Cinema in Sudan



The project is based on photographic research carried out in Sudan. This project explore the relationship between architecture and a cultural tradition as seen through the cinemas of Khartoum.

The project relied on my recent experience in Sudan covering the history of cinema through the life of the pioneer filmmaker Gadalla Gubara .

My portfolio shows how I conducted my work in Khartoum, Sudan. I was using the Mamiya 6 x 7 medium format, still camera.

Khartoum, in Arabic: al-Khartûm, meaning «the trunk of elephants», is the capital of Sudan, it stands at the junction of the White Nile, flowing from Uganda, and the Blue Nile, from Ethiopia. The city and its surrounding districts constitute an agglomeration of at least four million inhabitants. The city was founded in 1823 by Mehemet-Ali Pasha, viceroy of Egypt, to take advantage of a position considered to be of strategic importance.  After being besieged many times by British and Egyptian forces involved in putting down local uprisings, the place was in a very poor state of repair. From 1910 onwards, it was entirely rebuilt to the plans of a British architect and became, from then on, the capital of Sudan.

What is Khartoum like today?  What are the influences of British and other styles of architecture which contribute to Khartoum’s special character?

It is through the cinemas of the city that I have chosen to analyse the relationship between the physical environment and those who live there. Stepping through the doors of these historic buildings, the visitor can recognise social and cultural forms that stem from knowledge and technical means far beyond those of an Arab or African town.

Over the years Khartoum has become a city in perpetual evolution resulting from the interaction of people with their material environment. The cinema, considered as a representative form of the audio-visual arts and of architecture, is an element of urban life that can be seen to highlight both cultural heritage and  collective memory.

Going to the cinema in Khartoum can be a journey in itself. The cinema can show us a world of its own, with performances in the open air beneath  the stars;  it’s a voyage of discovery into the history of the country; an encounter with a unique cultural experience.

Nowadays Khartoum cinemas offer mainly a selection of Indian, Bollywood films with the occasional American production  thrown in. Set up in the 1940’s  and 50’s  by the British, cinemas were then frequented by the European population, by Sudanese Jewish families and by middle class Sudanese who were well enough off to do so. All the classic titles of the day passed on the silver screen, given two performances, one at 7pm and another at 9.30pm.

The external shape of these buildings varied according to the district and the year of their construction. Khartoum still has a dozen or so of these open-air cinemas still functioning mainly to provide entertainment. The facilities are used specifically to provide for a particular public.