The late Osman Waqialla pioneered the experimentation with classical Arabic calligraphy in postwar Sudan. His distinct style was based on a mastery of the classical style imbued with a creative interpretation of the sacred texts of the Qur'an, in addition to secular texts as seen in his earliest surviving works Al-Sufu al-Mu'azab (The Tormented Mystic) from 1952. 
This interest in revolutionary experimentation was shared by Waqialla colleagues Ibrahim El-Salahi and Ahmad Shibrain, who then formed the influential Khartoum School in the 1960s.

Art Historian Iftikhar Dadi argues that El-Salahi's work is uniquely situated at the intersection between "Arabic textuality, African plastic forms, and transnational modernism."
Along with his colleagues in the Khartoum school, El-Salahi was interested in "developing an aesthetic of decolonization for Sudan and much of Africa" during a time of artistic development for the region after the second World War. 
The end of the Second World War represented not on the defeat of fascism in Europe but also the beginning of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and the Arab World. 
During this time, landmark events such as the following shifted world politics and laid the foundation for a new international order.
-1955 - The Bandung Conference in Indonesia 
-1956 - The Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris
-1966 - World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar
-1969 - The Pan-African Festival in Algiers 
The postwar era defined and intensified new and emerging schools of thought such as Negritude, pan-Africanism, pan-Arabism, and African-Socialism.
Decolonization gave way to distinct postcolonial modernism resulting from hybridization in terms of medium, technique, and, most importantly, their practitioner's personal and cultural identities. 
In the Arab and Islamic World, the calligraphic tradition of the Arabic letterform became a guiding tool for artists searching for a new visual vocabulary.
In historical discourses, this emerging style came to be labeled as Hurufiyya (translates to "letterism") and "calligraphism". But a more encompassing term for this may be "calligraphic abstraction."
In his early career, Shibrain, developed the potential of the Arabic letter as an abstract form and saw its as an "inspiring plastic aesthetic value."
-" Arabic-looking characters are arranged in Kufic style on a plain white background. Individual letters are barely decipherable, being shortened or elongated, compressed or expanded, to become part of a larger abstracted composition. "
-Shibrain's work comprises calligraphy and traditional Islamic decorative motifs-rosettes, crescents, and semifloral arabesques.
Many of his paintings deploy earthy colors, recalling memories of landscape in this work and other artists of the Khartoum School. 
Shibrain envisioned colors such as blue and bluish green as referring symbolically to the Nile River-a significant presence in the life of Sudan-and red, yellow, and brown as referring to the hues of the Earth and northern Sudanese traditional architecture.
Nationalism brought great pride to many North African and Arab countries, especially as they began to articulate their own cultural values as sovereign nations after colonial rule. But despite this, many artists felt compelled to cross geographic and cultural boundaries to express their ideas using transnational visual languages that borrowed motifs, images, and objects from neighboring cultures. 
This experimentation was driven further by the widespread rise in Modern Standard Arabic literacy and a rich tapestry of art and literary criticism facilitated forms of pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism. 
As the vehicle for the Qur'an, Arabic is considered a very sacred language. However, during this time, artists were employing the language in secular poetry, the walls of state buildings and palaces, and on everyday objects weren't necessarily used for sacred use. The works of Waqialla, Shibrain, and El-Salahi similarly incorporate the Arabic letterforms in creative ways never attempted before while combining them with classical African forms. 
Sudan is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse countries in the African continent. It is home to a national culture that cuts across ethnic, religious, and cultural heterogeneity. Artists in this time were driven by the need to carve out a new Sudanese consciousness in the social, literary, and artistic arena. Historian Ahmed el-Tayib Zein el-Abdein has called this transformation "Sudanawiyya" or "Sudanism" which is a cultural process through which Sudanese artists developed a unique approach to art-making based on hybridity and cultural layering.
Zein el-Abdein argues that this layering is the factor that uniquely distinguishes the Sudanese culture. This quest for a shared Sudanese identity was the primary motivation behind the Jungle and Desert School, a literary movement involving influential poets, writers, critics, and intellectuals.
The group's name is symbolic of the group's goal of "representing the country's geographical landscape and its hybrid cultural framing of Islamic and African elements.
El-Salahi's work similarly employed Arabic script and Arabic-like characters to compliment the Islam-inspired crescent moons and other symbolic motifs in his work suggestive of West African masks. His painting "The Last Sound' is indicative of this style. El-Salahi created the work on the day his father died, but it cannot be interpreted as a literal or realistic depiction of the funeral precession. 
"After the first two decades of colonial rule, minority, western-educated, urban elites began to emerge. The members of this new class recognized their 'marginal situation, caught as they were between the masses of rural and urban workers whose culture and identity were kept intact and their aspiration for a way of life similar to that of the foreign ruling class. They were prisoners of the contradictions of their social and cultural reality. However, the influence of the colonial power's culture was almost nonexistent beyond the urban centers."
One big question facing artists during this time was how far the Sudanese artist was obligated to shake off any western or worldly influences that weren't uniquely Sudanese. 
In the early 1970s, younger artists had begun to rebel against the strict methodologies of their predecessors in the Khartoum School. They felt that the leaders of the artististic movement was becoming hegemonic, and the statues accumulated by these artists put them on the same level as the postcolonial establishment.
This renaissance in the new artists was unfortunately tampered with by a mass exodus of artists during a government crackdown on left-wing ideology and artists. A few years later, Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq, who was initially a member of the Khartoum school, broke off from the group and formed her collective in "The Crystalist Group"
"According to the Crystalist Manifesto, the essence of the universe is like a crystal cube, transparent and changing according to the viewer's position. Within this cube, human beings are prisoners of an absurd destiny. The nature of the crystal is constantly changing, according to degrees of light and other physical conditions." 
One of the group members, Muhammad Hamid Shaddad, held an exhibition in 1978 where he displayed piles of melting ice cubes surrounded by transparent plastic bags filled with colored water. The immediate response to the Crystalist project was primarily negative. At the time, it was not taken seriously and was criticized for being bohemian and imitative of the western avant-garde.
For more information on the Khartoum and Crystalist School check out my Google Slide Presentation down below.
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