Sudan murals commemorate protest 'martyrs'

 | Updated: Jul 24, 2019, 12:37 PM IST

Doctors close to the protest movement say 246 people have been killed across Sudan since demonstrations erupted in December, 2018. Officials have given a lower death toll.

'Colourful mural of his smiling face'

Sudanese protester Walid Abdelrahim was shot dead last month in Khartoum but for his mother, he is still alive, thanks to a colourful mural of his smiling face on a wall of their home.


Tribute to protestors

The portrait is part of a campaign launched by Sudanese artist Assil Diab to draw murals and graffiti to commemorate demonstrators killed in the months-old protest movement that has rocked the northeast African country.


The painting keeps him alive

"The painting keeps him alive," said Maiyssa Omar, mother of Abdelrahim, who was killed during a three-day nationwide civil disobedience campaign in June.

"When I see his painting ... it gives me strength. I feel proud to be a mother of a martyr," Omar said as she looked at her son's face painted on the wall of their one-storey house in Bahri, a northern district in Khartoum.


Scores were killed

The protests initially broke out against the regime of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir. Following his ouster by the army on April 11, protesters continue to agitate against the ruling generals who seized power.

Doctors close to the protest movement say 246 people have been killed across Sudan since demonstrations erupted. However, officials have given a lower death toll.


'Immortalise their legacy'

Diab, a former employee of Doha-based Al-Jazeera television network, and her team got their motivation from a protest catchcry, "Our martyrs didn't die, they are alive among the revolutionaries!"
"The idea is to immortalise their legacy in their own homes and to make the people of their neighbourhoods proud of a martyr who sacrificed his life for Sudan," Diab, 29, said.

These murals are specifically drawn on the walls of protesters' own homes or in their neighbourhoods.


An expensive affair

Diab, who lives in the Qatari capital with her family but often returns to her homeland, said painting each mural costs her about $635 given the high prices of colours and tools she uses.

"But martyrs took to the streets and died for us. This is the least we can do for them," said Diab, who has drawn about 30 portraits of protesters killed in Khartoum.


'Murals flourishing across Khartoum's walls'

For years such artwork remained underground amid censorship imposed by heavy-handed security agents of Bashir's regime, who considered it anti-establishment or pure vandalism.

But artists say everything changed since the protests erupted, with dozens of murals flourishing across Khartoum's walls since the initial weeks of the uprising.


An inspiration to protest

The capital's neighbourhoods like Bahri, a regular site of protests, became a canvas for artists like Diab.

"This painting inspires me to participate in the protests to achieve the demand of those who died for us," said Bahri resident Mujahid Sadeq.

"I didn't know Mattar before, but now we all know him."


'Dangerous experience'

Some of the paintings Diab has drawn are also of protesters killed in a September 2013 crackdown on anti-austerity rallies.

Diab said drawing the graffiti had not been easy.

Often her team faced resistance from the feared paramilitary group the Rapid Support Forces, who are accused by rights group of carrying out the June 3 raid.

"It was a dangerous experience, but worth taking the risks," Diab said.