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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48<br />

Country-Specific Information<br />

described as folkloric. Public <strong>in</strong>stitutions <strong>and</strong><br />

facilities <strong>in</strong>herited from the colonial period have<br />

<strong>in</strong> large part deteriorated <strong>and</strong> few new ones have<br />

been built. Moreover, <strong>in</strong>frastructures for culture<br />

are strongly centralized <strong>in</strong> Algiers, with f<strong>in</strong>anc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

for rural areas dependent largely on personal<br />

connections. Algeria has not yet ratified the 2005<br />

UNESCO Convention on the Protection <strong>and</strong> Promotion<br />

of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions<br />

(Kessab, 2015).<br />

Accord<strong>in</strong>g to MedCulture’s 2015 report,<br />

cultural <strong>and</strong> artistic associations received only<br />

0.2% of the annual budget for culture (Kessab,<br />

2015). Associations have been subject to tight<br />

<strong>and</strong> confus<strong>in</strong>g legislation that limits the freedom<br />

to associate, operate <strong>and</strong> receive fund<strong>in</strong>g (see<br />

Impediments below). Accord<strong>in</strong>g to Freedom<br />

House (2018), “Algeria is one of the most difficult<br />

environments <strong>in</strong> the world to establish <strong>and</strong> operate<br />

a bus<strong>in</strong>ess.” There is a very limited culture<br />

of sponsorship <strong>and</strong> patronage.<br />

Despite the restrictions on its existence,<br />

the <strong>in</strong>dependent cultural sector is flourish<strong>in</strong>g <strong>and</strong><br />

affirm<strong>in</strong>g its presence with verve <strong>and</strong> energy. The<br />

visual arts have been particularly active, with a<br />

number of <strong>in</strong>dependent spaces <strong>and</strong> <strong>in</strong>itiatives<br />

burgeon<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> the last ten years. Censorship,<br />

lack of facilities <strong>and</strong> f<strong>in</strong>anc<strong>in</strong>g have muzzled the<br />

perform<strong>in</strong>g arts, but artists have stayed active <strong>and</strong><br />

are express<strong>in</strong>g themselves <strong>in</strong> today’s waves of<br />

popular demonstration. There is a strong awareness<br />

<strong>and</strong> hope that the future of the country can<br />

be written by Algeria’s creatives.<br />

—<br />


—<br />

Algeria’s creative sector has been marked by<br />

isolation, largely a factor of the political unrest <strong>in</strong><br />

the 1990s, lack of structur<strong>in</strong>g (described above)<br />

<strong>and</strong> lack of state support for <strong>in</strong>ternational exchange.<br />

Algeria is very weakly represented <strong>in</strong><br />

AMA’s statistics, with a total of 20 applications<br />

from Algeria <strong>and</strong> 8 for projects tak<strong>in</strong>g place <strong>in</strong><br />

the country s<strong>in</strong>ce 2005.<br />

—<br />

A<br />

L<br />

G<br />

E<br />

R<br />

I<br />

A<br />

—<br />

—<br />

QUOTE:<br />

« What’s amaz<strong>in</strong>g [about this moment,]<br />

is that the <strong>in</strong>dependent cultural scene is<br />

tak<strong>in</strong>g up space <strong>and</strong> ga<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> credibility<br />

with the public with small <strong>in</strong>itiatives here<br />

<strong>and</strong> there. If we can structure our work <strong>in</strong><br />

such a way that it’s susta<strong>in</strong>able, we’ll easily<br />

succeed <strong>in</strong> tak<strong>in</strong>g the lead over the state<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutions. People have expressed their<br />

need for freedom <strong>and</strong> hope. That gives<br />

us space to act. It’s now possible for us<br />

to channel this energy <strong>and</strong> to offer<br />

someth<strong>in</strong>g other than the violence we’ve<br />

always known. »<br />

Myriam Amroun<br />

Cultural project manager, Algiers*<br />

—<br />

More generally speak<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>in</strong>ternational<br />

travel to / from Algeria is a factor of the large size<br />

of the territory, expensive air connections <strong>and</strong><br />

a fairly restrictive visa policy. Most <strong>in</strong>ternational<br />

travel cont<strong>in</strong>ues to be with Europe, dom<strong>in</strong>ated<br />

by France <strong>in</strong> light of the ties connect<strong>in</strong>g the two<br />

countries: the large Algerian population <strong>in</strong> France,<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ued presence of French <strong>in</strong>stitutions <strong>in</strong><br />

Algeria, <strong>and</strong> the relatively low cost of travel.<br />

Faced with these limitations but also<br />

compelled to discover <strong>and</strong> appropriate their<br />

own country, a number of artists have been purposefully<br />

seek<strong>in</strong>g to develop mobility projects<br />

with<strong>in</strong> Algeria. The size of the country alone<br />

makes travel from <strong>North</strong> to South a potential<br />

adventure. Moreover, the diversity of cultures<br />

with<strong>in</strong> the country has been a subject of <strong>in</strong>terest,<br />

even open<strong>in</strong>g up curiosity <strong>and</strong> desire to travel<br />

further afield to <strong>Africa</strong>. In the words of musician<br />

Sadek Bouz<strong>in</strong>ou (of Democratoz): “Algeria is a<br />


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