In the artistically rich Sudan, collage art is a relatively new and uncommon art form. A few Sudanese artists dabble in collage art and those who do, do so often involving a combination of photomontages with graphics.
One of the few Sudanese collage artists is 21-year-old architect Sarah Mohamed, who is a self-taught graphic designer and modern collage artist based in Dublin, Ireland. Using social media as the platform to exhibit her artwork, Mohamed creates afro-futuristic pop art collages inspired by her love for Sudan and its culture. Mohamed has created collages of well-known Sudanese personalities including entrepreneur Rozan Idris, journalist Yousra Elbagir and blogger Sarah Elhassan.
500 Words Magazine talks to rising collage artist Sarah Mohamed about collage art and how she uses it to portray Sudan and its rich culture.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I am Sudanese but I grew up in Ireland my whole life. Growing up, we often went to Sudan and my parents often went out of their way to educate us about our culture through music, poetry, food and politics. This is where my deep love for my hometown comes from.
I have always been a creative person. I loved drawing and painting growing up. As I went on to study architecture, I learned more about art and new techniques to express myself. However, I also lost the belief in myself as being in a competetive environment can often make you vulnerable to self doubt and loss of confidence. This is something I struggle with still. I think also the idea to create for someone elses approval and to be good enough is a troubeling idea within itself.
Collage making helped me over come this. It represents one of the few things I feel like I can express myself freely through.
How did you get into graphics and collage making?
I got into graphics and collage making through college. I learned how to use Photoshop and such softwares for rendering my architectural drawings. I was taking a year out before starting my masters and decided that I would spend it trying out different things and practicing my talents that I had forgotten throughout college and the stress of it. I started off with photography. Seeing the revolution art that people started producing really sparked something in me to also create and portray my culture. The first piece I made was to highlight the movement #PinkforKandaka as I felt that it wasn’t getting as much attention. I combined my photography skills and collage making skills to make the piece. I used an emotionally charged shot I took of all women at the protests here all conveying different emotions.
What inspires your collages? Walk us through the making of the collage art.
The thing that inspires my collage work the most and is a constant theme in them so far is Sudan and Sudanese culture. Be that culturally or the revolution. I aim to depict the beauty of it through mostly old pictures and trying to portray the atmosphere.
I usually see an image that inspires me and then I begin to brainstorm ideas through sketching and then again digitally. Sometimes, I can sketch something but it doesn’t work out the way I want digitally so I play around with it until I am happy with it.
Do you make customised or personalised artwork?
This is mostly a hobby for me and I’m currently not selling any of my pieces but sometimes people will ask me to make them something for various projects. I am open to commissions but I know I haven’t reached a level skill-wise and time-wise where this will be my priority. Right now, my priorities lie with my studies however if someone asks for something and I have time I’m more than happy to do it. I am humbled whenever someone does as I don’t believe I’ve reached my full potential and the fact that people see something in my work is always amazing to me.
How do you depict Sudan’s current events in your artwork?
I made a few pieces highlighting the revolution and as said before the #pinkforkandaka movement. However, I think as Sudan goes through a revolution politically and socially it is important to remember our culture and everything great about sudan. I think for the longest time the keizan rule made us forget our beauty and all that we have to offer. I aim to show that through my collages and to remind people but also show others that there is beauty in almost everything we do from our traditional dancing to the clothes we wear etc.
What message/s do you want to deliver through your artwork?
In addition to what I said previously, the message I want to show is that there is beauty within you already. You need to focus on it more or learn to see it. I also try play on the nostalgia and experiences we’ve all had growing up.
How important is social media to what you do?
I only ever upload my art on social media so I would say it’s pretty important. It’s funny because before, I was quite a private person so I’m still trying to adjust to it all.
I would also say that social media gave me the confidence that I needed to keep going. People support and the online sudanese community have really pushed me to be better and to keep going. And of course, I shouldn’t depend on these things but for the longest time I didn’t believe that I could do it anymore. I believed that because there are people already more talented than me then why should I even try?
It’s only when you start then you realise that although you have influences and inspiration. There is also something unique about you. You will eventually begin to develop a style that you are happy with and that style will be all the things that make you, you. I think that social media and the availability to be able to connect with other supportive creatives like you has helped me reach this type of philosophy. It also helps me to advance my skills through learning visually and gain inspiration.
Where do you see this going? What are your future plans?
Right now, my plans are to keep it as a hobby as it really started as a medium to express myself and my creativity outside of architecture school. I see it as a way to keep grounded and remind myself to take a break or remove myself from the toxic and competitive culture that comes with architecture school. I think if I turned it into a business it would probably be in the far away future as the competitiveness that I’m trying to avoid also comes with that.
I am happy with where I’m at, uploading on social media, having other’s enjoy my pieces as much as I enjoy making them. It’s the positivity and freedom that I need in my life for balance.
I am hoping to keep creating and try to make art about other important topics. I hope to one day make a piece or collection that will resonate with more people deeply.
I hope to keep pushing myself to try new things. Right now, I’m quiet comfortable in my style of afro-futurism and pop art. For my next pieces, I will try portray a different message and tackle other things that are important to me. I hope that people like them just as much.
See more of Sarah Mohamed’s artwork on Instagram at @bnt.alnile or on Twitter at @sarorac.