Years later and after graduating from art school, when I was in Philadelphia and was working on my then project to promote Sudan visual art, via the Sudan Artists’ Gallery website around 1998. Artist Muriel Magenta the curator of the World’s Women Online website contacted me asking if I would like to submit my artwork to her site and if I can let other women artists from Sudan know about it. When I viewed the site, and looked up artists from Sudan, was pleased to see one painting by Kamala, titled “Loneliness” 1987. She was the only woman artist from Sudan on the site. I remember asking Magenta if she can share Kamala’s contact information, she wrote back, saying that she did have the photo of the painting through a curator who wouldn’t share Kamala’s contact information!
Then we exhibited together, in a number of group exhibitions in Khartoum, two of which in celebration of women at, Elgenid Cultural Center and French Cultural Center. We had a joint talk at Ahfad University for Women, in 2014, organized by the late artist Alaadin Elgezouli. Then in 2019, we were in a group exhibition in Dubai, UAE.
Her exhibition, "States of Oneness" at the Serpentine gallery, exhibits paintings from the 1970s, with her latest painting completed in 2022. The space is excellent and befitting Kamala’s artwork, greeting the visitors a short biography, then her paintings and paintings on gourds and tar drums, a free standing painted wooden partition, all of which seemed at home in the orange light of the setting sun, when I first saw the exhibition on the opening evening.
Would like to conclude with what Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, about artists: “Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!”
Kamala I. Ishaq, is a painter, a gardener, and a teacher, all three require patience and dedication.
The gardener spirit in her paintings is so present that her exhibition is a garden of a different taste, and her painterly spirit is present indeed in her garden if you are one of the lucky few who visited her home in Khartoum. Her exhibition is heaven for the green color, a magical world that combines women with trees, seeds, and faces, women in crystals in some parts, roots in others, all married in a display of different sorts of emotions.
At first, you feel relaxed seeing plants everywhere, with shades and tones of green color. Then you see disfigured faces and bodies of women, maybe, they are in pain, suffering, anguish, and trauma of some kind, or maybe expressing themselves in a loud manner. Women immerging in all her paintings and look at the viewer from all directions at the exhibition’s walls. As if showing off, their lives.
*The name Kamala is girl's name of Hindi origin meaning "lotus or pale red; or, a garden.”
Kamala I. Ishag biography: https://sharjahart.org/sharjah-art-foundation/people/ishaq-kamala-ibrahim