Mini-Season – Hussein Shariffe (1934 – 2005): Exile and homecoming between London, Cairo and Khartoum
Panels: December 18–19, 2020
Online screenings throughout December 2020
In 1959, the Slade School of Fine Art staged its annual group photograph of the class of ’59. Amidst the group sits a young Sudanese student, Hussein Mamoun Shariffe. Shariffe was by the late 1950s attracting acclaim for his art, winning the John Moores Prize for Young Artists, and staging his first solo show in 1957 at London’s Gallery One. He returned to Khartoum in 1960 to work as artist, lecturer, critic and, later, Head of the Cinema section of the Department of Culture. In 1973, this leading Sudanese intellectual and artist moved to London’s National Film School to complete two productions, the essay film THE DISLOCATION OF AMBER (1975, 32’), and the Jean Rhys adaptation TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING (1979, 20’).
Shariffe’s later life was to be disrupted by political instability in Sudan. Moving between London and Khartoum through the early 1980s, he eventually joined the many compatriots who had fled into exile following the 1989 military coup. His third and final destination in a long life of transnational displacement was Cairo, where he continued an exilic art practice that crossed disciplinary boundaries between film, poetry, literature and painting.
Shariffe’s last, unfinished film, OF DUST AND RUBIES (2000–2005), was a visual translation of selected poems of Sudanese exile. It went into production in 2000, and was shot in locations across Egypt including Cairo; Fayoum desert; Upper Egypt region; Aswan; Sinai by the Red Sea; Alexandria; Western Desert (Dakhla and the White desert); al-Qanatir Gardens; and Dashour desert.
Production of OF DUST AND RUBIES ended in 2005 with Shariffe’s untimely death. In December 2020, an online mini-series staged at BIMI in collaboration with the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin), the German Screen Studies Network and the UCL-York University research project Violence Elsewhere pays tribute to Shariffe’s filmmaking oeuvre and reconstructs the multiple contexts from which his work emerged. Throughout December, three films by Shariffe will be available to view on the Arsenal streaming platform, arsenal 3: TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING (1979), THE DISLOCATION OF AMBER (1975) (both London productions), and DIARY IN EXILE (1993) that Shariffe directed together with Atteyat Al Abnoudy. In addition, a new film essay on Shariffe by Egyptian director Tamer El Said (known for his film IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE CITY, 2016) will be presented: OF DUST AND RUBIES: A FILM ON SUSPENSION, available online from December 12 on.
On December 18–19 2020, three online panel discussions staged at BIMI
explore the global connections linking Shariffe’s film oeuvre to transnational
modernisms, and to more proximate British histories of migration, exile,
colonial violence, and exilic homecoming.
To access the films online after December 1, click here. You will be prompted to pay a one-off subscription of EUR 11 to the arsenal 3 streaming platform. This gives access for one month to all the films in the Shariffe season.
A link to each panel will be sent out on December 18th.
December 18, 18.00 – 19.30
Home and away in London: TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING (Hussein Shariffe, 1979)
Shot in London during Shariffe’s period at the National Film School, the literary adaptation TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING foregrounds the racial undercurrents of a short story by Creole literary modernist Jean Rhys. Tracing Shariffe’s journeys between Khartoum and London, where he studied first at the Slade School of Fine Art, later at the National Film School, this panel explores the affinities and dissonances that the film unveils between Shariffe’s Sudanese experience, and his encounters from the late 1950s to 1979 with British avant-garde and experimental film and intellectual culture. Speakers are Eiman Hussein (psychotherapist and daughter of Hussein Shariffe); Liz Bruchet (UCL) and Ming Tiampo (Carleton University) [Transnational Slade/ Slade, London, Asia]; Clive Nwonka (Lecturer in Film and Literature, University of York); Anna Snaith (Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature, King’s College London/KCL). Chair: Erica Carter, KCL/German Screen Studies Network.
December 19, 14.00 – 15.00
The city as metaphor: THE DISLOCATION OF AMBER (Hussein Shariffe, 1975)
The port city of Suakin sits on a small island on the Red Sea coast, 800km eastwards of Khartoum, and facing east towards Jeddah and Mecca. The city’s decaying coral and stone buildings tell stories of centuries of trade and cosmopolitan travel, but also of resilience in the face of religious conflict, imperial conquest, and colonial violence. Shariffe himself described the film as a ‘collage of historical events’; one collaborator on the film, the feminist anthropologist, poet and performer Sondra Hale, calls it ‘a metaphor for a society decimated by colonialism’. Now a Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Sondra Hale joins this panel alongside the Oxford social anthropologist, co-Founder of The Sudanese Programme, and friend of Hussein Shariffe, Professor Ahmad Al-Shahi. Chair: Erica Carter.
December 19, 16.00 – 17.00
A film on suspension: OF DUST AND RUBIES (Hussein Shariffe, 2000–2005)
In August 2018, the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin, staged a two-day workshop in the context of their collaborative project Archive außer sich on Shariffe’s OF DUST AND RUBIES. Following the Arsenal workshop, the five participants (Eiman Hussein, Talal Afifi, Tamer El Said, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus and Haytham El Wardany) presented their experiences of the film footage to the public at the Berlinale Forum Expanded, convened during the Think Film symposium in February 2019. As a result of the panel presentation, a film was created by Tamer El Said, who joins our December 18 panel to explore further possible future lives for OF DUST AND RUBIES. Other speakers are Arsenal Co-Director and curator of Archive außer sich Stefanie Schulte Strathaus; Talal Afifi, film curator, creative producer, Director and Coordinator of the Sudan Film Factory, and the lead actor in OF DUST AND RUBIES; and Shariffe’s daughter, Eiman Hussein. Chair: Erica Carter.
The Hussein Shariffe mini-season is a collaboration between BIMI;
the German Screen Studies Network CIRCE project; Archive außer sich (Arsenal – Institute for Film and
Video Art, Berlin); and the interdisciplinary research project Violence