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The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture Celebrated Refugee Week 2017 with a public screening of award-winning documentary ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First’ at The Gala Cinema on Wednesday 21st June, followed by panel discussion.

To celebrate Refugee Week 2017, an annual nationwide celebration of the contribution of refugees to the UK, The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture hosted a public screening of award-winning documentary ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First’ by director Johanna Schwartz at the Gala cinema in Durham.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion led by CVAC doctoral student Nelli Stavropoulou and discussants Dr Elisabeth Kirtsoglou (Durham University, Anthropology Department) and Dr Francisco-J. Hernández Adrián (Durham University, School of Modern Languages & Cultures).

The documentary explores the occupation of most of the north Mali by Islamic extremist groups in 2012 and their subsequent banning of all forms of music; radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned and Mali’s musicians faced persecution, torture, even death.

Overnight, Mali’s musicians were forced into exile, where a large percentage remains until this day. However, music is “the beating heart of Malian culture”, a form of self-expression and communication, which following the music bans becomes an act of resistance and collective solidarity.

The film’s narrative landscape follows the paths of four key characters who have fled in search of safety. Through a rigorous, visually enticing montage we witness their journeys and new lives across refugee camps, bombarded cities leading into the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban- an act of resistance and a space for celebration. The film’s commissioned soundtrack from some of Mali’s most daring artists, accompanied their stories and hopes for the future.

According to the film’s director, ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First’ aims to offer an insight into the current situation in Mali as portrayed through personal testimonials: “I am so proud to bring these musician’s stories to the world. They’ve been through hell and survived to sing about it. Though the conflict in Mali is still far from over, with extremist attacks continuing in the north and south to this day, I have no doubt that these musicians will continue to stand up and fight for their right to sing.”

Production still of Director, Joanna Schwartz

The post-screening discussion engaged the audience in insightful provocations by both discussants who reflected on the visual language of the film, the tensions between documentary storytelling and visual aesthetics, as well as addressed the methodological challenges of visually representing experiences of forced displacement in relation to ethics of storytelling.

This screening was part of CVAC’s annual events programme including conferences, public talks and exhibitions among other, that explores and engages with different elements of visual culture.

For future events organized by the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture please visit the centre’s website:

Nelli Stavropoulou, July 2017


Ambiguous Sexualities on the Eighteenth-Century Stage

Thursday 5th and Friday 6th February 2015

Senate Room, University College, Durham University

The theatre is inherently a space of transformation and disguise. As the curtain rises, the stage becomes a Roman forum, chorus girls turn into nymphs, cardboard cut-outs are now mountain ranges. Just as temporal and geographical boundaries are crossed within this fantasy, so too are those of sex as actors perform as women and actresses inhabit male bodies, and characters (try to) pass themselves off as individuals of the opposite sex. What might that crossing or passing mean? What is the effect and importance of that transgression? Is the boundary destabilised, reinforced or even conjured away?

As well as being a realm of fantasy, the theatre is simultaneously a place within the polis and, crucially, and it offers a collective experience; I am aware of the spectators around me, I sense their reactions to the performance, I hear their conversations in the interval, and I might measure my own responses accordingly. The theatre can embody and portray to the assembled audience its own desires, convictions and anxieties. This re-presentation operates by means of the theatre apparatus, and the spectator’s gaze is consequently subjected to a particular kind of discipline. As Roland Barthes observes, ‘The theatre is precisely that practice which calculates the place of things as they are observed: if I set the spectacle here, the spectator will see this; if I put it elsewhere, he will not and I can avail myself of this masking effect and play on the illusion it provides.’[1] The eighteenth-century writer Louis Sébastien Mercier understood that this organizing of the gaze might have erotic implications: ‘Mais la perspective du théâtre est tout. Ne vous placez pas dans les coulisses si vous voulez jouir’ (‘But perspective in the theatre is everything. Do not sit in the wings if you wish to have pleasure’ – jouir in French also means to orgasm).[2] An analysis of the aesthetic fashioning, the material presentation and, of course, the public reception of the dramatic piece can help us begin to understand how a given society dealt with particular concerns, foremost amongst which are those regarding gender, sexuality and identity.

Generously supported by the MHRA and Durham’s own CVAC, and organized under the aegis of the Phoenix research group (a Durham-Paris Sorbonne joint project established in 2008), this conference brings together ten speakers from the UK, France and Italy. Our aim is to explore how political and social anxieties were examined, contained, and released through the representation of non-normative sexualities on the eighteenth-century stage. Papers will cover a range of topics including cross-dressing and queer identities, and authors such as Marivaux, Voltaire and Beaumarchais. We intend not only to provide historically-grounded analyses of ambiguous sexualities in the Enlightenment, but also to ask more broadly what eighteenth-century theatre can offer to modern theory.

Papers will be given in English or French, and all are most welcome to attend. For further information, please contact Dr Tom Wynn (

[1] Roland Barthes, ‘Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein’, in Image, Music, Text, translated by Stephen Heath (New York, 1977), p.69.

[2] Tableau de Paris, edited by Jean-Claude Bonnet (Paris, 1994), vol.2, p.1486.

Ant Macari: Eustace’s Loop

Ant Macari (1)

“Eustace’s Loop”. Image by Susie Green.

As part of its ‘Contemporary Art In Focus’ series, CVAC supported a performance piece entitled Eustace’s Loop, written and presented by Ant Macari in the Norman Chapel of Durham Castle on November 29, 2014

“How am I to flow like water (when) lost am I, in a time stream of my own thoughts, not flowing but sinking in this stagnant pool.”

This, the central philosophical question that Ant Macari posed in his experimental mystery play, is a timeless one, but particularly relevant in our ‘information age’. The idea of flow and consciousness is prominent in both religious literature and the currently fashionable ‘mindfulness’ meditation practice derived from Buddhism. The aim is to be naturally in tune with our purpose and environment, but it is difficult to develop our lives in the flow with a consciousness mired in thoughts.

Eustace’s Loop was a performance piece that explored metaphysical ideas. The artist – inspired by the secluded Norman Chapel and in particular the carving of a stag atop one of its magnificent stone columns – focused on the myth of St Eustace, the patron saint of hunters. Originally a Roman captain named Placidus, Eustace was converted to Christianity when he came across a white stag with the crucified Christ between its antlers, while hunting in the forest. In Eustace’s Loop Macari explored the theme of grace. Placidus is offered the state of grace when we meet him; he is at a crossroads, confronted with his own destiny and martyrdom he struggles to understand what is required, what is on offer and what attitude he should take to it. The artist acted out Placidus’ quest for sacred knowledge by writhing along the chapel floor holding a mistletoe plant (the golden bough) to consult with four of the stone columns representing the sceptres of the gods. No answers were offered; the narrative was simply looped back seven times to the discussion about grace and the quest. The play considered the nature and power of myth and ritual and the performance echoed the repetition that is central to both.

Placidus’ impressive costume with its soft white cloak and feathers and its golden helmet and body armour helped the artist to dominate the space. There was humour: we were gently reminded of the unfamiliarity of a single god when Placidus wrongly identified Him as Plato, Diana and Jupiter in turn. A joke at the expense of the Bishop was rendered powerless in its constant re-telling.   However, this was a work of gravitas. Macari is a prodigiously talented artist and acting in performance was a departure for him. It is commendable that Durham University provided him with the space and funds to develop his practice in this way. He belongs to a vibrant community of young avant-garde artists and musicians based in the North East, and to end his commission he curated an evening of site-specific experimental music in the Norman Chapel on December 5th.

Hazel Donkin

December 2014

Paintings of the Spanish Golden Age: the Collections of County Durham

spanish symposiumThursday 23rd of October – Saturday 25th of October

Jointly organised by Auckland Castle, The Bowes Museum, and Durham University, this three-day symposium aims to highlight the outstanding collections of Spanish art held in County Durham.

Internationally renowned academics and museum professionals will present a wide range of papers that will place these significant collections within their artistic, cultural, and historic context. The symposium will also be an opportunity to consider the reception of seventeenth-century Spanish art in Britain, marking the bicentenary of the arrival of Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus in Teesdale (now in the National Gallery, London).

Speakers include Gabriele Finaldi (Museo del Prado, Madrid), Letizia Treves (The National Gallery, London), Javier Portus (Museo del Prado, Madrid), Alistair Laing (former National Trust), Xanthe Brooke (Walker Art Gallery), Itziar Aranna (Academia de San Fernando, Madrid), and Véronique Gerard Powell, (University of Paris-Sorbonne).

To download the programme please click here.

The symposium will be accompanied at Auckland Castle by Hidden Treasures: Spanish Art in County Durham (15 October 2014 – 30 October 2015), an exhibition showcasing Spanish objects and artwork from across the region. The Bowes Museum is hosting a complimentary exhibition, Seventeenth Century Spanish Painting: The Golden Age (11 October 2014 – 1 February 2015), developed in partnership with Auckland Castle and Durham University’s Centre for Visual Arts and Culture.


Reserve Your Place

To reserve your place please complete our booking form or for a student bursary form please click here and return to Rosie Bradford, Groups and Events Co-ordinator at The Bowes Museum.

For any further enquiries please contact or contact Rosie Bradford on 01833 694615.


Thursday 23 October – Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland

Auckland Castle, has been the palace of the Bishop of Durham for over 900 years. One of its greatest treasures is the extraordinary series of Jacob and his Twelve Sons by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) and his studio, painted between 1640 and 1645. This set of monumental and arresting paintings was purchased in 1756 by Richard Trevor, Bishop of Durham 1752 – 1771, at the posthumous sale of James Mendez, a Jewish merchant of Portuguese origins. Ever since, the paintings have hung in the Long Dining Room at Auckland Castle, which Trevor remodelled as a gallery for their display.

Friday 24 October- The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

The Bowes Museum, founded by John and Joséphine Bowes and opened in 1892, holds one of the largest public collections of Spanish paintings in Britain outside London, including works by El Greco and Goya. The majority of these paintings were acquired by the Founders in 1862-63 from the collection of the Countess de Quinto, through their Parisian dealer, Benjamin Gogué.

Saturday 25 October – Durham University, Durham

Durham University is home to Spanish paintings located in Durham Castle and at Ushaw College. The Symposium is being supported by academics from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture and the Institute of Advanced Studies.

Shedding Light on the Galilee

PosterThursday 10th July 2014:

Public Presentations

Participants: Daniela Amadei (CSV), Laura Bertuccioli (CSV), John Crook, Peter Fane-Saunders (DU), Andy Monkman (DU), Iain Ruxton (S&M), Edmund Thomas (DU)

Venue: Priors Hall, Cathedral Close, Durham (entrance from North and South Bailey)

Admission by ticket only (due to limited seating). Tickets can be obtained from the Gala Theatre, Durham (03000 266600), or on the day from the Department of Classics & Ancient History, 38 North Bailey (0191 3341691).



(1)  General project context: architectural lighting in antiquity and Middle Ages (ET)

(2)  Vitruvius’ basilica and its later history: new proposals for lighting (LB/DA)

(3)  Vitruvius in Durham: transmission of the manuscript (ET)

(4)  The Galilee in its medieval context: purpose, structure and lighting (JC)

(5)  Organic lighting and its possibilities for reconstruction (AM/IR)

(6)  Question and answer session


Photography and the concept of cultural translation: salvation or problematic?

Convenors: Professor Elizabeth Edwards (IAS 2012), Professor Jonathan Long (Durham)

Conference Panel forming part of the Durham Institute of Advanced Study conference on Transfusion and Transformation: the Creative Potential of Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange, July 15th – 17th 2014

The panel takes place 4pm – 5.30pm on Thursday 15th July in the Kingsley Barrett Theatre of Durham University’s Calman Building.

The concept and metaphor of ‘translation’, as an approach to practices and effects, has become increasingly widespread across a range of disciplines: archaeology, history, anthropology, cultural studies and, of course, the field of translation studies itself, in a symbiotic flow of key concepts. T

This panel will bring together a group of interdisciplinary scholars to consider the act and object of photography as an form of cultural translation that moves a set of experiences – the war zone, the ritual event, the everyday – from one space of understanding to another.

The panel asks for whom, and under what circumstances can photographs be seen as acts of translation? How does this intersect with our understanding of ‘representation’? To what extent is photography assumed to be a universal language? To what extent is photography, as an act of translation, assumed, that is at the same time, to transcend that translation in the global flow of representations/ images? To what extent does photography claim or challenge universal categories of comprehension? Does it assume unproblematic and mutually exchangeable accessibility? What is its cultural shaping in the act of apprehension? How is the act of translation disrupted by moments of incomprehension?

Contributors will be asked specifically to bring recent thinking in translation theory to new thinking on photographic analysis to explore synergies and problems. Is ‘cultural translation’ an exhausted metaphor that assumes the universality of photographic meaning, or does it open a space in which the analysis of the cultural work of photographs can be enriched and refigured by thinking through the act of translation itself?

It is significant how many ‘trans-‘ words cluster around attempts to understand the social and cultural efficacy of photography – not only translation itself but transaction, transcription, transfiguration, transubstantiation, even transgression. Linguistic models have had a profound influence on photographic analysis in the past few decades. Translation promises to enrich photography studies because it adds a dynamic, diachronic, and dialogic dimension to our understanding of photography and the multiple acts of interpretation to which it perforce gives rise.


Jennifer Tucker (Wesleyan/York)

“Law and image as translation: photographs and maps go to court”

Legal evidence depends on the tension between transparency and translation, which may be defined as the process of translating words or text from one language into another, the conversion of something from one form or medium into another, or the process of moving something from one place to another. Photography’s introduction into the courtroom during the middle years of the nineteenth century transformed the practice of law: how lawyers constructed and argued their cases, presented evidence to juries, and communicated with each other. How were photographs used and perceived in the courtroom and in wider culture, and how did they affect judicial decision making and public perceptions of justice? This paper explores how, when, and why legal practice moved from a largely words-only environment to one more dependent on and driven by images, and how rapidly developing technologies have further accelerated this change. Building on recent work in legal and historical scholarship and translation studies, I show examples from a wide range of actual trials and 19th and 20th century evidence manuals to illustrate and explore the idea of photography as a ‘universal language’ or an ‘immediacy,’ but one that is itself an act of translation.


Elizabeth Edwards (de Montfort)

“The same everywhere? Photographic ethnographies and the challenge to universal translation.”

This paper will address the destabilising potential of ethnographic studies of photography on classic, linguistically-based theories of photographic universality. It will argue that the qualities of direct translation and comprehensibility which have been widely debated in western photography, and which have been at the base of critiques of global image flows, from The Family of Man exhibition to the internet, are complicated by the different social demands and expectations brought to photographs. Drawing on recent work from Australia, India, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, the paper will argue that resistance to the idea of photography as universal translation has been grounded in the politics of representation and western hegemonies, but have largely excluded other ‘reclaimings of the real’ through which photographs are made to speak ‘different dialects’.


Janet Stewart (Durham)

“Photography, Petroleum Museums and the Sociology of Translation”

As Elizabeth Edwards (2013) has recently pointed out, despite the considerable body of critical literature that has been produced over recent decades in both photography theory and museology, the question of the role that photography plays in museums has only seldom been subjected to extended analysis. Notable contributions to this field include Gaby Porter’s (1989) essay on ‘The Economy of Truth’ and Edwards’s Raw Histories (2001), as well as recent contributions to Museum & Society (Stylianou-Lambert and Bounia 2012; Edwards and Mead 2013). This paper seeks to intervene in on-going debate about the use of photographs in museums by exploring the efficacy of employing the concept of ‘translation’ to shed light on the complex lives of photographs in these institutions. While Stylianou-Lambert and Bounia focus on photography in war museums, and Edwards and Mead turn their attention to the place of photographs in museum displays that engage with the colonial past, this paper focuses on the way in which photographs appear in museum displays that seek to narrate aspects of Europe’s oil history (another form of contested heritage). Focusing on the recently renovated oil and gas display in Aberdeen’s Maritime Museum, but drawing upon material from other European petroleum museums, this paper will attend to the multiple ways in which photography is employed in these institutions, analysing not only the displays but also marketing literature and other ephemera. The theoretical framework through which these photographic works – understood as both images and as objects – will be approached will draw upon the ‘sociology of translation’, developed by Bruno Latour and Michel Serres. Their focus on the relational nature of translation seems apposite when seeking to think through the particular example of the Petroleum Museum, an institution designed to mediate between technology and culture.


Jonathan Long (Durham)

“Translation in/of Photomontage”

In 1924, German designer and photomonteur John Heartfield produced a photomontage entitled 20 Years After: Fathers and Sons (Zwanzig Jahre danach: Väter und Söhne). The image uses a variety of motivic repetition known as translation or translational symmetry. This involves the serial repetition of a motif along a horizontal or vertical axis: moving a motif from one place to another. While easy to effect in simple abstract patterns, it is only practically possible with complex figurative subjects by means of photography. Translation, in this sense, is a quasi-universal operation, a form of visual organisation that can be found in cultural artefacts produced in most if not all societies. However, photomontage as form of political propaganda requires highly specific kinds of translation if it is to be effective. If it is so polysemous that it is incapable of translation into more or less determinate propositional content, it fails as propaganda. So this paper will map the universal translational capacities of photography onto the specific forms of translation demanded by the photomontage in order to develop an understanding of the operations and limitations of translation as both a photographic process and an explanatory schema.

Centre for Visual Arts and Culture: Annual General Meeting

Durham Business School

11th July 2014, 9.30am – 4.30pm

This year’s CVAC AGM has been designed to serve three purposes: to encourage networking amongst members, to present for discussion the draft CVAC strategy for 2014 – 2017, and to open up discussion on opportunities for cultural engagement and working with key partners.

To encourage research networking, we have set aside time in the programme for discussion sessions under the heading of  ‘Research “Show and Tell”. We are hoping that these sessions will offer an informal opportunity for all members of CVAC to talk about their research interests. For this to work, we would simply ask that all members bring to the meeting an image or object related to their research interests that might be used to spark conversation with others.

We are very keen that all members contribute to shaping the direction that CVAC takes in the next three years  (including identifying priority areas for collaborative research) and hope that as many members as possible are able to attend this meeting to comment on the CVAC strategic plan.

CVAC has a role to play in the development of Cultural Engagement initiatives at Durham and so we have decided to devote the afternoon session to a roundtable on cultural engagement, with panellists from the university and also a presentation from one of our partner organisations, Auckland Castle.
The meeting is open to all and I would encourage you to forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in CVAC’s plans and activities.

We would, however, ask you to confirm your attendance by sending an email to by 7th July 2014 so that we can confirm catering.


9am – 9.30am Arrival
9.30am Welcome: Janet Stewart
9.45am Introduction to Steering Committee Members
10.00am Presentation of Draft CVAC Strategy 2014 – 2017 and Programme of Events for 2014/2015
10.30am Coffee Break
11am – 12.15pm Research ‘Show and Tell’ I / Working Groups to discuss CVAC strategy
12.15pm – 1.30pm Lunch
1.30pm – 3pm Roundtable on Cultural Engagement and Partnerships chaired by Ludmilla Jordanova, with presentations by:
David Cowling, PVC Arts & Humanities
Keith Bartlett, Director of Cultural Engagement
Hazel Edwards, Senior Engagement Manager
Chris Ferguson, Senior Curator, Auckland Castle
Followed by questions and discussion
3pm – 3.30pm Coffee Break
3.30pm – 4.30pm Research ‘Show and Tell’ II / Working Groups to discuss cultural engagement
4.30pm Closing Remarks
5.30pm – 7pm Evening Reception: Venue TBC

10 Poems from Hafez

Jila Peacock exhibited her Artist’s book, Ten Poems from Hafez, at a recent event held at the Oriental Museum, Durham University and organized by the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures. She offered the audience an absorbing insight into the creation of the book and its translation into animated film.

In  Ten Poems from Hafez, exhibited at New Hall Cambridge and later at the British Museum in the 2006 exhibition, Word into Art, Iranian-born Jila Peacock uses the Persian text of whole poems from Hafez, the fourteenth-century metaphysical poet of Shiraz, to create images from symbolic animals mentioned in each poem.

Using subtle colours and a Persianate script, Nastalique, developed in fifteenth century Iran specifically for writing poetry, she has designed legible shape-poems by squeezing the words into the creature’s silhouette.  In a recent interview she said, ‘I am really a painter and printmaker, not a calligrapher, and my aim in making these images has been to use a ’visual language’ in translating what are in the original Farsi, luminous, musical, inspirational love poems’.

Tongue of the Hidden (2007) is a beautiful animated film directed by David Anderson, and based on  Jila Peacock’s hand-printed Artist’s book.  Here, the hand-printed images twist and turn, form and reform, dance and glide, creating  a magical landscape of startling luminosity and complexity.

Tongue of the Hidden from Jila Peacock on Vimeo.

City and Emotions: Doing Emotions History through Architecture

Dr Johanna Lozoya (UNAM, National Autonomous University of Mexico) will speak on ‘City and Emotions: Doing Emotions History through Architecture’ at a research seminar organized by the School of Modern Languages and Culture’s Visual & Performance Research Group.

19 March 2014, 12:00, A56, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University

Dr Johanna Lozoya is a novelist, cultural historian and architect. She is the Director of GEE-MX Lab (Laboratory on City & Emotions: Laboratorio Grupo Estudio de las Emociones – México) at the Research Coordination on Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape, Faculty of Architecture, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). GEE-MX Lab is a trans–disciplinary experimental project in applied humanities. The main collective research theme is the study of contemporary and historical emotional communities + emotional social cohesion for urban development, sustainability under/after hazard, and risk.

Dr Lozoya´s lines of research are the history of ideas and Latin America´s cultural and political imaginaries in the 20th century, history of emotions, City & Cold War, cultural historiography and architecture. She is the author of Monsters of Silence. Wanderings on Contemporary Anguish (Taurus, 2014); Besieged Cities (Tusquets, 2010); The Indian Hands of the Spanish Race. Mestizaje as an Architectural Argument (Conaculta, 2010); Written Architecture (INAH, 2009); and of the novels Simple Crimes (2014) and Letters from Aden (Anagma 2011).

She is currently working on the novel Troy City (Chile, Ceibo, 2014); on two research projects: Love in Times of Architecture. A Battle during the Cold War and The Age of Guilt. Emotions, Media and Latin America´s Left Culture (1970-1990), and on a book of criticism: Deep Disjuncts. Emotional Geographies of the Progressive Woman (Chile, Ceibo, 2015).

Contact for more information about this event.

Shifting Sands Babanusa to Abyei 1953/54

16 SAD_750-001-589Mobility and community through the ethnographic photography of Ian Cunnison.

12th March 2014 to 1st April 2014 at Palace Green Library, Durham

4rd April to 5th October at The Oriental Museum, Durham

Shifting Sands is an exhibition of rare and beautiful photographs from Sudan taken by the anthropologist Ian Cunnison.  It tells a story of migration, everyday lives and inter-ethnic relationships in late colonial Sudan, as well as offering a vivid glimpse of how anthropological knowledge is gained.

From 1952 to 1955 Cunnison conducted ethnographic research on the Misseriya-Humr, cattle-keeping pastoralists whose annual search for water takes them from the edges of the desert in Kordofan to the lush pastures of Abyei, where Dinka people grow crops and graze their own cattle. Today, Abyei is on border between Sudan and South Sudan; claimed by both states, its future is uncertain.

These images chronicle Cunnison’s growing understanding of Misseriya culture and throw light on the daily life of a pastoralist community in Sudan at the end of British Imperialism. Through portraits and brief biographies of the people Cunnison got to know, this exhibition explores relationships – both within the camp and between members of this camp and Dinka communities in Abyei in the 1950s. Shifting Sands tells many stories: one of slavery and disrupted relationships, but also of interdependence, political negotiation and intermarriage between these two communities. It illustrates a complex history of coercion and cooperation in Sudan and South Sudan’s now bitterly contested borderlands.

Ian Cunnison’s photographs are kept in Durham University’s Sudan Archive. This exhibition coincides with the donation of his papers to the Archive. The Sudan Archive ( is a Designated Collection holding printed material, maps, museum objects, cinefilms and over 50,000 images from Sudan and South Sudan. This exhibition is supported by the Centre for Arts and Visual Culture, University of Durham.