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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64<br />

Country-Specific Information<br />

when they approach the government (quoted <strong>in</strong><br />

Gana, 2011).”<br />

The revolution brought a phenomenal outpour<strong>in</strong>g<br />

of creative production: protest poetry was<br />

voiced, rap battles were hosted, graffiti exploded<br />

on city walls, <strong>and</strong> photographers documented<br />

the process, shar<strong>in</strong>g their images via blogs <strong>and</strong><br />

social media. International <strong>in</strong>stitutions supported<br />

this process, largely from the perspective of<br />

encourag<strong>in</strong>g arts as a form of documentation of<br />

human rights defense <strong>and</strong> democracy-build<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

After violent clashes <strong>in</strong> 2013 <strong>–</strong> 2015 put a<br />

halt to cultural activity, the last years have seen a<br />

recrudescence <strong>in</strong> grassroots arts. Clusters of cultural<br />

actors are form<strong>in</strong>g organically <strong>in</strong> Tripoli <strong>and</strong><br />

Benghazi, f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g creative solutions to the vast<br />

problems of lack of <strong>in</strong>frastructure, tra<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g, managerial<br />

capacity <strong>and</strong> restrictions on movement.<br />

Neither of the two provisional governments has<br />

a M<strong>in</strong>istry of Culture, although both have general<br />

authorities for culture. However, neither is<br />

truly <strong>in</strong> touch with the grassroots cultural<br />

scene <strong>and</strong> neither is fund<strong>in</strong>g any major<br />

events or facilities.<br />

The young art scene is therefore<br />

consolidat<strong>in</strong>g itself through a small number<br />

of organizations run by dedicated young<br />

artists, of which Tanarout <strong>in</strong> Benghazi <strong>and</strong><br />

WaraQ <strong>in</strong> Tripoli are the most active <strong>and</strong><br />

visible; support from <strong>in</strong>ternational human<br />

rights organizations; <strong>and</strong> the tireless work<br />

of a small group of figures from the previous<br />

generation, namely Ali Mustafa Ramadan<br />

(founder of The <strong>Art</strong> House <strong>in</strong> Tripoli) <strong>and</strong><br />

Hadia Gana (an artist, founder of the Ali<br />

Gana Foundation <strong>and</strong> Museum). Libyans<br />

liv<strong>in</strong>g abroad, such as Reem Gibreel <strong>in</strong> the<br />

USA, founder of the Arete Foundation,<br />

<strong>and</strong> architect Najlaa el-Ageli, founder of<br />

Noon <strong>Art</strong>s Projects, are also play<strong>in</strong>g an<br />

important role <strong>in</strong> connect<strong>in</strong>g Libya with the<br />

<strong>in</strong>ternational arts scene. Today’s Libyan arts<br />

scene is an <strong>in</strong>credible model of resilience<br />

<strong>and</strong> revival, much of which has been driven<br />

by remarkable solidarity.<br />

—<br />

L<br />

I<br />

B<br />

Y<br />

A<br />

—<br />

—<br />

QUOTE:<br />

« Our history was re-written<br />

under Gaddafi <strong>–</strong> we don’t know<br />

our own history. Not just <strong>in</strong><br />

Libya, but across the whole<br />

Middle East, it’s been<br />

trauma after trauma, s<strong>in</strong>ce the<br />

Ottomans. We need to tackle<br />

this history. [Visual artist]<br />

Takwa [Barnosa] is ask<strong>in</strong>g<br />

what is the legacy of the<br />

Ghaddafi era? The younger<br />

generation didn’t go through<br />

the bra<strong>in</strong>wash<strong>in</strong>g the older<br />

generations did. »<br />

Najlaa El-Ageli<br />

Curator <strong>and</strong> architect, Founder<br />

of Noon <strong>Art</strong>s Projects, Tripoli/<br />

London<br />

—<br />

—<br />


—<br />

<strong>Mobility</strong> to / from Libya has been severely hampered<br />

by the cultural isolationism under Gaddafi<br />

<strong>and</strong> the war s<strong>in</strong>ce 2011, which caused borders to<br />

close, flights to / from Libya to cease <strong>and</strong> foreign<br />

embassies to leave Libyan cities.<br />

The Libyan arts scene is very little known<br />

outside the country. Incom<strong>in</strong>g mobility of cultural<br />

actors to Libya has thus been virtually nil, voided<br />

by lack of knowledge <strong>and</strong> security concerns.<br />

AMA had never received an application<br />

for a mobility project to / from Libya until<br />

2018 (see Ouafa Belgacem quote below). It<br />

should be noted that several cultural actors<br />

<strong>in</strong> neighbour<strong>in</strong>g countries expressed strong<br />

<strong>in</strong>terest <strong>in</strong> know<strong>in</strong>g more about the Libyan<br />

cultural scene, voiced their solidarity with<br />

their Libyan peers <strong>and</strong> expressed the desire<br />

to create bridges.<br />

Today, mobility of Libyan cultural actors is<br />

beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g aga<strong>in</strong>, with exchanges happen<strong>in</strong>g<br />

almost exclusively via Tunisia. Tunisia is one<br />

of the only countries that does not require<br />

visas from Libyan citizens <strong>and</strong> the only flight<br />

connections to / from Tripoli <strong>and</strong> Benghazi<br />

are with Tunis. Moreover, with most foreign<br />

embassies hav<strong>in</strong>g left Tripoli <strong>and</strong> Benghazi,<br />

the closest embassies are <strong>in</strong> Tunis, forc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Libyan travellers to make a stop there <strong>in</strong><br />

order to complete visa procedures.<br />

Libyan citizens are eligible for visa-free<br />

access to Mauritania <strong>and</strong> Algeria, although<br />

Algeria’s border authorities have been reported<br />

to be <strong>in</strong>consistent. Access to Egypt<br />

has become very difficult <strong>in</strong> recent years.<br />

Respondents did not cite any examples of<br />

travels to Morocco.

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