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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14<br />

Introduction<br />

Arab identity was re<strong>in</strong>forced at the time of decolonization,<br />

with pan-Arabism becom<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

“ideological l<strong>in</strong>gua franca” across the region<br />

<strong>and</strong> the Middle East (El Amrani, 2011). Part<br />

<strong>and</strong> parcel of this process was the gloss<strong>in</strong>g<br />

over <strong>and</strong> erasure of the multiplicity of cultural,<br />

l<strong>in</strong>guistic <strong>and</strong> ethnic identities with<strong>in</strong> the<br />

various nation states, with marg<strong>in</strong>alization<br />

of Amazigh heritage, language <strong>and</strong> culture as well<br />

as those of Black <strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>and</strong> communities.<br />

Amazigh resistance movements have obta<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

some recognition at state level, with Algeria<br />

redef<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g itself as an “Arab, Berber, Muslim”<br />

nation <strong>and</strong> Morocco recogniz<strong>in</strong>g Amazigh as an<br />

official language <strong>in</strong> 2011. <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>ns’ “<strong>Africa</strong>n”<br />

identity has been more complex to unearth <strong>and</strong><br />

foreground.<br />

<strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>’s “separateness” is often justified<br />

by the presence of the Sahara desert, largely<br />

on the basis of conceptions of the desert as an<br />

“empty space” by European geographers <strong>and</strong><br />

explorers <strong>and</strong> thus as an <strong>in</strong>visible border separat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the cont<strong>in</strong>ent. <strong>Art</strong>ists <strong>and</strong> <strong>in</strong>tellectuals have<br />

contested this idea, not<strong>in</strong>g its correlation with<br />

colonial <strong>and</strong> contemporary geopolitical agendas<br />

<strong>and</strong> rem<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g us that the Sahara has been<br />

a space of advanced political <strong>and</strong> social<br />

organization, hospitality, trade <strong>and</strong> cultural<br />

exchange for centuries. Indeed, trade routes<br />

have traversed its expanse, l<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g cities<br />

<strong>and</strong> civilizations to the <strong>North</strong> <strong>and</strong> South as<br />

well as those with<strong>in</strong> it.<br />

There is also a push to revive <strong>and</strong> nurture<br />

the pan-<strong>Africa</strong>nist energies, <strong>in</strong>tellectual<br />

productions <strong>and</strong> artistic connections that<br />

were developed <strong>in</strong> the 1950s <strong>and</strong> 60s. Notably,<br />

Algeria hosted the first Pan-<strong>Africa</strong>n<br />

festival of 1969. This thrust of pan-<strong>Africa</strong>nist<br />

unity collapsed due to a number of factors,<br />

both <strong>in</strong>ternal <strong>and</strong> external to the cont<strong>in</strong>ent.<br />

Connections between <strong>North</strong> <strong>and</strong> South are<br />

now play<strong>in</strong>g out <strong>in</strong> the economic sphere,<br />

with Morocco mak<strong>in</strong>g important overtures<br />

—<br />

QUOTE:<br />

« There is an assumption<br />

that the Maghreb is<br />

someth<strong>in</strong>g somewhere<br />

else than <strong>in</strong> <strong>Africa</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

even that Egypt is an<br />

archaeological isl<strong>and</strong> off<br />

the coast of American<br />

universities. »<br />

Koyo Kouoh<br />

Chief curator of Zeitz<br />

Museum of Contemporary<br />

<strong>Africa</strong>n <strong>Art</strong>, Cape Town/<br />

former executive director<br />

of RAW Material Company<br />

Dakar<br />

Quote from Open<strong>in</strong>g Remarks<br />

at 1:54 art fair, 2017<br />

—<br />

to other <strong>Africa</strong>n nations <strong>in</strong> the areas of foreign<br />

<strong>in</strong>vestment <strong>and</strong> trade; Algeria has been follow<strong>in</strong>g<br />

suit. How do art <strong>and</strong> cultural production<br />

participate or not <strong>in</strong> connect<strong>in</strong>g <strong>North</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

South today?<br />

—<br />



—<br />

Contemporary regionalization has created<br />

further boundaries with<strong>in</strong> <strong>and</strong> outside <strong>North</strong><br />

<strong>Africa</strong>. On the largest scale, <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong> is<br />

often grouped with the Middle East under<br />

the acronym MENA, or else is subsumed as<br />

a space with<strong>in</strong> the Arab World. These terms<br />

are used <strong>in</strong> politics, academia, bus<strong>in</strong>ess <strong>and</strong><br />

media, by <strong>in</strong>ternational organizations such<br />

as the World Bank <strong>and</strong> the United Nations,<br />

as well as by most <strong>in</strong>ternational development<br />

organizations. Egypt occupies a unique status<br />

with<strong>in</strong> this space, due to its position<strong>in</strong>g at the<br />

h<strong>in</strong>ge between the <strong>Africa</strong>n cont<strong>in</strong>ent <strong>and</strong> the<br />

Middle East.<br />

With<strong>in</strong> <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>, regionalization operates<br />

ma<strong>in</strong>ly at two levels: first, at the<br />

level of the Maghreb; <strong>and</strong> secondly, at<br />

the level of the (Euro-)Mediterranean<br />

space. The Maghreb connects Morocco,<br />

Algeria, Tunisia, Libya <strong>and</strong> Mauritania.<br />

The unify<strong>in</strong>g factor is ma<strong>in</strong>ly cultural, with<br />

the countries shar<strong>in</strong>g Amazigh heritage.<br />

Shared colonial histories <strong>and</strong> resultant<br />

l<strong>in</strong>guistic commonality also b<strong>in</strong>d Tunisia,<br />

Morocco <strong>and</strong> Algeria. The Maghreb’s<br />

geopolitical <strong>and</strong> economic identity was<br />

formalized with the 1989 formation of<br />

the Arab Maghreb Union. However, the<br />

union rema<strong>in</strong>s largely <strong>in</strong>active due to<br />

endur<strong>in</strong>g tensions between Morocco<br />

<strong>and</strong> Algeria over Western Sahara.<br />

The regionalization of the Euro-Mediterranean<br />

was formalized <strong>in</strong> 2008<br />

at the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean.<br />

Its aim is to re<strong>in</strong>force the

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