PODCAST: Gallery Girl Meets Reem Al Jeally

In this episode of the Gallery Girl podcast my guest is Reem Al Jeally, an architect, designer and visual artist based in Khartoum, whose work comments on social change, women’s issues in Sudan and her own life experiences. 

“It all started to become serious in 2016, I participated in an exhibition in Khartoum with a lot of big names in the art scene here”, says Reem, “It was my first time presenting my art to a very large group so at that moment going on I realised that I really want to take art as more than just a hobby.” Reem – who is also an architect and a designer – says that the art community in Sudan is very supportive. She explains that her background in architecture school was a big bonus. “Everything we dealt with was visual”, she explains, “You’re always creating concepts and ideas. So you had to use your imagination a lot and portray this into something that you can actually see. It all links together on many levels.”

Reem is the founder of The Muse, an initiative she founded in 2019 for artists. “It came from my personal need for somewhere where you can go to see art, create art and try to improve yourself”, she says, “Here in Khartoum we have a lot of art and a lot of artists, but we lack institutes and galleries. So I thought The Muse is something we can start with, even if it’s just something small as an initiative to help these artists and help ourselves.” Reem also adds that the art scene in Khartoum is very vibrant. “We have a lot of art and a lot of artists who create amazing work”, she says, “We all need the support wherever we can get it from. A lot of artists collaborate together and this makes the community more connected.”

As well as The Muse, Reem is also the founder of Bait Alnisa, which means House of Women in Arabic. “I always met a lot of men dominating the art field”, says Reem, “The big names are all male, I kept wondering where are the women? I kept meeting a lot of very talented female artists, but there were still not as many as there were men.” So she built a platform to showcase female artists in Sudan and to support them and create a bond between them. At the moment it exists as a gallery, but in the future Reem is planning to work on a number of programmes with female artists. In the near future she is planning on working on a project called Studio Nissa, to document the studios of female artists working in Khartoum. She cites Amna Elhassan  and Elaf Bader Eldeen as female artists we should have on our radars.  

As for her own work, Reem gets inspiration from daily life in Sudan. That said, her work is mostly focused on women. “I think that’s empowering”, explains Reem, “I think women have a lot of things to say and a lot of power that they want to show. At the end of the day women are a very important part of the community. Especially after the Revolution, women made a lot of art about the situation. I like showcasing what women are capable of.” She also explains that a lot of women artists – including herself – painted murals around Sudan about women’s contribution to the revolution. 

Recently, a painting that Reem made during the pandemic has been exhibited at the Middle East Institute’s gallery in Washington, D.C. She explains that the painting – Room 306 – gives a sense of how everything around us has changed. “It definitely affected the type of painting that I was making”, says Reem, “I started to develop a new style. I had more time to work with it. I focus on highlighting the eyes and the features of the face. They’re very intense and very clear that this is the focal point.”

In the future, Reem is hoping to participate in more projects and programmes, and to exhibit the works that she created during the quarantine period. 

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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