Currently on exhibition at Circle Art Gallery in Riara Rd. is Anthropology of Detachment. Circle Gallery describes the show as “an exploration of the role of art and artist’s communities amidst crisis and forced displacement”, in this case particularly in Sudan.  

The exhibition has been curated by Mahasin Ismail, a refugee from Sudan herself, having arrived in Nairobi only a few short months ago. It features 11 artists, 8 of whom are now living and working in Nairobi following their displacement in the wake of the ongoing war, with 3 artists stil looking to make safe passage.

The collection of artworks includes paintings, drawings and sculptures, the majority of which have been created under the challenging conditions of war. The artists have made work as a form of escapism and to find a safe space to explore difficult emotions and navigate painful realities, says Circle Gallery.

 Some of the works openly address war and conflict itself in their imagery. Pieces by Bakri Moaz express images of explosion, overlaid with sketches of everyday life. Another piece by Galal Yousif impresses an abstracted image of a man with his hand on his heart and an expression of sorrow onto an islamic prayer mat, conveying the loss and longing the artist felt when he heard news of his close friend’s death in the conflict. Others highlight the resilience of the artists trying to keep working while bullets literally fly past their heads. They perpetuate beauty despite the conditions the artists are living in.

Having grown up in Darfur, synonymous for many with the conflict in Sudan, sculptor Adlan Yousif saw a lot of broken metal and bullets; the abnormal was normalised in his childhood. His sculptures are speaking to those concepts. In his experience, metal is rusty and hard and harmful, in his work he attempts to soften it, and make it a relatable material, resulting in humanised forms attached to an exposed framework of scaffolding.

These artists, the ones who have escaped Khartoum, are now living in a post-traumatic state here in Nairobi, facing cultural difficulties and dissonance, language issues and PTSD, but still preserving and producing art.  They are finding ways to work through their trauma, or to sit with it while they still work, speaking of war, conflict and displacement and of the emotions they engender but somehow still expressing their hope and faith in humanity.

See Also

Participant artists: Galal Yousif, Hani Khalil, Yassir Algari, Bakri Moaz, Almogera Abdulbagi,
Mohammed Ahmed Almahdi, Amani Azhari, Mozafar Ramadan, Adlan Yousif, Mohamed
Abdulrasoul, Alsadig Mahmoud.

‘Anthropology of Detachment – an exhibition in solidarity with the artist community of Sudan’ is
showing at Circle Art Gallery, Victoria Square, Riara Road until 9 March 2024.


Sarah Luddy is an art historian, and enthusiast, based in Nairobi, Kenya.