A writer, critic, politician, and foundational figure of African modernism, El-Salahi merges a range of influences in his work, from Sudanese decorative elements and Arabic calligraphy, which he has practiced since childhood, to the Western formal traditions he absorbed while studying at London's Slade School of Art in the mid-1950s. The Mosque, with its architectural minarets, suggestion of calligraphic forms in motion, and elongated, masklike figure, attests to these various inspirations. In 1964, El-Salahi received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to travel to New York, where he befriended artists including Romare Bearden, Richard Hunt, and Jacob Lawrence, and met MoMA's then-director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., who acquired this work for the collection the following year.
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