Monday, May 3, 2010

Suha Khalil….An Art for Change

This is a blog for Suha khalil…since she is not able to write she can Express and we her family, friends and loving ones Do the writing for her. It’s a shared blog everyone is welcomed to comment. The idea is to document her work and be able to express it verbally. This blog will be a part of the message that we want to deliver and share altogether through the work of Suha.It gives more space for sharing ideas, explanation, feedback and elaboration. It will be here on Twitter and will be linked to her website

On the 22nd of February 2010 the painting of Suha “Storm” was sold after it was separated at the exhibition on KICS School at Khartoum two days ago. It was sold for a good price 500SDG. She had one painting sold before but then the incentive and the situation was different, before it was sold as a kind of encouragement and promotion for her work since she is a person with special needs but now it was sold as a piece of art since her paintings were exhibited between the paintings of some other renowned artists with no mention of any kind about the background of any of them. The only criteria to determine were the quality of the work and the taste of the people. With this Suha is taking her first steps into the world of professional art where she crosses the bridge between being an amateur artist who does art for hobby and fun to a professional one who sells her paintings for living, between being a liability and dependent to being productive and independent. This thing is being reflected on her behaviour, attitude and work. It’s almost one year now since she started painting but the effect it had on her was one of a life time. It was a very transforming experience that changed her life’s Down side UP. It was a defining year for her that redrew the boundaries between two different eras , one old shrouded with hues of shame,fear,worry,sadness,and a lot of question marks and another new filled with pride,hope,will,accomplishments,wonder and glory. Since then her rate of progress is going fast thanks to God. She feels the success and appreciation, she needs them and she believes she deserves them. Just seeing the fruits of her work and being able to enjoy them gives her a tremendous power to go on ,go forward and achieve more. In the bazaar of KICS a simple incident that happened and her reaction to it tells a lot; when she was invited by a staff group from one of her former institutes for special needs to take a picture with them she refused strongly, it was like she was denying anything to do with them. This repulsion is perfectly justified because its not that she is rejecting the people themselves but rejecting what they represent, Special Needs…Disabled…Retarded…Unfortunate…Poor…Sympathy…Pity…Neglect…Insignificance…Powerlessness..Burden…sadly this is how the things are interpreted here and she knows and feels this very well. She believes now she is special, but a special person, with special dreams, special talent, special gifts, and special message but not a person with special needs…

This departure from her former State and her looking forward into a new era and stage of her life is obvious in her work. Her painting March denotes that; we chose the name March which means the verb march-to move forward…moving not only alone but leading others with her ….saying come on lets stop it ..Let’s stop all this stagnation, delinquency and wining and let’s go ahead…March also has a special significance since it was the time of her first exhibition …when her work saw the light for the first time and went into public.

She is happy now, very happy and glowing with happiness…she wants to be special but she doesn’t want or need special treatment…she feels so much in love, peace, comfort and harmony with her new status and her new title …”Alfanana Suha” which means Artist Suha…she behaves accordingly, easily and confidently in any meeting or gathering that involves Art…She feels very strongly that she belongs there. its like this was her lost secret place that she was seeking all this time…she just needed the means to do so …a brush and few colors …and some help ….a little help not a lot of pity ….this is all what it took to Take her out but I don’t say to Take her There…because there is so much more still to be done.
Of course we are happy and delighted by the success of Suha but we don’t want to be taken into frenzy and swept away by enthusiasm drawing an ethereal dreamy picture for the situation. Suha is talented and gifted and this is something to thank God alone for but still there is a lot to be done by “US” still by the help of God .Yes there was a big effort done in order to extract this talent from her and discover it in the first place and this process involved two stages, first in thinking that there might be a talent in there and second in believing in it and believing that it could be formulated into something not only useful but also Great. But the bigger step is to come….What comes after???? In my opinion one of the big problems that hinders success or limits it in our third world countries is that people start applauding and chanting for the first glimpses of hope so much that after a while its all that they are able to see and Have….this Little ….one step at a time is good but its far better and more important to know that there are still other steps to be taken…and that they have to be taken before celebrating completely…Here I am not only speaking about Suha but also about the rest of us…Suha is just a part of the tip of the iceberg of potentials and capabilities we have inside….deep inside that need to be discovered ,believed, developed and cared for. Here I am not speaking about disabled people but about the ALL….Suha is just a simple example of how much we can do…Celebrating is not bad but working is more important at this stage since it’s a very critical stage. Any signs of satisfaction and complacence will be the symptoms and cause at the same time of this long suffered syndrome that we have…I don’t want to devalue the achievement of Suha because I think its great but greatness is relative by the time, moment, givens, and requirements and what is required from us is big so we have to act accordingly…the message is …Work, Work and more Work. There is an Arabic proverb that says “Never lost is a right after which there is a demander” and I am saying here that our progress, awareness, development, and achievement are a right that we will certainly get one day as long as we are after it sincerely. Sincerely here doesn’t mean being only well intentioned and good hearted and hoping for the change secretly inside ourselves and a bit louder during our prayers and while complaining in our chats ,but means being totally dedicated, absolutely oriented and extremely loyal to the cause and to the cause only not to any subsidiary causes ,ideas or personal benefits. In order to get there we need to eat, drink, and breathe this dream. Since this a revolutionary step we don’t want it to betray its main cause at the end of the day like what happens with revolutions in general where the people stop to relax and enjoy the momentary temporary volatile success for a “while” but this “while” gains infinite elasticity and ability to extend and expands indefinitely rendering it a life time instead. As much as we need revolutionary beginnings since we don’t have evolutionary ones to start from and add to little by little we have to be very wary and alert to the whole process lest we end up with the contrary results.

Looking into the work of Suha and trying to follow her themes ….we find the things that she likes and dislikes most prevalent…she loves gatherings of people, she loves music, she loves dancing, she loves nature and mostly she loves God and that appears clearly in her work .She also dislikes war, violence and pain and this comes clear in her work too. Storage a big mental storage that she has been collecting all these years that her inability to speak clearly and her inability to use the tool of reading and writing stopped her from expressing is peering out from her paintings and coming to life after a long dormant period. Its like all these years were not just a mere waist .They were a preparatory period, the seed, the womb and the nest for a gigantic, extremely powerful creature of imagination that was being formed bit by bit secretly and silently in the deep recesses of her conscience .A scene from here, an image from there, an event sometime, together with a lot of creativity from within were the food for this creature. Nothing was insignificant; every bit of information was valuable and processable in this hidden, intricate mental process. She just needed the right tool and the right moment to release this energy, to unleash this huge potential inside her. Suha is now jotting down her memories and diaries of 25 years lump sum that’s the reason she is spending hours and hours everyday painting. She believes a long time has passed in silence and its now time to speak, many years have gone in misunderstanding and it’s now time to explain, precious moments elapsed unexpressed and its now time to elaborate.
Suha’s paintings make us travel into worlds we have never seen, worlds in another realm or dimension of existence …surreal magic like worlds full of mystery wonders and amazements…around each corner and with every touch of brush or mix of colors Suha accompanies her audience into this trance like trip where the things are not the same anymore, where the laws of physics are different, and the normal senses are limited. Where extreme sensitivity is vital, deep understanding is a prerequisite and shallowness and superficiality are not allowed. Only scarcely equipped but informedly she digs deep into the bottom of our human soul mine extracting expressions and meanings, implications and significations, assumptions and consequences that render intellect, language and judgment impaired and incapable and proving that life is sometimes if not always like Mathematical problems ,can have more than one “Correct” solution. Suha’s paintings are like music they extract from oneself feelings, emotions and thoughts that he were hardly aware they existed and in most of the cases unable to define. They are able to flow sneakingly into our consciousness making these secret interconnections between our memories, hopes, fears, expectations, doing readjustments and fine tuning at a very low level. She is not only a painter who draws this world imbued with her own thoughts ,ideas and preferences of it but she is also a designer and creator who uses this world to create other ones …sometimes similar ,sometimes different, but mostly and by far better.

Suha’s success is a success for everyone, because it’s an invitation for everyone. There is a saying that goes “Life is easy if we live it right” and here is our big challenge, living life right; but in order to do that we need first to understand life…we need to recall and revisit some of our basic definitions that we have been given before in the primary school about life and living, about the good and the bad, about the simple and complex, about the possible and impossible. Life is neither good nor bad, neither easy nor hard, neither soft nor tough…life is all that but more than that life is “what we make it and how we live it”….maybe we don’t have the things we need sometimes at the times we need them but for sure we have the means to get them sometime someday if we want to…this is how we need to look at Life and proceed from there. As a big structure of effort and hope where we have to figure out our way somewhere in between in a delicate balance. It took Suha 25 years to find out what she loves, wants to do and can do. Should it take that long for someone else to discover the same thing or we could benefit from the experience? Should we try to reinvent the wheel every time or should we just proceed ahead and value and preserve this experience and reuse it as a starting point? We are sharing this precious moments of Suha’s takeoff into her challenging journey not for gaining publicity ,compassion, or for the mere purpose of telling another story of personal glory to be added to the archive of many others but because these moments are the turning point and defining and forming steps in the life of Suha and when we speak of change its very important to put the process itself at display in order to make it useful because in my opinion what really matters is what we are aspiring to and trying to reach and what we did in order to get there, either we succeed or not this is in God’s hands. In most of the success stories we are used to know the sad beginning and the happy ending where the beginning is used for warning and disgrace and the end is used for envy and comparison but the body and essence of the story is lost rendering the story with no value to mention and isolating it from its environment since the means of achievement which is the core and most important key is ripped off. Hence the story becomes extremely individualized, tailored and customized and nothing could be deduced from it for the sake of the community or generalized for the benefit of the whole. Are we selfish also in story telling? This is something out of the scope of this article but is worth thinking about. So here we go, we have all the factors needed, we have Success, we have an example a local one (since the geographical distance of the example used is transformed sometimes into an emotional distance from the target, converting the example into a deterrent and dragging down force making the goal dependable on other demographic factors and hence unrealistic and unreachable), and we have the facts and details. Missing only is the three Ws, Will, Work, and Wisdom. The Will to achieve something, the Work to realize this Will and the Wisdom to ensure that the outcome of this Work will be dedicated for the benefit of Everyone. So with all this being said and with all this given and with our current situation also given, which is one not to be envied for definitely we certainly have got no choice. No matter how stubborn and hard headed we are we need to stop now and ponder for a moment .Where are we? Where should we be? Why aren’t we still there? But most important is, Until when will we stay Here?

Reused or not, replicated or not, encouraged or not ,Suha’s story ,success and progress will always be there by God’s will but more important to remember is that the work of Suha transcends all this and transcends Art itself into a deep sincere personal dialogue with the soul of everyone of us wondering in passion...What’s next?
I don’t want to give Suha’s work an inflated sense of power and dress it with unfitting vests of reformism and altruism but I being both her brother and a Sudanese hope that her endeavor and experience, being sure that it’s a sincere one as clean and pure as she is, can touch something inside us and be the beginning, just the beginning and the call for an awakening that will be overall changing and overall encompassing.

With love,
Issam Khalil

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