Algeria is a North African nation situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara desert. It shares its borders with Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia. Due to its strategic location between Africa and Europe, the country has been occupied by a seemingly ongoing succession of different rulers, including the Roman, Byzantine, French, Ottoman and Umayyad empires.
Until the 7th century, the country was inhabited primarily by an ethnic group known as the Berbers. Today, Arabs represent the majority of the population, with Berbers still comprising 30% of the country’s population. Algiers is the capital city and the origin behind the country’s name.
In the 1950s, natural gas and oil were discovered in the country. To this day, Algeria continues to export natural gas to Europe and is recognised as one of the world’s largest oil exporters – bringing in a significant amount of income for the national economy. Another important event began that same decade, with the country seeking independence. Algeria’s relationship with the French came to a boiling point in 1954, with the country gaining independence in 1962.
Amidst this rich cultural tapestry and complex political situation, contemporary Algerian visual and performing arts are blooming. Through the lens of the past 50 years of independence, Algerian Event Manager Toufik Douib and Algerian born artist Patrick Altes bring “Algerianism Part 1” to the Nour Festival of Arts 2015.
The term “Algerianism” was a literary movement first coined by Algerian and French intellectuals – also known as the Pieds Noirs – in the early 20th century to unite the two disparate groups around a shared ideology. After independence, the term took on a different meaning – namely, one of patriotism and nationalism. In context of the exhibition and through the various lenses of each artist, “Algerianism Part 1” seeks “to bring an engaging vision and powerful message of tribute to a nation that is in full reappropriation of its cultural identity with past associations to exploring new parameters.”
Six visual artists are participating in “Algerianism Part 1”:
- Patrick Altes (b. 1957, Oran, Algeria) is a French visual artist of Spanish origins who was born in Algeria. His work explores the complex nature between nostalgia, politics and history and he hopes to “contribute to more open, tolerant and accepting Franco-Algerian relationships.”
- ‘MIZO’ Hamza Ait Mekideche is a visual artist who utilises accessories and symbols to interrogate the use of traditional garments by contemporary Algerian women.
- Souad Douibi (b. 1982, Hussein Dey District, Algiers, Algeria) is a performing artist who “questions the evolution of Algerian society and issues of generational miscommunication” through her work.
- Kaci Ould Aissa (b. 1983) is a photographer who works for Algerian fashion magazine Dzeriet. His recent work has captured portraits of the population at the Sahrawi refugee camp in southwestern Algeria.
- Hania Zaazoua ‘Princess Zazou’ (b. 1976, Algiers, Algeria) is a visual artist whose images can also be found on furnishings and miscellaneous objects. Zaazoua also founded Brokk’art and has collaborated with designers Bergson and Jung.
- Yasser Ameur (b. 1989, Blida, Algeria) is a visual artist who explores the human condition in contemporary society. Yasser has worked as a street artist which, he says, provides him a place to “raise questions.”
According to Altes, contemporary art from Algeria is becoming an ever more important bridge between Africa, Europe and the MENA region (Middle East North Africa), while remaining true to its diverse, multi-cultural identity:
The Algerian cultural space keeps on opening up to the world in a powerful way. In weaving national and international influences, it succeeds in keeping on a par with the rest of the world as well as maintaining its own idiosyncrasies.
“Algerianism Part 1” runs at The Tabernacle from 26 October until 8 November 2015.
This profile was written by Lisa Pollman, a freelance writer who connects Asian and Middle Eastern artists to the world.