Category Storytelling

In Conversation With Iman Abbaro

Art is a powerful tool of expression. The hopes we have in the past can shape our futures. The ability to create something new or better depends on our ability to imagine it. These ideas and the prompt of what it means to dream while Black are at the core of Union Station’s art exhibit, Black Dreams and Aspirations, sponsored by TD, co-curated in partnership with MakeRoom Inc.

We were delighted to speak with Iman Abbaro, one of the artists for the exhibit, about what Black Dreams and Aspirations means to her. Her featured artwork, entitled Danya, is an image of her cousin in a Sudanese garment store in Regent Park. This image is a reminder to Sudanese people – and others affected by war – that the freedom we continue to dream of during these times is achievable.

What was the inspiration behind your art showcased in the Black Dreams and Aspirations exhibit?

For me, Sudanese people – women specifically – are often seen as a monolith. We are often viewed as oppressed, unseen, invisible, and then when you add the intersection of being Black as well, it makes it even worse. So, for me the inspiration was that I wanted us to be seen in a positive light. I wanted us to be seen as an inspiration because Sudanese people throughout history have been leaders of revolutions and have been the monarchs of our society.

What message or emotion do you hope viewers take away from experiencing your artwork?

I want people to feel hopeful, empowered. I especially want Sudanese people to feel empowered. Sudan has currently been going through a war for over a year, and there have been lots of crimes committed against women specifically. I want Sudanese people to be reminded of their power when they look at my artwork and remember that we will achieve liberation someday.

Do you think that art has the power to inspire change in society?

Art evokes emotion. When emotion is evoked and we feel inspired, it pushes us to want to do something. I believe that art is something that extremely underrated in our society and at the same time is extremely needed. Art has led to political movements. Art has played such a huge role in the Sudanese revolution in raising awareness of what is going on. Art can push people to be more politically aware, more socially conscious, and value each other. I like the communal aspect of art as well.

What inspired you to become an artist and how does your identity influence your work?

I was a very artistic child. Since I was a kid, I loved to play the keyboard, I loved to paint. I had a song writing phase, a photography phase. I probably picked up the camera when I was 8 years old. I was also surrounded by artists in my family – my older sister is an artist, and my aunt was an artist. Being surrounded by a family of artists, who are very supportive of artistic ambitions, is what pushed me to pursue a career as a creative.

How would you define your artistic style?

It’s very eclectic. It’s very influenced by where I come from – Sudan. It’s very influenced by my cultural surroundings. I’m someone who moved around a lot as a kid, and I am very inspired by the world around me. I’m inspired by my friends, family, social movements, the city I live in. So that’s what pushes me to create, and love what I create.

Thank you, Iman, for taking the time to speak with us about your artwork showcased in the Black Dreams and Aspirations exhibit. You can find Iman’s art in the West Wing of Union Station from now until August. Stop by today to experience it yourself.

Click here for more information about Union’s Black History Month exhibit.