Ibrahim El Salahi developed a profound interest in Arabic calligraphy, both as a means of communication and as purely aesthetic form, and engaged with the natural colors, symbolism, and decorative traditions of his homeland. He studied at the School of Design at Gordon Memorial College in Khartoum (1949–1952) and in 1954 received a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. After he returned to Khartoum in 1957, following Sudan’s liberation from British colonial rule, he began to teach at Khartoum Technical Institute. For the next three years (1958–61) he struggled to discover his own style within the many aesthetic and cultural influences to which he was exposed (Islamic, African, Arab, and Western). He emerged as a leading artist of the Khartoum School and associated with the Mbari Club in Ibadan, Nigeria. After his release from a sudden imprisonment without trial in Sudan (1975) he moved to Doha, Qatar, and later settled in Oxford, England, in 1998. Based on his experiences in prison, El Salahi adopted a graphic black-and-white style between the late 1970s and mid-1990s. In 2013 he became the first African artist to be honored with a retrospective at Tate Modern, London.