We Love Sudan - Original photo
Street art from Camboni Ground, downtown Khartoum. [copyright Issraa El-Kogali 2010]
Hope & Continuity” is the title of a collection, which was exhibited at Dara Art Gallery, Khartoum. Dara Gallery is the private gallery of renowned Sudanese painter Rashid Diab. The theme was strong and timely. The first elections in 24 years gave rise to many electoral campaigns in 2010 that filled conversations and debates in both private and public circles and it felt like the ideal time to interject those debates with a look at the beauty and resilience of our Sudanese people. The collection is a fusion of mixed media and photography on canvas. Hope & Continuity is a personal journey narrated through snapshots, illustrations and written mementos covering 6 years since my return to Sudan. When asked to describe this collection I said that I want to ”blur the line between art and photography”. The photos included school children, the elderly, practices of faith, young mothers, beloved artists and musicians and la vie quotidian because these are the instruments of hope and continuity in our lives. This is the message my work carries.

This exhibition was sponsored by a grant from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Sudan.