Amna Elhassan: النوم تعال Things I Knew When I Was Young

Sakhile&Me, Frankfurt, Germany
27 Jun 2024 - 17 Aug 2024

Back to School, Amna Elhassan, 2024.
Acrylic on canvas
39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in | 100 x 100 cm

Back to School, Amna Elhassan, 2024. Acrylic on canvas 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in | 100 x 100 cm

In Amna Elhassan’s solo exhibition النوم تعال Things I Knew When I Was Young, the Sudanese artist delves into childhood memories and fantasies, exploring the impact of play on personal and societal developments. Set against the backdrop of the war in her home country that erupted in 2023, Elhassan’s work takes on a poignant resonance, contrasting her own protected upbringing in Khartoum’s neighbourhood of Shambat with the harsh realities faced by children today.

The exhibition presents a vibrant series of paintings that depart from Elhassan’s signature style of portraiture and distinct human figures. Instead, this time she focuses on iconic childhood objects. Imagine walking through your childhood home, each room filled with almost forgotten items. Elhassan’s paintings capture this essence – a toy car that once raced across imaginary highways, a rabbit from her neighbours that she always wanted to visit, a cat that was both friend and foe. The centerpiece, Pillow Amir is inspired by a childhood memory where four-year-old Amna declared her pillow to be her son named Amir and made her whole family treat him as such.

Elhassan’s sculptures offer a thought-provoking commentary on the nature of children’s games. A pile of melted plastic water guns on a lego pedastal serves as a metaphor for the parallels between war and plastic – both harmful yet chosen and financed by society. Another sculpture features destroyed plastic children’s chairs, alluding to the popular game of musical chairs and questioning the competitive, often violent narratives embedded in children’s play.

The exhibition space includes an installation of pillows beneath a cloudy canopy, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in Elhassan’s sonic memories. A sound piece fills the room with her mother’s lullabies, squeaky toys, and the soft thud of pillow fights, creating a multisensory experience that bridges the artist’s past and present.

Through this nostalgic journey, Elhassan reflects on her sheltered childhood, surrounded by extended family, and contrasts it with the tumultuous environment her young relatives face today. Her work prompts viewers to consider how childhood experiences shape adult perspectives and behaviors, and questions the role of competitive and violent play in perpetuating cultures of conflict.

By centering her exhibition on the youngest members of a fractured society, Elhassan creates a powerful meditation on innocence, memory, and the enduring influence of our earliest experiences. النوم تعال Things I Knew When I Was Young invites viewers to reflect on their own childhood and what it means to be a child today.