(Press release. November 12th, 2015)
70 artists from eleven countries bring ART AND COMMITMENT
to the Sahrawi refugee camps after the floods disaster
Their works mainly discussed the Sahrawi resistance, the writing of collective memory, the struggle of women and the precarious exile
The Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf just reached forty years of resistance to the Moroccan occupation with an unprecedented natural disaster. Nine days of uninterrupted rains that have destroyed the adobe homes of more than 17,000 refugee families, according to provisional government data, of which 11,441 have already been cataloged by the UNHCR. In the days following the floods, with a Saharan population struggling to return to "normality", a contradictory term in this infamous exile, a hundred people gathered in the ninth edition of ARTifariti, the International Meetings of Art and Human Rights in Western Sahara, convened under the theme "40 years of resistance." 70 artists and 50 projects representing Algeria, Bulgaria, Colombia, Spain, USA, Finland, the Netherlands, Mexico, Norway and the Western Sahara have been presented during the festival.
Despite the emergency, the organizers of ARTifariti and the local authorities decided to keep the call open for the need to document what was happening in the fragile and precarious Sahrawi refuge, to which families have not come washed away by the rains but fleeing military occupation of their territory. The transmission of energy and hope and the healing capacity mobilized by these artistic processes that provide the interaction of creators and local population was one of the reasons that motivated the non-suspension of the call.
The participants have worked hard and in difficult conditions, bringing forth all their art, effort and affection; and transforming their initial projects into commitments of solidarity. As hints of what happened these days in the Bojador camp: one of the artists has turned her proposal of a theater play with women artisans into a crowdfunding to restore their collapsed carpet workshop, others have painted lush murals in the blazing sun that followed the rains, and protest canvases of the Sahrawi culture and struggle, some have built kilns and adobe trees, have brought to schools music and storytelling, they have held workshops of relaxation and
reflexology, recorded lullabies with mothers and grandmothers, exchanged letters and light, shared tea with families and rescued the memory of the elderly, the struggle of women and the voice of the singer Mariem Hassan; artists have brought down walls with performance and fired their cameras against oblivion, they have tattooed bodies and ruins left by the rains, have made art therapy with people affected by the floods, graffiti with their own blood and shamanic ceremonies with drums and circles of fire. All this in the midst of many difficulties and always with a friendly and respectful attitude.
As summarized by the artist from Seville Federico Guzmán, who has coordinated the delegation of foreign artists: "Faced with the difficulties, we have learned something very important: the reverence, acceptance and gratitude that we see in every Sahrawi are not resignation, resentment or bitterness to their fate, but active resilience to colonial oppression. The Saharawi colonial conflict is not something alien and distant, but the brutal expression of the capitalist, colonial and patriarchal predation in all our societies. As artists and as people we are together with the Sahrawis in an asymmetric nonviolent struggle for a more livable world."
ARTifariti 2015 was held from November 1st to 10th in the Bojador camp, near Tindouf (Algeria), in the Sahrawi Art School. Before the closure, chaired by the Prime Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Aldelkader Taleb Omar; the young curatorial team of the next edition, the tenth, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the ceasefire between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, has presented its proposal "After the future," appropriating the title of Franco Berardi (Bifo) to generate dialogues with different groups of young Sahrawis and ties that create new ways of reimagining the future after 40 years of resistance.