The French Consulate in Jeddah has hosted various pieces of African art, including works by the Sudanese artist Agieb Yousif and Chadian artist Halima Haggar, in an exhibition organised by the diplomatic mission’s cultural attaché Sébastien Lafragette.
As an introduction, Agieb Yousif left Sudan more than 26 years ago and while the artist calls himself a sculptor, he has worked as a teacher, gold maker and photographer, among other professions, and has lived in Germany and Belgium but currently resides as a full-time artist in Saudi Arabia.
His art uses materials as variably as ink on canvas, fiberglass, or rubbish like an old car lamp or tin, and while it could be described as Afro-Arabian, he protests such definitions and noted that “art doesn’t need borders or passports,” in comments to the Saudi Gazette.
“Mostly, I’m a modeler. I like realistic [art],” he continued, though noting that, “creating a figure is a problem because it is forbidden in my religion.” However, Yousif’s faith is a positive for his popularity in Saudi Arabia, where he exhibited three times in two months.
The works by Yousif on display were all created for the last Africa Day on May 25, and while the inspiration for the various pieces came from differing sources, according to the artist they mainly reflect the “good things in life”: compassion between individuals and his travel experiences.
One piece with a less light-hearted theme, however, depicts ‘a creature with its tongue nailed to a fence’, that Yousif says, was inspired by three Al-Jazeera journalists currently in jail in Egypt – in a vivid reminder that not all of his art is as apolitical as initial impressions might suggest.
Halima Haggar too left her home country, Chad, when she was only five years old, but her work continues to be inspired by her childhood memories with her paintings focus on the subjects of nature and still life in an attempt to convey a message of love and peace.
But again, this message is not the case for all of her works, and one painting shows three distressed women that are apparently “tired of living”, in a piece that reflects some of the hardships witnessed by the artist in a trip to Sudan as part of travels that have also included Lebanon and Egypt.
But regardless of the subject matter, visitors to the exhibition will no doubt enjoy an insight into both Sudan and Chad, as well as the contrast in forms from differing but equally passionate artists.