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Art Moves Africa – Retracing Roots and Tracing New Routes: Mobility and Touring in North Africa

A study by Lara Bourdin for Art Moves Africa, October 2019

A study by Lara Bourdin for Art Moves Africa, October 2019

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13<br />

Introduction<br />

—<br />

1. 3.1 NORTH AFRICA<br />

AS A<br />

CULTURAL SPACE<br />

—<br />

This report addresses mobility <strong>in</strong> a<br />

region broadly designated as “<strong>North</strong><br />

<strong>Africa</strong>,” all the while recogniz<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

<strong>in</strong>stability of the term <strong>and</strong> the complexity<br />

of the realities it purports to<br />

encapsulate. Indeed, “<strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>” as<br />

a geopolitical entity is largely the product<br />

of divisions <strong>in</strong>stituted by <strong>in</strong>ternational<br />

organizations along boundaries<br />

established by colonial powers. These divisions<br />

are upheld to this day by organizations such as<br />

the <strong>Africa</strong>n Union <strong>and</strong> the United Nations, albeit<br />

with vary<strong>in</strong>g boundaries. They are also upheld <strong>in</strong><br />

everyday conversation, conceptions of identity,<br />

cultural products <strong>and</strong> events.<br />

1. 3<br />

Socio-political<br />

<strong>and</strong> historical<br />

context<br />

As a cultural <strong>and</strong> l<strong>in</strong>guistic space, <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong><br />

is def<strong>in</strong>ed by a number of factors. First, the<br />

heritage of the Amazighen (or Berbers), who are<br />

the first <strong>in</strong>habitants of present-day Morocco,<br />

Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, northern Mali<br />

<strong>and</strong> Niger as well as western Egypt. The region<br />

is also bound by the sweep of Arabization <strong>and</strong><br />

Islamization, which took place between roughly<br />

600 <strong>and</strong> 1000 A.D. F<strong>in</strong>ally, the present-day countries<br />

of <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong> share a common history of<br />

Ottoman conquest (except Morocco, Mauritania<br />

<strong>and</strong> Western Sahara) <strong>and</strong> 19 th - <strong>and</strong> 20th-century<br />

European colonialism, with Morocco, Tunisia,<br />

Algeria <strong>and</strong> Mauritania hav<strong>in</strong>g been under French<br />

rule; Libya under Italian rule; <strong>and</strong> Egypt be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

occupied as a British protectorate from 1882<br />

to 1952.<br />

—<br />

QUOTE:<br />

« Every time I want to get fund<strong>in</strong>g for a project,<br />

I need to declare if I’m <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>n or<br />

Southern <strong>Africa</strong>n; Christian or Muslim;<br />

Anglo or Franco. We’re be<strong>in</strong>g boxed <strong>in</strong>to<br />

spaces where we have to f<strong>in</strong>d ourselves with<strong>in</strong><br />

a s<strong>in</strong>gle identity. To successfully fill out that<br />

form, you have to do away with the multilayered-ness<br />

<strong>and</strong> complexity of that identity. Who<br />

says I have to choose? Why can’t I be both? »<br />

Jihan El-Tahri<br />

Filmmaker, Cairo / Berl<strong>in</strong>.<br />

Quote from Keynote speech<br />

at 1:54 contemporary art fair <strong>in</strong> Marrakech, 2017.<br />

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