Art Term

Khartoum School

The Khartoum School was a modernist art movement formed in Sudan in 1960 that sought to develop a new visual vocabulary to reflect the distinctive identity of the newly independent nation

Ibrahim El-Salahi, ‘Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I’ 1961–5
Ibrahim El-Salahi
Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I 1961–5
Tate
© Ibrahim Salahi

The Khartoum School was formed by the painters Ahmed Shibrain, Kamala Ishag and Ibrahim El-Salahi.

As one of the most active contributors to the growth of modern art in Africa, the group was typified by its use of primitive and Islamic imagery. One of its distinctive characteristics was the use of calligraphic writing, in which the artists would simplify Arabic script into abstract shapes. This aesthetic, called hurufiyya, together with Islamic motifs, became a hallmark of the Khartoum School.

The group disbanded in 1975 after Ishag broke away to found the Crystalist Group and El-Salahi was accused of anti-government activities and imprisoned, later going into self-imposed exile in the UK.

related terms and concepts

  • Modernism

    Modernism refers to a global movement in society and culture that from the early decades of the twentieth century sought ...

explore this term

selected artists in the collection

selected artworks in the collection

khartoum school at tate

  • Tate Modern

    Exhibition

    Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist

    3 Jul – 22 Sep 2013
    Tate Modern presents UK’s first major exhibition of Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, bringing together 100 works from more than ...