Meet South Sudan Female Artist using paint to advocate for the elderly women

An art piece by South Sudanese artist Abul Oyay Deng

8 Mar 2017

Meet South Sudan Female Artist using paint to advocate for the elderly women

Birungi Machrine and David Lukan

08 March 2017 - A young female South Sudanese is using paint to create vivid images that picture the plight of the elderly women in the South Sudanese communities she grew up in.

“If you look at all the wrinkles that she has, it symbolises the time she lived, the wisdom, the knowledge she gained all that time she has lived,” said Abul Oyay Deng as she describes one of the paintings displayed at the art gallery at  Logali house in Juba.

Having grown up with her grandmother, Abul Deng, said she was inspired by the need to address constructions of the elderly people in her paintings, responding to personal experiences as well as the impact of the conflict on South Sudan’s elderly women.

Abul renders figures of elderly women with wrinkling skin in shades and variations of black charcoal. Her painting reflects the elderly women as symbols of knowledge and beauty that comes with every wrinkle added onto her face. “They represent wisdom, beauty and the wrinkles have timeless stories that she has witnessed, she says.

Abul said the nature of her work gravitates towards the current discourse surrounding the plight of elderly women in South Sudan.

The conflict in South Sudan has equally taken a toll on the elderly women. The elderly women were part of the country’s production force supporting the food production chain but that has changed and this worries Abul.

“You see old women begging on the streets, we never had that culture before, we took care of them and now this is totally changed.” Said Abul.

Abul explains that her art piece on the elderly persons illustrates the pain, which the elderly women of South Sudan have endured and painfully left without sharing their knowledge and wisdom with the young generation.

“In 2013, I lost the oldest person in my family, the only person that could have told me where we came from, but their houses were burnt, they were killed that way.”

Abul envisions a society where the rights of the elderly people should be respected, their life preserved and their status improved.

“Someone at 90- they have lived, you deserve to give them a peaceful rest not to be murdered by some soldiers raiding the villages.”

Listen to Abul Oyay Deng

Abul’s artwork is on display at the Logali house art gallery in Juba. She has previously held an exhibition in Juba to showcase some of her portraits of the Suri Tribes people, found in parts of South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia’s Gambella region.