By Larissa-Diana Fuhrmann

Currently on view at Kamene Space in Ngong Road is Sannad Shreef’s solo exhibition “Temporal Alchemy”. Shreef is a Sudanese artist who has fled the war that broke out in Sudan last year in April and is currently based in Nairobi. His artistic journey started in the studio of his father where as a toddler he ate the oil paints, a taste he still remembers today. Since then he has explored different mediums and is best known for his melancholic characters on canvas. His current exhibition presents his latest body of work showing paintings, scultptures, dolls and performances. 

During the war he showed that art is a necessity for him even in the most challenging circumstances. After the militia took over his home in Khartoum, and therefore his studio, he proved his resourcefulness by improvising art works with mango tree branches and pieces of fabric he cut out of his clothes. His artistic expression is a channel for his experiences, capturing his raw emotions of violence and displacement. His resilience is evident in his filmed performances, capturing moments of defiance amidst adversity. Walking through the streets of Khartoum during the violent clashes, he carries around these artworks while shooting is heard in the background and smoke from the fighting can be seen on the horizon. 

Sannad’s art defies simple categorization, blending painting, sculpture, and performance to challenge viewers’ perceptions. His solo exhibition offers a tangible exploration of liminal realms where his reality and imagination intertwine. Between his figurative work with seemingly sad and melancholic characters but bright colors, he also showcases abstract sculptures that exemplify the struggle of creating something new out of what is within reach. Each piece prompts contemplation of life’s fleeting nature and the complexities of consciousness.

Two small clay figurines placed on wooden blocks on the wall are waiting for an unknown future at the edge of the abyss. His use of dot work, for example, a recurring motif, symbolizes the delicate balance between order and chaos, reflecting the intricacies of his artistic vision. Through his art, Sannad channels his emotions and narratives, often incorporating self-portraits and symbolic imagery.

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Despite setbacks, including the loss of his studio and previous works during the war, Sannad’s determination to create remains unstoppable. His artworks offer a window into his world and that of his community, providing a tangible reflection of the upheaval and uncertainty they have endured. His commitment to experimentation with diverse techniques and mediums underscores his boundless creativity.

Sannad Shreef’s artistic journey epitomizes resilience in the face of adversity. Through his art, he invites viewers to connect with his experiences and contemplate the transformative potential of art to channel heavy emotions.

Temporal Alchemy | Sannad Shreef | Kamene Space, Santack Estate, Ngong Rd. | Exhibition until 30 May 2024