15 January 2011 – Artists gathered in Khartoum today aiming to launch styrofoam boats and doves on the Nile as an expression of solidarity and artistic freedom.
But many also mourned the possibility of Southern Sudan's secession after the country's historic referendum.
Although the strong wind prohibited them from launching their artwork on the last day of polling for Southern Sudan's self-determination referendum, the artists showcased their work to show support for their Southern Sudanese colleagues.
The colourfully painted styrofoam boats, bearing the words "separation, unity, hope peace for all", had been created earlier this week at the Sudanese Plastic Artists' Union, in an initiative to send a message to Southern Sudan.
"We want to show southerners that we are standing with them," painter Amir Shafik Shawki said, donning a white teardrop-shaped sticker under his eye and a black ribbon on his arm.
"We are crying because we are going to separate," he noted. “We are sad because secession is as if a child was taken away from a family."
"There is a strong link with southerners and the river means (we are) a unit," painter Yassir Idriss noted, adding that "separation is for a political reason”.
A resident of Sudan's old capital Omdurman, painter Osman Hussein, said he had had an exhibition in Juba in 1977 and felt strongly about maintaining links with Southern Sudanese artists. He believed the referendum was important as it gave people a right to choose, which strengthened freedom and creativity.
Awad Siddig, whose main medium is acrylic and hard pastel, created a referendum-inspired painting consisting of three parts. "No matter the separate parts because the scene and composition (result in) one subject -- how colourful the Sudanese and their lives are, and that we can still communicate,” he said.