Enas Satir | Episode 645
Enas Satir is a Sudanese artist, based in Toronto, Canada. Enas’ work is often inspired by the beauty and complexity of her country, Sudan. Enas’ work revolves around issues of Africanism, racism, and offers a critical lens on socio-cultural attitudes.
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Do you have a story for each piece that you are making?
Yeah, of course. Especially when it comes to ceramics because you spend so much time with this thing, right. You take the clay and you shape it and then you smooth it and then you draw on it. So there is a whole kind of history. For example the singer pieces, each pot is a song from one of these singers. So some of these songs is either talking about oppression or some of them are flirtatious, the majority is heavy kind of love and flirting and all of that which of course in a kind of conservative kind of society is not something that usually happens that the woman says, I am going to find the man myself, especially if she is supposed to say yes to the groom her father is going to actually choose. So each one has a different song and each song for me has a different meaning. Every song is a little bit different and every song has a bit of power especially when she is talking about how society is labeling her. This acceptance has a lot of power in it.
Do you see the finished piece when you start working or does the work unfold for you as you go?
Most of the time it kind of unfolds. Sometimes I decide on the song afterwards or sometimes it is before. For me maybe because thankfully I am still very much enjoying clay so for me the whole thing is so enjoyable that I am ready to explore instead of deciding that , Oh I already know that this is going to look like this. So most of the time for me part of the fun is I am not sure how it is going to look. Of course the style or whatever is kind of my style but I am not quite sure and the fact that every piece I try to experiment a little bit. For other people they might not see that there is some kind of difference but for me it is, I kind of did this here. I kind of did that. but it is something kind of for me basically.
What role should the artist hold in society?
I can only talk about myself so for me, especially someone that comes from my background and my culture and there are so many things that need to be questioned and there are so many things that people need to talk about and they don’t. For me every time I talk about something it is obvious. It is not something that I even had to think about, it is something that is very clear and I am wondering why no one is talking about this. I don’t like to talk about generic things, I like to talk about very specific points of view or culture or whatever. I feel that if I didn’t have that I might not be passionate about art because for me to ask all these things it is not giving everyone answers, it’s not giving me answers but that it is good that we talk about it and we ask. And maybe after awhile we still won’t have answers but at least if we talk about it then we know the problem is there. And if we don’t say anything that means that it’s normal, that it’s completely fine.
So if I hear you correctly, you see yourself as a questioner.
Yes. At least for me, I don’t have answers. For example, the most recent thing that I did that was not based on clay and ceramics, it was talking about racism. There is also something about just saying that it’s there, like sharing a story without a clear opinion. Especially when it is a topic that is sensitive, sometimes it is just better to detach your opinion because the goal is not for other people to adopt it, the goal is kind of to shed light on this issue or to shed light on this thing no one talks about. You know? And for me this is kind of the end goal, without any attachment to my opinion, even though you can kind of tell what my opinion is. There is a very fine line between preaching to people and between saying your opinion. Usually my opinion is the hidden obvious thing, but at the same time it is not about my opinion personally because I am simply encouraging people to have their own opinion especially in my culture where people are used to following somebody else’s opinion or somebody else’s ideal.
I hear what you are saying about the artist’s role. What role does the art perform in society?
That’s a difficult question. For example it connected with my work without even knowing the concept and the whole story about the singer because it kind of resonated with you without knowing it. A lot of the people who reached out to me who convinced me to sell it because I wasn’t thinking about selling or any of that. The people who were not familiar about the singers and all of that , it kind of takes me back to this whole energy thing. That even if you don’t know what I am trying to say, because I made it, so part of me is in it and part of my opinion and part of my perspective and style and all of that. That is what can make people look at something or stop, I think everything right now is so fast so for something to make you pause and to kind of think about wanting to learn more, has more to do with the art piece than me. Because you don’t know me but you saw the art piece. And something about it, whether it is the style or I don’t want to sound weird, but the energy is something that might be the reason people look two times at something.
What is one thing you miss about Sudan and one thing you love about Canada?
Okay, so Sudan is…I always call out the cultural things I don’t like, but Sudan is one of the most very raw, like beautiful in a very raw way. This is part of the beauty, you know. Because when something is raw there are so many possibilities, it is not tainted by how it is supposed to be. It is really raw and this takes me back to the ugly, beautiful thing and this is a thing about Sudan that I love. It is so complex that is why I feel I can spend a lifetime talking about all these complexities that are beautiful but at the same time stir up some ugly stuff as well. There are so many layers, there is the African side, there is the Arab side because this is our language, there is the Muslim part of it, so Sudan in very complex. Complex things and big things there some kind of beauty about it and this is the thing I miss, all these layers. It reminds me that life is very complex and it is not so straightforward.
And what is one thing you like about Canada?
That is not so complex because I live here now. The complexity is nice to study and it is nice when I look at it from afar-it is beautiful. But it was the complexity that drove me crazy when I was there, because there are so many things of complexity that I can’t fight but sometimes the good thing about here is that actually it is simple enough for me to live and be happy and focus on other things. So the lack of this complexity is something that makes me love Canada.