Category: Projects

Zeina: A Photo Iconography

Zeina Icons Collection 2007 - © Issraa El-Kogali
Blue Window, Wawa, Northern State, Sudan. 2007 from Zeina Iconography Collection


Zeina: adj. good or beautiful in northern Sudanese dialects of Arabic

When the word “Sudan” is heard one seldom thinks of anything but photos of Darfur from international media with the bleak images of dry land and women wrapped in multi coloured toubs at IDP camps. There are a few who may think of palm trees, or the River Nile. But there is a definite lack of visual references of Sudan as a whole. Following this line of thought I was inspired to go in search of Sudanese cultural icons beginning with the northern region of Sudan. The region has been written about for historical reasons such as the long trip south for the British infantry during the Mahdist revolution and the significance of Dongola “city on the bend of the Nile” as a half way point between Upper Egypt and Khartoum.

In 2007-2008, I initiated and completed Zeina: A Photo Iconography, which successfully identified and introduced positive visual icons of the Northern State in Sudan. This major undertaking further solidified my commitment to building my career as a Sudanese photographer. Zeina, a collection of symbols and portraits, represents the Northern State known as “Alshamaliya” in its current day while honouring its ancient Nubian heritage.

The project resulted in a week-long exhibition at the Waterloo Gallery, London, in April 2008, a two-week exhibition at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London (UCL), in May 2008, and a one-day exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, in May 2008. My exhibitions were publicised in London publications such as Time Out, the Evening Standard, and by the respective venues.  The exhibitions in London targeted audiences with a general interest in Sudan as well as those who have lived and worked there, including the Sudanese diaspora. In December 2008 the collection was exhibited at Universal Cafe’s gallery in Khartoum.

Click here to view a slide show of Zeina-Icons

Hope & Continuity

We Love Sudan - Original photo
Street art from Camboni Ground, downtown Khartoum. [copyright Issraa El-Kogali 2010]
Hope & Continuity” is the title of a collection, which was exhibited at Dara Art Gallery, Khartoum. Dara Gallery is the private gallery of renowned Sudanese painter Rashid Diab. The theme was strong and timely. The first elections in 24 years gave rise to many electoral campaigns in 2010 that filled conversations and debates in both private and public circles and it felt like the ideal time to interject those debates with a look at the beauty and resilience of our Sudanese people. The collection is a fusion of mixed media and photography on canvas. Hope & Continuity is a personal journey narrated through snapshots, illustrations and written mementos covering 6 years since my return to Sudan. When asked to describe this collection I said that I want to ”blur the line between art and photography”. The photos included school children, the elderly, practices of faith, young mothers, beloved artists and musicians and la vie quotidian because these are the instruments of hope and continuity in our lives. This is the message my work carries.

This exhibition was sponsored by a grant from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Sudan.


Nubian Fatima_ELKOGALI
Nubian Fatima, mixed media on a b&w photo print, Alshijeyra Collection 2008. [copyright Issraa El-Kogali]
Alshijeyra means small tree or sapling and it aptly describes my first venture away from exhibiting photography to working with mixed media. The collection consists of hand painted photos using water colors, acrylic, felt tip ink pens with some etching and writing. The collection was exhibited in February/March 2008 at Together Art Center, established and directed by Sudanese painter Wisal Dia-aldin.

Click here to view a slide show of Alshijeyra collection