Agnete Brun for Talent Norge


Welcome to the Chr. Michelsen Annual Lecture Tuesday 12 March at 3 pm in the University Aula, Muséplass 1, Bergen. The event is free and open to all.

This year's annual lecture is given by the renowned Sudanese-Norwegian artist Ahmed Umar

Photo: Agnete Brun for Talent Norge

Ahmed Umar came to Norway from Sudan in 2008 fleeing a dictatorship that criminalized homosexuality in the name of Islam. His life serves as a canvas for his storytelling, exploring themes like identity, sexuality, tradition and religion. Ahmed Umar lets the stories dictate the materials and techniques he uses in his art. They include sculpture, textiles, ceramics, graphics, jewelry, photography, performance, and more. Informed by his conservative upbringing in Mecca Saudi-Arabia and Sudan, Umar’s art is charged with political resistance against oppressive religious and cultural norms, traditions and authoritarian regimes which demonize and criminalize his identity and being. Through several modes of artistic expression, he aspires to create change within himself, but also society at large by reconfiguring traditions of tolerance and acceptance for queer lives in Sudan and the world at large.

In this lecture Ahmed Umar will talk about his artistic journey and share his personal reflections on how he uses his art to communicate these narratives about suppression and alienation, turning them into a powerful tool for change, liberation and owning one’s own history.

Ahmed Umar (b. 1988, Sudan) is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Oslo, Norway. He graduated from Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2016 with a master’s degree in fine arts. His works have been exhibited at a number of institutions and events, such as the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, and are part of the permanent collections at the National Museum, Drammen Museum and the City of Oslo Art Collection. In 2023 he showed the highly acclaimed solo exhibition ‘Glowing Phalanges’ at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo and at Bergen Kunsthall. This year Ahmed´s work will feature among those shown at the 60th Venice Biennale. In Sudan, his work has only been displayed at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Khartoum. But because of the war, it has likely been looted or destroyed. Umar is also an important front figure for queer persons with Muslim backgrounds in Norway and Sudan. 


The keynote will be followed by a conversation on art, the politics of resistance, and authoritarianism with a panel of researchers and experts:

Ruba El Melik, Independent researcher with a sociocultural anthropology degree from UCLA, interested in progressing solutions to social issues through research, ethnography and collaborations with local community organizers, author of “(UN)DOING RESISTANCE: Authoritarianism and Attacks on the Arts in Sudan's 30 Years of Islamist Rule” together with Reem Abbas.

Matthew Gichohi, Post-Doctoral Researcher (CMI). Political scientist focusing on democratization and identity politics, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

Katarzyna Grabska, Research Professor (PRIO). Social anthropologist focusing on gender, generation, refugees, identities and art and activism in the context of war and conflict.

Ahmed Umar, Sudanese-Norwegian contemporary artist. His work is informed by his conservative upbringing in Saudi-Arabia and Sudan, and he uses his art to demonstrate the repercussions of not complying with religious and cultural norms, and traditions.


Liv Tønnessen, Director of Center on Law and Social Transformation and Senior Researcher (CMI)


Following the event, we will show the film, The Art of Sin’, directed by Ibrahim Mursal.