Interview with Abdollai Kafi Tia

By Nanne op 't Ende
Jageba, Sudan
April 5, 2006

Abdollai, born in Katcha in 1970, is an artist who draws pictures of life in the Nuba Mountains on kalebases and gourds. He is also a man of few words.

Abdollai Kafi Tia
Decorated gourd
Drawing on gourd
(yes it is me)

I left Katcha because of that war. I went to the South and came back with the bataillon that went to the Western Mountains. Later they sent me to head quarters when it was in Tabanya; from there I was sent to Kurji and from Kurji to here.

I fought upto 1997, when I was asked to do the work of the tradition. Yousif [Kuwa] freed me from everything to do this work, unless there is fighting, then I come myself. Yousif asked me to do this work. He just said "we want to preserve the culture".

First I draw lines on the gourd with a pencil. I engrave them with a fine screwdriver. then I burn seeds of laloup (a local fruit) and I use them to blacken the lines. I took the technique from others, there were people doing it.

Nobody taught me how to draw, I learned it by myself. When I am working on the gourd and the idea for the drawing is in my mind, I am sitting normally, but when I sit without any work, I sit like I am tired.

Decorated gourd

There are some others in Katcha who can decorate gourds but they don't work hard. A gourd would take them weeks, while I can make three a day. The drawings are not specially from Katcha, they are for all the Nuba.

Some people use the gourds to drink from - they are good for marissa (sorghum beer) - others keep them for decoration. They buy them, but I also cultivate; the money from the gourds is not enough to live from.

People now have some peace, they are not tired anymore. There is no more trouble. I used to draw guns and soldiers and airplanes, now I will draw people and animals. I will cultivate and continue the work [on the gourds].

I want to develop my work and I want to make a place where I can present the gourds - like a shop. If tourists come to Jageba they can buy my gourds.

Interviewed in Jageba, April 5 2006


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