Where is the Paradise?

Zaki Al-Maboren is showing his “Tierra Caliente” cycle of pictures in the Glashaus


An artist will certainly view the world differently from an engineer or a surveyor. Where one takes delight in the technology, others will be overwhelmed by the colours. Rather like Paul Klee and August Macke, who in 1915 discovered the African light in Tunisia and transferred it to their palettes, the artist Zaki Al-Maboren from Sudan, who has lived in Kassel for the last 30 years, discovered 100 years later in a German industrial paint shop the uncleaned patina of thousands of paint jobs on the floor and the walls of the production plant. His pictures inspired from this paint shop can be seen in the Derneburger Glashaus during April and May.

Zaki Al-Maboren placed the bases for his art work in the paint plant for almost a year during which a grey-brown surface with thousands of nuances was created from the mixture of colours. These treasures found their way into the artist’s atelier, where he worked on them: with a rust accelerator which precipitates a controlled degeneration, by scattering and fixing fine sand, and using copper oxidisation to create the typical turquoise patina found on church roofs. The artist then integrated his world of pictures into the cosmos of warm melted earthy layers of paint in large surfaces of painting without perspective. All the paintings created in this way are similar in that they appear at first glance relatively unspectacular, gradually they open up and the thousands of secrets become apparent. Zaki Al-Maboren’s works are reminiscent of Egyptian painted reliefs, but without their strict forms and religious seriousness, rather communicating a considerable amount of cheerful playfulness.  In “Tierra Caliente” four grey human figures have raised their hands in an open gesture and they appear to be carrying a shrine which floats at the centre of the scene. Therein there is to be found the holiness, a tree with red fruits: the Garden of Eden, in which a small figure, barely to be seen, is crouching on the ground.  That is neither a picture of yearning, nor an idealised idyll, rather it symbolises the earth, warmth and unity. 

In “Tanz der Nubier”(the Dance of the Nubians) five colourful figures are moving against a deep blue background above large fish with sharp teeth. The predators searching for prey are not a threat, they are inseparable from the lives of the fishermen. In the “Haus am Meer”(House by the Sea) turquoise weathering melts with the wind, the freshness and clarity of the troubled waters.  “Venezianische Fassade” (Venetian Façade) is part of a mobile entwined brown structure and the brightly lit windows and doors of the building communicate the feeling of security within the river of life. In “Roter Himmel” (Red Sky) the picture is divided into three horizontal layers: at the bottom there is the red earth in oxydised unworked brown tones – the origin. Above that there shines a blue-green sea of houses reflected in the water – the home of people. And above it all is spanned a bright deep red sky which almost hurts to look at – the supernatural deity we are all subject to.  

What then has taken place, when an African wandered through the industrial plant of Europe? In the greyness of everyday working life he has discovered the colourful and rich beauty of the world of people through which divinity is interwoven. Where is paradise? Close by! 

Martin Ganzkow – Cultural Scientist