COMING HOME: An art exhibition by Sudanese-Australian, Mahmoud Zein Elabdin will be on view from19-30 October at Without Pier Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. Mahmoud Zein Elabdin's artistic talent has flown across the Indian Ocean from his African homeland of Sudan to Australia. The African-Australian's figurative and abstract works know no boundaries, touching the collective human spirit through his own experience of displacement, loss, love and longing. He is now free to paint without political interference but misses his family
The title of his next exhibition, Coming Home, has a dual meaning. After a decade searching for a new home, Mahmoud has settled in Australia.
This year he returned to Sudan and then returned to Melbourne.
"I have two homes now and I miss one when I am in the other," Mahmoud says.
"So the exhibition title Coming Home means I came home twice."
When the 43-year-old left his family and friends in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1995
he did not know if he would see them again.
He fled on foot, through the deserts of western Sudan, Chad and Libya, making
his way to Egypt.
In Cairo he was an illegal alien in fear of being imprisoned. Working in
a run-down hotel as a receptionist he slept and painted in the hotel attic,
while volunteering to teach refugee teenagers art.
For several years he waited for the United Nations to grant him refugee status
and finally arrived in Australia in February, 2001.
Two years later he became an Australian citizen; an affirmation that he had
adopted this country as his new home.
Mahmoud has enjoyed success in Australia with seven solo exhibitions and
numerous group exhibitions. He represented Australia at the 2005 Emaar International
Art Symposium in Dubai and has been collected by such identities as the Victorian
Premier, Steve Bracks. The ABC's George Negus Tonight featured his story
But Mahmoud longed to see his elderly mother, brother, half-sister and friends.
He began painting this exhibition when peace negotiations began in Sudan.
The stablised political situation meant he could return home in May.
"There was hope in the streets," he says.
But much had changed. "My family didn't recognise me and to my eyes they
had grown so old."
Many of his figurative paintings feature the "shadow people" - glimpses of
the family he left behind, as seen in the painting Born In The Light.
In Khartoum, Mahmoud's extended family gathered to welcome him and he draws
on this memory for a painting titled, "The Last Feast".
"My mother is elderly and sick, it may have been our last meal together,"
"Having a family in Sudan and a family in Australia means I have two responsibilities,"
he says. "I hope there will be another Coming Home series of work because
that will mean I have been to Sudan again."
Mahmoud Zein Elabdin