KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Artist Ahmed Abdel Aal goes down into the history of Sudanese plastic painting as the artist to have called for looking beyond the physical world to see how things may look then, in what he calls ‘The School of One’ or Madrasat Alwahid.
Alwahid here is the name given in Islamic inscriptions to Allah, the one God.
Artist Abdel Aal had wanted to say that the universe we see around us has no real existence, and that the real existence is that of Allah. The term Allah in the language of Islam and the language of Middle Eastern Christians refers to the maker and dominator of the universe.
Abdel Aal is visibly influenced in his ideas by the perceptions of the Unity of Existence, forwarded by the outstanding Sufi scholar Mohi Eddin Ibn Arabi and his early Sufi predecessors: The universe is one, because the power behind it is one: That is Allah.
Abdel Aal wants us to understand, and also to believe, that it is the existence of Allah that gives everything else its existence. That is: we should not be distracted by the existence of the material world around us from seeing the real existence behind it: that of Allah.
Accordingly, Abdel Aal built his artistic experiment on the idea of the One God, summed up in the basic statement of the Islamic faith “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammad is His Messenger.”
Based on this conviction, Abdel Aal built all his artistic experiment, and looked into the Islamic (and Arab) civilizations with all their aesthetics to see what they could give in terms of art and thought. “This is a universal monotheistic culture,” he said. Accordingly, he called for establishing new aesthetics that benefit from the aesthetic and intellectual potential of the Muslim civilization and its historical experiment “that extended across different natural environments and national temperaments which lead to a cohesive aesthetic conscience.”
Among the aspects of this civilization Abdel Aal had tapped was the Arab calligraphy from which he came out with the “barada letter” that qualified him for the title “Servant Of the Holy Koran”, conferred upon him by former Iranian President Mohammad Khatimi.
One spectacular work of calligraphy of Abdel Aal is the motto of the national TV in which the artist’s favorite Koran verse “No god but Allah” is projected in block letters on the screen.
Who Is Ahmed Abdel Aal?
Ahmed Abdel Aal was born in the Eastern Sudanese City of Kasala in 1944 and died aged 68 in 2012.
The City of Kasala had greatly influenced his formative years when, as a young boy, he found himself surrounded with every beauty nature could give: the expansive, affluent orchards, the River Gash, the morning and evening clouds and the series of white mountains embracing the place. In this, nature was Abdel Aal’s first teacher, when he came to recognize lines, colors, diversity, forms, harmony and uniformity of images.
Artist Abdel Aal hailed from a big and established family in Kasala that knows about the art of architecture, embroidery and furniture and loves and lives with art.
He was bound with a very special relationship with his grandmother who equally admired her little grandson’s gift for art. She used to pick for him blocks of clay from the Gash River bank to play with and shape them into camels, cows, donkeys and human images. After he finishes these images, the grandmother would burn to fortify them into her home oven. Those early experiments had paved the way for his emerging talent that later on enriched the Sudanese culture with wonderful works of creation.
About those early experiments Abdel Aal says:“From those experiments I learned that there is something we can possibly try.. we get amazed by the effect of fire on the cohesion of clay that changes it (clay) into something wonderful. The production of those images increased by the elapse of months. Those images occupied the different corners of the house: the yards, below the shade trees and under the beds and, ever since, I developed a sense for art.”
Finishing his secondary school education in Khartoum, he tried to study art at the Alexandria (Egypt) Fine Arts College. But because of the harsh placing test he returned to Sudan to join the Fine Arts College in Khartoum, presenting some of his works to College lecturers Ibrahim Alsalahi, Ahmed Shibrain, Majthoub Rabah and Mohammad Omar Khalil. The latter bluntly (and admiringly) told him that: “You don’t need this study!”
But he continued with the College, majoring in design. During his study he launched his first show in 1963 in collaboration with the French Center here.
His art activity then qualified him to a post graduate scholarship at the Bordeaux University in France where he obtained an MA for a thesis on “the aesthetics of Arabic Calligraphy”, 1981. In 1987 he obtained his PhD from the same university for a thesis entitled “The themes and aesthetic Origins of the Islamic Civilization, A Case Study on the Thought of Sheikh Mohi Eddin Ibn Arabi”.
Abdel Aal exploited his presence in France to study many things:“at the level of thought, eyesight and vision.”
He also had insights into the Western plastic painting, visited museums and galleries. Before leaving France he took part in an important expo on “Comparisons between the Arab, French and Japanese Art” organized by the Arab World Institute in Paris.
Back in Sudan he founded the “School of One”, which later on attracted some other artists.
It was through this school that he tried to forge an artistic theory of his own.
“I am not of those who view art as just a wall decoration. The artist is not a room or wall designer. I tried to delve into the domain of thoughts. The artist has to think. That does not mean the artist has to write books. But he should think one way or another” he was quoted by artist Yahya Sowailm as stating on one occasion.
In keeping with his assertions about the need for artists to think, Abdel Aal had written several books and research papers in different domains.
He called these varied themes of writing Amshaj ( Gamete). Gamete refers to a mature haploid male or female germ cell which is able to unite with another of the opposite sex in sexual reproduction to form a zygote.
One of his books about thought is his "The Artist and Thoughts "written in cooperation with some authors and published by the Ministry of Culture in Sudan.
Following is an account of Abel’aal’s professional, academic and artistic career
Education & Certificates:
* Ph. D. with high honours in Aesthetics.
Thesison "Principles & Resources of Islamic Aesthetics. A study on the Thought of Sheikh Ibn Arabi "University of Bordeaux, France (1983- 1987).
* M.A. in Islamic Civilization. (Thesis on the Arabic Letters. Spiritual & Aesthetic Background). University of Bordeaux, France (1981-1983).
* Diploma in Modern Language, Vichy Modern Language Institute. Vichy, France (1981).
* Diploma in Graphic Design, College of fine & Applied Art, Khartoum, Sudan (1967-1971).
* Higher Secondary Certificate, Khartoum Egyptian School (1963-1967).
* Head of Graphic & Design Department, Ministry of Youth (1974-1980).
* Proffessor of Aesthetics, College of Fine & Applied Art, Sudan University for Science & Technology (1988-1990).
* Secretary General of the National Corporation for Culture & Arts (1991-1993).
* Dean of the Faculty of Music & Drama, Sudan University for Science & Technology (assigned by the Ministry of High Education & Scientific Research).
* Prof. of Aesthetics – Faculty of Music & Drama, Sudan University for Science & Technology.
* Dean of College of Fine & Applied Art .
One Man Shows:
* 1963- Painting- Grand Hotel, Khartoum.
* 1964- Painting- Grand Hotel, Khartoum.
* 1965- Painting- Grand hotel, Khartoum.
* 1966- Painting- College of Fine & Applied Art, Khartoum.
* 1967- Painting- Grand Hotel, Khartoum.
* 1968- Painting- French Cultural Center, Khartoum.
* 1969- Painting- French Cultural Center, Khartoum.
*1970- Painting & Sculpture–College of Fine & Applied Art, Khartoum.
* 1971- Painting- College of Fine & Applied Art, Khartoum.
* 1972- Painting- Hall of Syrian Artists Union, Damascus, Syria.
* 1973- Painting- House of Art & Letters Beirut, Lebanon.
* 1975- Painting- His Own Residence, Khartoum.
* 1976- Painting- Mobil Oil Center, Paris.
* 1977- Painting & Sculpture, Friendship Hall, Khartoum.
* 1978- Painting- Gothe Institute, Khartoum.
* 1981- Painting- Friendship Hall, Khartoum.
* 1986- Painting-Institute of Arabic World, Paris (a comparative Exhibition of Arabic, French and Japanese Painting).
* 1990- Painting- Friendship Hall, Khartoum.
* 1992- Painting- Sudanese Culture Week, Doha, Qatar.
* 1993- Painting- Faculty of Fine & Applied Art, Khartoum.
* 1995- Painting- Khartoum International Fair, Khartoum.
* 1998- Painting- French Cultural Center, Khartoum.
* 1999- Painting- UNESCO Hall, Beirut.
* 2000- Painting- Hall of Europe House, Expo 2000, Hannover.
* 2001- Painting- Hannover Hall, Germany.
* 2001- Painting- Atilers Arabes Damascus, Beirut.
* 2002- Painting- The French Cultural Center, Khartoum.
* 2002- Painting- Atlas Television – Hannover Germany.
* 2002- Painting- Holy Quran, Exhibition Teheran.
* 2003- Etching – Obera House, Cairo, Egypt.
*1992- Mural of Monotheism Tree (Protruding Sculpture), material: wood, dimensions: 3m × 4m Khartoum International Airport.
* 1992- Mural of Holy Quran (protruding sculpture) Material: wood, dimensions: 3m × 4m Khartoum International Airport.
* 1997- Aesthetic Monument of Omdurman National Bank Material: marble and metal: dimensions: 7m × 3.5m.
* 2000- mural: A Day on the River Nile (acrylic Painting) Sudan Section, Expo 2000, Hannover, Germany dimensions: 11.20m × 1.80m.
Designed between 1970 and 2005m more than 150 logos for different occasions and establishment, among them are the following:
* Second Sudanese Culture Festival.
* Third Sudanese Culture Festival.
* Fourth Sudanese Culture Festival.
* Ministry of Youth, Sudan.
* Coptrade Trading Co, Sudan.
* Islamic Mysticism Conference in Sudan.
* Popular Arab and Islamic Congress.
* Sudanese Scientific Research & Development Corporation.
* National Corporation for Arts & Culture – Sudan.
* Conference of Tribal Co-existence, Sudan.
* Sudan Television.
* Nasaq Artistic Production Co, Sudan.
* Intellectual Activities Corporation, Sudan.
* National Congress- Sudan.
* National council for press & publications-Sudan.
* Ash- Shaheed Organization – Sudan.
* International Islamic Women's Union – Sudan.
* Chamber of Literary and Artistic Classifications.
* Logo of the Jublee of the Secretarial of Ministers Council of the Sudan 2004.
* Logo of the festival of "Khartoum Capital of Arab culture 2005.
* Design of the Sudanese New banknotes 2006.
* 1963- UNESCO National Committee Exhibition – Khartoum.
* 1965- Autumn Exhibition, Sudanese Singer's Union – Khartoum.
* 1966- Autumn Exhibition, Sudanese Singer's Union – Khartoum.
* 1972-Exhibition of the Sudanese Egyptian Brotherhood Week Alexandria – Egypt.
* 1977- 1983 – Exhibition of the Sudanese Culture Festivals Khartoum.
* 1979- Exhibition of the Islamic Aesthetic Aspects: (On the Occasion of The 15th century of the Hegira – Khartoum.
* 1986- Exhibition of Oxfam for Sudan Aid – London.
* 1992- Exhibition of Aesthetic Aspects of Arabic Calligraphy, National Corporation for Culture & Art – Khartoum.
* 1996- Exhibition on the Occasion of the inauguration of Sheibrain Art Center – Khartoum.
* 1998- Sharqah International Biennial Sharqah – U.A.E.
* 2002- Exhibition of the Union of Sudanese artists.
* 2002- The 10 th Exhibition of Holy Koran, Tehran.
* 2002 – the 2end biennal of Islamic art, Teheran.
* 2006 – the Sudanese plastic art, Riadh
Cultural Charges and Responsibilities:
* 1973- Sudan's representative at the First Festival of Arab Artists- Damascus.
* 1977- 1983- Head of Arts Committee – Sudanese Culture Festivals.
* 1986- Designing and executing Exhibition of Sudan: Days and Events/Sudan National Museum.
* 1990- Head of the Steering Committee, seminar of literature and Arts, Global Institute for Islamic Thought- Khartoum.
* 1991- Head of the Art Committee, National Comprehensive Strategy Conference – Sudan.
* 1992- Working out and directing "Sudan Night" musical and dramatic show – Khartoum.
* 1992-1993- Editor in Chief of "Khartoum Magazine".
* 1994- Working out and executing the exhibition: "Mysticism in Sudan" Youth Place.
* 1995- Setting the basic visualization of Sudan Tourist Resort in "Sudan" Agricultural Scheme – White Nile District, Sudan.
* 1995- Member of Sciences and Arts Committee, Ministry of High Education and Scientific Research – Sudan.
* 1996- Designing and executing the 16th Scholastic Tournament, Wad Medani, Sudan.
* 1997- Designing out and executing the exhibition of Khartoum Development Corporation – Khartoum.
* 1998- Maker and Presenter of "Faradees" Television Programme on Plastic Art in the History of Human Civilization – Sudan Television.
* 1999- Head of the basic visualization of the Sudan Culture Channel Committee – Sudan Television.
* 1999- Member of the National Committee for Sudan's Exhibition at Expo. 2000 – Hannover Germany.
* 1999- Assistant designer and Sudanese consultant for Expo. 2000- Hannover Germany.
* 2000 – Member of Rooting Council – Sudan.
* 2002- Member of international Jury of The Second biennial for Islamic art, Teheran.
* 2004- Member of Consultans of Minister Capinet of the Sudan.
Establisher of " School of One "
Consequent to studying Islamic Art and accomplishing the: Aesthetics of Islamic Civilization as a Global Monotheistic Civilization, Dr. Ahmed Abdel Aal appealed for establishment of new aesthetics in order to benefit from the aesthetical and intellectual capacities of Islamic civilization and its historical experience which expanded through various natural environments and different national modes that lead to a harmonious aesthetical conscience.
Dr. Ahmed Abdel Aal prepared the basic declaration of "the School of one" which was published in 1988 accompanied with a number of Sudanese artist's signatures.
* Princess Wijdan Ali- Royal Jordanian Hashemite Museum.
* Mr. Monzir Samagia – Beirut, Lebanon.
* Dr. Thomson – Chicago, USA.
* Organization of African Unity (OAU) Addis Ababa.
* Faculty of Fine & Applied Art – Khartoum.
* Mr. Mansour Khalid – Ex-Sudanese Minister of External Relations.
* Museum of shargah , U.A.E.
* Arab Museum of Modern Art – Qatar.
* The British Museum.
Scientific Research & Studies:
* 1979- "The Artist and Thoughts" in cooperation with various authors-Published by the Ministry of Culture- Sudan.
* 1979- " Heritage and Contemporary". In cooperation with various author- published by the ministry of Culture- Sudan.
* 1989- "Declaration of "the School of One" Sharqah Hall. Khartoum.
* 1989- " Aesthetic Resources of Islamic Civilization". The publications of the Global Institute for Islamic Thought- Khartoum.
* 1995- " Proposal for a" Method for Studying Plastic Art", made for the Faculty of Fine & Applied Arts- Khartoum.
* 1995- 2000- " Amshaj", aseries of weekly writing on art, philosophy and mysticism in Sudanese newspapers.
* 1998- "Aesthetics of the "Existence/ Book", Publication of the African International University – Sudan.
* 1999- "Study of the History of Contemporary Artistic Movement in Sudan", a publication for the Arab Art Exhibition – Beirut.
* 2000- "Ibrahim As-Salahi" The Stone of the Necklace of the pathfinders", an Introduction on the occasion of As-salahis exhibition at Dara Art Gallery – Khartoum.
* 2002- Introduction of " Babel this Morning" roman of the French writer Michel Soket.
* 2004 The book of "The last Dream", Aesthetical writings – House of Alternatives, Paris.
* 2004 Book of "The Tristess of the old aigle" Aesthtical writing, House of Alternatives Paris.
* 2005 Paper on the National Determiners of the Design for the New Sudanese Currency.
* 2005- paper on "Book of Existence", Arwika institute, Khartoum.
*2005- paper on "the African Art, conceptions for new horizons ", conference of Africa, international university of Africa, Khartoum.
* 2006- Book of "Amshaj" statements from the imagination presence .
* 1975- Order of Merit, granted by the President of the Republic of Sudan.
* 1999- Gold Medal for the Great Figures in the Arab Plastic Arts in the 20th Century, Presented on the occasion of declaring Beirut the Cultural capital of the Arab World.
* 2002- Ceremony of his (Mashyakha) in Gadyria Order.
* 2002- Honord by the Merit of (the Servant of the Holy Quran) by the President of Islamic Iranian Republic Mohamed Khtimy.
* 2002- Member of the Jury of the 2end Islamic Biennial in Teheran – Iran.
* 2003- Honored in the occation of 4th International Graphic Biennial, Cairo/ Egypt.
* 2003- Member of the jury of the 22th Biennial of the Mediterranean Countries Alexandry/ Egypt.
* 2004- Order of Golden Merit for Sciences and letters and Art granted by the President of the Republic of Sudan.
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