«Carrying the face of ugliness» by Ahmed Umar

Carrying the face of ugliness

Ahmed Umar

In 2018, Ahmed Umar returned to Sudan for the first time since coming to Norway in 2008 as a political refugee. At that time, his native country was one of seven still practicing the death penalty for homosexuality (the death penalty was part of Sudan’s penal code until 2020, and although it was never practiced, people were severely abused by its existence). In Sudan, Umar initiated a series of encounters with people from the LGBTQ+ community who are not free to live openly affirming their sexual nor gender identities due to ongoing legal and social stigmatisation as well as the risk of violent persecution and loss of life. Umar was inspired by the popular Sudanese saying “carrying the face of ugliness” which is used to describe people who confront an issue and take the blame on behalf of a community.  

Ahmed Umar wanted to use his role as Sudan’s first openly gay man and an increasingly recognised artist living abroad, to lend his face to these individual and collective struggles. Every picture is accompanied by a text in which the anonymous persons portrayed are given the opportunity to tell their story. The finished art project is a series of 8 black-and-white photographs showing Umar standing in a protective position in front of the people he portrays.  

Curator and producer: Kulturbyrået Mesén