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Male-Female Figure with Pomegranate

Abstracted figure in brown, painted to almost appear like wood texture on a black background.
© 1968 Ibrahim El-Salahi

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  • Abstracted figure in brown, painted to almost appear like wood texture on a black background.




Ibrahim El-Salahi
Sudanese, born 1930

About this artwork

Ibrahim El-Salahi swiftly became one of the most influential artists working in Sudan after the country gained independence in 1956. His paintings combine African motifs, Islamic calligraphy, and Euro-American modernism. A member of the revolutionary Khartoum school, El-Salahi contributed to the intellectual climate of postcolonial Sudan and the making of a national art and aesthetic in the 1960s. His work is characterized by the use of earthy colors, the transformation of Arabic letters into abstracted forms, and the merging of folk art with modern abstract painting. The artist once described the “Pandora’s box” of animal, plant, and, more specifically, skeletal and masked forms that seemed to open for him as he deconstructed and abstracted the shapes of written language; he was also inspired by the structure of West African masks.

A radically abstracted figure—holding a pomegranate in its right hand—plays a prominent role in Male-Female Figure and the Pomegranate. Just as striking, however, is the material surface of the work, with its array of intricate textures. This painting exemplifies the artist’s innovations of the 1960s both in its compositional complexity and its evident engagement with process. El-Salahi used enamel and oil paint as well as a technique he called “tickling,” which involved manipulating the canvas with his fingers to create the appearance of depth. Discussing this painting, he has said, “I did it in Sudan, at a time when I was focusing on … somber relations. I started by building the image with a mixture of white oil and enamel paints, then treated it with a glaze of burnt sienna and black oil paints mixed with linseed oil. I used an old canvas, which after some time I had rolled so that the paint would crack, because that was the effect I wanted.”


Currently Off View


Contemporary Art


Ibrahim El-Salahi


Male-Female Figure with Pomegranate

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1968


Oil on canvas


92.5 × 92.5 cm (36 1/4 × 36 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior purchase from the Mary and Leigh Block Fund

Reference Number



© 1968 Ibrahim El-Salahi

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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