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Haboob: The Sublime Nature of Sudanese Sandstorms

  • VR / 360 Video
A Sudanese girl’s experience of a haboob, or sandstorm, in Khartoum leaves a profound and lingering memory.
  • Nehal El-Hadi
  • Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde

Sand is the material that matters most to what it means for us to be human — socially, culturally, technologically, politically. It is plentiful, and yet our demand for it and extraction methods are creating irreversible damage. Sand geographies, from beaches and deserts, to ocean floors and sandstorm tracks, shape how we live in and engage our environments. As an environmental journalist, sand provides material with which we can — almost — grasp and start to make sense of what it means to be human during this time of ecological crisis. Examining our relationships with sand can, perhaps, guide us to a more just, equitable and environmentally conscious future. We all have our sand memories, and Haboob is a re-telling of my earliest body-memory of sand.

This work-in-progress experiment is the first iteration of a VR experience that combines haptic interactions with sand with virtual experiences of the haboob, or sandstorm. Created in partnership with New York Live Arts. Text by Nehal El-Hadi originally commissioned by New York Live Arts.

“Sand is a compelling subject. While the VR piece uses a text that I had written, Ayo and I found it really easy to work with each other to develop it from text to visual. I’d never worked in VR before (some film and stage), so it was fascinating to hear Ayo bring up the technical challenges and brainstorm around possible solutions. Sometimes he would take these problems to his team and I was always blown away by the creative potential of their proposed solutions. It has been an incredibly generative process, and we’re very much looking forward to developing and extending this project further.” – Nehal El-Hadi

Core Artists
Nehal El-Hadi
Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde

VR Tech
Salil Parekh

Kendra Ross


Voice Over
Kenza Russell

Assistant to Kendra Ross
Amanda Odonnell

Julia Daser

During the 2022 Quills Fest, a 2D video playthrough version of this project was available to all ticket holders.

Watch 2D Video Playthrough

Project Images


Nehal El-Hadi

Nehal El-Hadi is a Khartoum-born, London-raised, Toronto-based journalist, researcher, and editor. She completed a Ph.D. in Planning at the University of Toronto, where she examined the relationships between user-generated content and everyday public urban life. She is in residency at The Theatre Centre Toronto, and developing a live arts event that examines privacy, consent, and surveillance in public spaces. Currently, Nehal is researching sand as a material through which to understand social, cultural, environmental, and geographical issues.

Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde

Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde is a Nigerian-American artist, designer, educator, and time-traveler living and working in New York. His works range from painting and speculative design to physically interactive works, wearable technology, and explorations of “Reclamation”. He has exhibited and presented at the 11th Shanghai Biennale, 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, Tribeca Storyscapes, EYEO Festival, Brooklyn Museum, M.I.T. Beyond the Cradle, and Afrotectopia amongst others. Okunseinde is currently a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at The New School for Social Research, he holds an MFA in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design where he currently serves as Assistant Professor of Interaction and Media Design.