Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Encounters with a Sudanese artist pushing for a brighter future


Profile: Reem Al Jeally, Sudan A matriarchal figure is painted on a concrete wall on Jamhuriya Avenue, next to the University of Khartoum. Her face is not depicted. She wears a white toub - a traditional Sudanese garment that drapes around the body and loops over the head. Imitating the waves of the sea, her toub flows along the length of the wall, contrasting against a dark backdrop of a painted night sky while carrying silhouettes of people forward.

The mural - bearing the words Noura dreams of an existence that has no restrictions, a homeland that has no borders, no soldiers, no oppressed, no oppressors taken from a famous Sudanese poet - captured international attention in April 2019.

It symbolised the integral role women played at the centre of the pro-democracy protests in Sudan, fronting the uprising that ousted President Omar Al Bashir from 30 years of authoritarian rule. It represented how the country was unified in its wish to see change.

It was the creation of 23-year-old Khartoum-based visual artist and curator, Reem Al Jeally, one of the young creatives currently participating in Thomson Media's training programme, NEW SPACES Media Labs with Goethe-Institut Sudan.

The murals of the Sudanese revolution sit-in were a reminder of something astonishing, says Reem. They were a dose of strength you see in the streets.

I wanted to join the movement and art was the only way I could express myself and immortalise the revolution. My murals were about the bravery of Sudanese women. All three paintings had a leading female figure wearing a white toub, surrounded by her people.

Reem, who works with a brush and acrylic paints, rather than stencils and a spray can, was one of several emerging and outspoken young female artists who created celebratory murals on city walls and documented the potency and power of Sudanese women who have long led change.

We were never given complete artistic freedom to express ourselves, so being able to paint in the streets of my city so freely was definitely a new feeling that we all very much needed, says Reem.

Art helped raise awareness of the revolution and changed the public's perception of the importance of art and how it affects and supports a case. Before 2019, there were a lot of restrictions and rules on what was considered art and many cultural institutions were controlled or monitored by the government.

Creative institutions are now reemerging under new management or being revived and educational resources are being set up to further the ambitions of artists and art enthusiasts.

Reem has been enriching the art scene not just with her own vividly painted canvases but by supporting other emerging female creatives through her art platform, Bait Al Nisa (House of Females), which she set up in July 2020.

The art scene, while changing, is still mostly made up of men, she says. So I wanted to create a space for prospective, self-taught female artists to grow together, for their talents to be showcased and for the arts to be truly open to all .

Through Savannah Innovation Labs, a hybrid co-working space that invests in future change makers in Sudan, Reem has been able to host exhibitions, private views, workshops and training and establish an art studio that will host a first of its kind residency programme in Sudan.

-- Play

-- --

Reem's work continues to represent women, comment on social change and hint at a more positive future, as well as her own sentiments and life experiences and the issues and subtleties that she notices in her community.

Her portraits are intimate and powerful but with a surreal edge, often fed through in her subjects' over-exaggerated eyes and in the paintings' unconventional tones, skin coloured an unnatural shade.

The overall effect is one of invitation: by gesturing viewers to participate in the works' outlandish style, they might emerge with a more serious message about the issues, challenges, barriers and concerns that loom so large for ordinary Sudanese women; namely opportunity, social class and status, acceptance, perception, self-image.

Eyes are a portal to a person's mind, soul and life, explains Reem. In my work, that is a significant element that allows me to blend personal stories with the collective concerns of Sudanese women. It's a starting point for musings into identity, growth, belonging, womanhood. The amplified effect that accompanies those eyes is meant to make the viewer a little uncomfortable, just enough to feel something.

I want to continue showcasing the intensity of women and what they are capable of.

Reem Al Jeally, artist and curator, Sudan

Now Reem is looking to bring her creative flair to photography. She's using the toab, a recurring element in her paintings, in a series of new portrait photographs for NEW SPACES Media Labs. This Thomson Media programme runs from August to October, 2021, and is designed specifically for young creatives like Reem who are seeking to enhance their skills in online content creation, photography and mobile journalism.

Female characters are important to my work, says Reem. So I have chosen to work with Sudanese women who are toub designers and who are modernising and reimagining the traditional garment using paint and colour. I want to capture these young designers in their own environment and add another dimension to my creative work. I also want to continue showcasing the intensity of women and what they are capable of.

Follow Reem on Instagram: @reemaljeally__

NEW SPACES Media Labs is a project of the Goethe-Institut and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. Images courtesy of Reem Al Jeally and @BaitAlnisa.

Related content

Giving Sudanese a voice in rebuilding their economy

Mobile journalism during the revolution which gripped Sudan

Sudan: fair and ac
See more stories from thompsonfoundation

More from Thomson


Finding their voice - the women bringing parity to Pakistan's media

To increase women's participation; these four words, written down in four seconds, in a proposal can take months, if not years to achieve. Especially, wh...


Rwanda: developing a course for investigative journalists in Rwanda.

When I started out as an investigative journalist, there were few practising journalists in Kenya to learn from or manuals that I could read to sharpen my skill...


Journalift: Access all languages

Journalists in the Western Balkans have been given access to free resources and training in their own languages thanks to a unique platform launched by Thomson ...


Ukraine: collaboration in time of war

One million refugees have been welcomed into Germany since the Russian invasion who aside from being far from home have lost contact with their community and in...


Building the Resilience and Relevance of independent media

Millions of people in Tajikistan have read, watched and listened to an extraordinary social media campaign which has clearly shown the population's hunger f...


Valley Voices: Accessing women s voices

It's August in Pakistan and much of the country is underwater. Catastrophic flooding has killed hundreds, left millions homeless and destroyed infrastructur...


She Leads Media: Bettina Fellowship scales up at Africa Media Festival

A strong, fearless and effective media, where talent is recognised and rewarded regardless of gender. That's the goal of She Leads Media: Bettina Fellowshi...


Bad news for false news: how we re countering misinformation in Sudan

Our pioneering WhatsApp course is leading the way in training journalists and citizens to spot misinformation and disinformation in Sudan - a country targeted b...


Valley Voices: Empowering women in rural Pakistan

The finale of the third Valley Voices project saw women journalists and writers gain confidence in writing about some of the more controversial topics facing wo...


Connect 6: Thomson Foundation launches mentor programme

Take six of the brightest young journalists and connect them to six of the best in the industry and you have the recipe for Connect 6', a new, world-class ...


Unique new course on the art of writing news analysis

You're a journalist and news breaks that Pele, arguably the greatest footballer the world has ever known, has died. A colleague in your newsroom is assigned...


A mobile masterclass for South African award winners

Two former winners of the Vodacom Young Journalist of the Year award in South Africa have finally been treated to their prize of an all-expenses paid trip to Lo...


Why female journalists in Pakistan don t like coffee

Sabin Agha is a Pakistan-based documentary filmmaker, multimedia journalist and a blogger. She has been teaching women journalists at Tribal News Network (TNN)...


Yashraj Sharma, Young Journalist Award 2022 Winner

Yashraj Sharma is the interim editor of the online news portal of The Kashmir Walla. He is the winner of the Thomson Foundation's Young Journalist Award 202...


Yashraj Sharma, Young Journalist Award 2022 Finalist

Yashraj Sharma is the interim editor of the online news portal of The Kashmir Walla. He is a finalist in Thomson Foundation's Young Journalist Award 2022. ...


Jyoti Yadav, Young Journalist Award 2022 Finalist

Jyoti Yadav is a journalist from New Delhi, working for India's fastest growing news website The Print. She is a finalist in Thomson Foundation's Young ...


Carlos Ral Kestler, Young Journalist Award 2022 Finalist

Carlos Ra l Kestler is a 23-year-old journalist from Guatemala. He is a finalist in Thomson Foundation's Young Journalist Award 2022. Every time a tyre t...


Empowered - a year on from winning the Young Journalist Award

One year ago, I woke up and was surprised to find out the great news that I was selected as the winner of Thomson Foundations Young Journalist Award 2021. This ...


How to write news stories better

Ewen Macaskill introduces the second in his series of news writing courses for the Thomson Foundation - Advanced Writing: The art of storytelling Storytelling...


New safety course for Ukrainian journalists

During a time of war, it's essential that journalists are prepared for any eventuality, however unlikely. With that in mind, Thomson Foundation has respon...


Revealing the 2022 Young Journalist Award finalists

It has been tough three weeks for the panel of judges at the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA) who had the unenviable task of selecting three finalists for the...


Environmental journalism courses now available in Arabic

Three landmark environmental training courses devised by the Thomson Foundation have been translated into Arabic as part of a major push to guide and inform loc...


Young Journalist Award shortlist revealed

A remarkable number of entries arrived from all over the world for this years Young Journalist Award - Cameroon to Colombia, Ukraine to Uganda and Egypt to Ecua...


Why Pakistan needs more women leaders

This article is written by Hudaibia Iftikhar, a blogger working in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan. Despite being highly educated, she holds a ...


Western Balkans footprints: Innovation in media training makes an impact

Running a media organisation in the Western Balkans (WB) is far from easy. A region beset by instability, corruption with challenges to media freedom which prov...


WhatsApp misinformation course goes viral

A digital learning course on mis and disinformation delivered via the messaging platform WhatsApp has gone viral in Sudan. The first seven days after publicat...


Why the environment crisis doesn t make news in Serbia

Dina or evi is a journalist with the Centre for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS). She has won a number of national and international awards for her w...


Fresh perspectives: Young Journalist Award 2022

Thomson Foundation is celebrating 60 years of promoting excellence in journalism and to mark the occasion, we're offering six rising stars the chance to con...


Finding Africa s new voice

Hello, can you hear me? The zoom screen springs to life and the responses quickly follow. Yes, we can. Good morning . The greetings come from Kenya, Nigeri...


A new chapter in a migration story

The crisis in Ukraine has again focused world attention on the plight of refugees and mass migration. It has also challenged journalists to report on the issue ...


Changing the way news and stories about Africa are told

The moment you see your byline next to a story is a magical moment for any journalist. It brings with it a sense of relief, pride and hope that you'll get n...


International success for Montenegrin mobile journalist

Success in our training programmes is measured in many ways but one of the most rewarding is reading or watching powerful stories produced by young journalists ...


Shifting the focus: Sudan on the edge of change

A pioneering band of creatives in Sudan are promoting social change through photography. The Thomson Media training for digital media entrepreneurs formed part ...


Telegram course: Reacting to a chemical attack

Chemical and biological weapons may be banned but that has not stopped them being used in recent conflicts and for journalists reporting on the war in Ukraine k...


A vote of confidence: Empowering women politicians in Gagauzia

The look of politics in Gagauzia, the small autonomous territory in southern Moldova, is decidedly male. Just two of the 35 members of local parliament are wome...


The Bettina Fund: Transforming women's careers

Eleven women who participated in the inaugural Bettina Fund - Women in Media Leadership programme say it will transform their careers as they have gained confid...


Investigating Moldova: Journalists pick up two awards

Stories on ecology and corruption, developed with Thomson Media support, are among the best investigations of the year. By Dima Stoianov, media support expert ...


Boosting media portrayals of minorities in the Western Balkans

Media in minority languages are relatively well developed, but one segment is significantly neglected in the six countries of the Western Balkans - Albania, Bos...


The definitive guide to podcasting has arrived

Award-winning podcasters and journalists from the UK, India, Kenya, Australia and South Africa have joined forces to create what's believed to be the first ...


Podcasts: Why I love audio

The 7th of January 1991 was a big day for me. It was the day I started working as a radio journalist. As someone who writes for a living, I'm supposed to a...


Persistence pays off for the first ever Malaysian Young Journalist winner

PROFILE: Young Journalist Award 2021 winner It was Kai Hui Wong's persistence in her investigations which led her to reveal abuses of power that convin...


Doing the groundwork: Monika Mondal wins our environmental prize

PROFILE: Young Journalist Award 2021 (environment) winner It's hard to believe that Monika Mondal only started her journalism career last year at the hei...


Who are the Young Journalist Award 2021 finalists?

Three journalists - from India, and for the first time, Colombia and Malaysia - are the finalists for the 2021 Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, in par...


We can change our migration narrative - election time is a good time to do it

By Eileen Truax Eileen is a journalist specialising in migration working with Thomson Media on Moving Voices - a project looking at cross border issues affectin...


All fired up: The journalists addressing the climate emergency with words and actions

As world leaders gather for COP26, it is a pertinent time to showcase the work o...


When diversity in newsrooms and newsleadership is not enough

In the latest in a series of personal reflections on womens role in the media, Luba Kassova, author of The Missing Perspectives of Women in News reflects on why...


Meet the new generation of journalists making a mark

It's one of those points in the annual media calendar that early-career journalists await on the edge of their seats - and the moment has arrived. We can ...


Women in media: Confronting the confidence gap

A confidence gap is a constant theme when discussing the lack of women in leadership positions in media. Why do women feel that they dont merit their success mo...


Circular economy: Bringing the intellectually ambitious concept to life

Chances are, most things that currently surround you have been produced following the principles of the linear economy. From the clothes that you wear to the ph...


Why we're all environmental journalists now

Journalists have a unique role to play in changing the narrative around the worlds environmental breakdown and becoming an essential part of the solution. Hear ...