Ibrahim El-Salahi
Arab Spring Notebook, 2011

Ibrahim El-Salahi, Arab Spring Notebook, 2011

The artist

Ibrahim El-Salahi is a Sudanese artist who was born in 1930 in Omdurman, Sudan. He currently lives and works in Oxford, England. He combines painting and drawing often using motifs from African, Arab and Islamic art as well as Western references.

He completed his degree at the Slade School of Art in London and then returned to Sudan to teach in Khartoum. His time at the College of Fine and Applied Arts, there, sparked a movement now known as the Khartoum School of which El-Salahi was one of the founders.

El-Salahi also spent a number of years working for governments. He began by establishing the Sudanese Embassy’s first ever Department of Culture and then went on to work for the Ministry of Information in Qatar. In between these roles, El-Salahi spent just over six months wrongly imprisoned without trial in Sudan. The hardship he endured there has informed much of his later work. El-Salahi has been recognized as a leading modernist figure and had a retrospective at Tate Modern in 2013.

The work

A series of 46 black, ink drawings originally forming a single sketchbook, The Arab Spring Notebook comprises one of the most significant cultural responses to The Arab Spring.

Living in England and suffering through a period of illness when the Arab Spring initially unfolded, Ibrahim El-Salahi observed the events, like most people, through the media. He sketched in response to what he saw, heard and read. As a Sudanese man, a devout Muslim and a former political prisoner, El-Salahi felt a deep and immediate, common cause with the revolutionary spirit that spread through the Arab world at that time, saying, “…when [The Arab Spring] happened I rejoiced… because it brought down a huge mountain of injustice… [and a] pyramid of authority… Power, as we all know, breeds greed and greed breeds corruption, injustice and prejudice and inequality.”

More information

Ibrahim El-Salahi: The Pioneering Sudanese Artist That You Should Know, Artsy.

Ibrahim El-Salahi: The Father of African Modernism, Nick Hackworth, New African, October 2016.

Art in Context Africa, Part V: Ibrahim El-Salahi, The Sudan-born artist discusses the role of art in the social and political life of his homeland, Mark Rappolt, April 2015.