Sudan has been undergoing massive political turmoil since the beginning of 2019. In months-long protests, initially against rising bread prices and a lack of petrol and cash but soon against the regime itself, the demands for "freedom, peace, and justice" have become characteristic. In April 2019, long-time President Omar al-Bashir was deposed by the military. After this radical change, opportunities for the freedom of expression and for the representation of art in public space emerged for the first time. During this period of disturbance, artists have dealt with themes of political change and questions of political reorientation, such as participation or the rule of law, through mural painting, music and poetry. They play an important and continuing role in the political reorientation of Sudan.
The current situation of change opens up the possibility of gaining new spaces for art, culture and discourse. However, there are currently very few possibilities to present art and culture in the public space. Through their ability to influence emotions and reach a wide range of target audiences, art and culture have a high potential to contribute to current social discourse and involve the public in political change. In particular, the striving to achieve democracy and civil society participation can be strengthened by socio-political contributions to art and culture.
The NEW SPACES project, sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office and implemented by the Goethe-Institut, aims to create new spaces for art, culture and discourse in Sudan. A multi-faceted approach will be used: a hub to bring artists of different genres together, a fund to make it easier for creative artists to implement their projects, and a cultural trailer to bring art and culture into public spaces in different parts of the country.
Cultural actors and activists bemoan the lack of physical, sheltered spaces for meetings and exchanges, where they can work together on projects and also meet cultural actors from other disciplines. In 2019, the Goethe-Institut will therefore establish the NEW SPACES Art Tech Hub, a public, open and participatory space where the cultural scene can encounter a diverse audience and like-minded people. The network of creative and cultural actors can thus network and realize projects and co-productions using high-quality and unique technology and equipment. Almost everything they need for their creative process is available to them in the Hub. Workshops and training will also take place in the Hub, in order to yet further encourage cultural creation.
The NEW SPACES Production Fund will also make it possible to sponsor cultural actors. This is a support fund intended to enable cultural actors to implement their projects and all Sudanese artists may apply to it on a low-threshold basis. Innovative projects which contribute to social discourse are supported.
The cultural scene is currently strongly focused on Khartoum, with only a few cultural events taking place outside the capital or in more remote areas of the greater Khartoum region. The NEW SPACES Jeenak project is therefore equipping a mobile unit which can bring art and culture to the city and also to more rural areas and other urban centres. The culture trailer can be used for many different formats, such as exhibitions, theatre, concerts or panel discussions. The programme is organised by a collective of Sudanese artists.