ArtsAction Group is excited to return to ARTifariti this year. Teaming up with the Shared Roots Project, a creation of Terrence Ross at Adelphi University, we will work with interested families to create profiles of an ancestor - using words, videos, or any other art form. Our team will help families organize their memories, photos, objects and more into a celebration of their ancestor.
These stories and images will be uploaded to SharedRoots.net, to be seen by people around the world. As Enas Elmohand, a member of ArtsAction Group puts it, "history runs like a brook through the rich forest of time, negligent of the songs of individual birds." ArtsAction Group and the Shared Roots project will work with the Sahrawi community to add the songs of their ancestors to the recorded symphony of our collective history.
Interested people and families should contact organizers for the ARTifariti festival and/or come to the festival to share your stories. For those of you not attending the festival, Shared Roots is open to all for posting stories of our ancestors. Check it out and add your story!
We've just returned from Woodstock, NY after the opening of our first ArtsAction Group exhibition in the US. We had lots of folks coming through the gallery, viewing the work, and asking questions about our work. On exhibition were several large scale body maps created by children and youth from Kosovo and the Brentwood Residential Center (which is a facility for girls involved in the juvenile justice system). We also had photographs documenting 6 years of our work, in Kosovo and last year's projects in the Western Sahrawi refugee camps, as well as a viewing of a film illustrating our work in both of these communities, as well as animations created at Fellbach-Haus this past spring.
A special thanks to Beth Humphrey, artist and arts educator, who facilitated this installation. We look forward to growing the partnership with students and teachers in that region of NY State as well as connecting them, through the arts, to the Kosovar and Western Sahrawi communities.
We are directing people's attention to an article by Samia Errazzouki, a Moroccan-American writer and researcher. She recounts her experiences going to what the Western Sahrawis refer to as the Wall of Shame - a militarized sand berm built and guarded by the Moroccan military - during her visit to the Sahrawi refugee camps to attend the FiSahara, an international film festival. The sand wall is approximately 2,700 km long and is heavily mined. Thanks to Sandblast for sharing Part 1 of Errazzouki's story which can be found at Jadaliyya, an independent ezine produced by ASI (Arab Studies Institute), the umbrella organization that produces Arab Studies Journal, Tadween Publishing, FAMA, and Quilting Point..
Artist Federico Guzmán' Participates in the The International Biennial of Contemporary Art Foundation of Cartagena de Indias: #1 Cartagena
By Cindy Maguire
Federico is one of our partners in art and social justice work! We met Fico through his collaborative work with the Western Sahrawi refugee camp communities in SW Algeria. We also team up with him through our arts and human rights courses at Adelphi University. His work in #1 Cartagena is a beautiful reflection of his artistic talent and commitment to justice.
#1: Cartagena is an issue-oriented project with works spread throughout the historic district. #1: Cartagena reflects on the cultural traditions of the people, the history and the deep connections to the colonial past, as well as encompassing literature, cinema, music, dance and crafts. The Biennial focuses on the idea of presence in its multitude of meanings, conveying how the past continues with us in the present.
Enas Elmohands, member of Arts Action Group, teaches students at Calhoun High School on Long Island, NY about the Moroccan government's occupation of the Western Sahara and the consequential refugee situation in Algeria. Calhoun High School has dedicated programming addressing human rights issues. Enas worked with Adelphi faculty member Diana Feige on this project.
Enas and another Adelphi student, Tyra Busigo presented to small groups of students on different pressing human rights abuses, including human trafficking and what's going on in the Western Sahara. In Enas's group a range of issues were covered including the history, geography, human rights violations, as well as the role of women in the camps. It's news to most people that women and men have equal rights and women take on leadership roles across the camps and in the diaspora. The role of arts and culture to push back against the human rights abuses was illustrated through the work of the ARTifariti festival. Early in the conflict between the Moroccan government and Western Sahrawi community, violent protests were the norm. Over time, the community has moved away from violent protests to working with arts and culture as a 'weapon' to fight the oppression as well as to raise global consciousness regarding this situation. The culminating activity was for each student group to share their human rights issue with their peers as well as to find some way of taking action in support of human rights for Western Sahara.
Finding ways of fostering human rights for all is a multifaceted endeavor, both large and small. Engaging youth in these issues is critical to imagining future worlds with less discrimination and more opportunities.
ArtsAction Group has just returned from Camp Boujdour, Western Sahara as participants in ARTifariti: International Art Encounters in the Western Sahara. Members who traveled to Camp Boujdour, about an hour outside of Tindouf, Algeria, were Enas Elmohands, Emma Exley, Cindy Maguire and Rob McCallum. The focus of ARTifariti 2013 was the creation of the Sahrawi Art School located in Camp Boujdour, in the Sahrawi refugee camps. The new school is "an open and participative learning space for the Sahrawi community in the camps." and works with an understanding of the arts as a form of personal expression, resistance and transformation in response to the human rights abuses by the Moroccan government in the occupied zones. ArtsAction Group is a signatory on a manifesto that outlines a range of supports we and other universities and cultural organizations from around the world will provide in solidarity with the community.
As part of the festival we introduced PackH2o, an innovative solution to water transportation and storage that relieves physical burden and protects against contamination. The Ministry of Water and Environments of *SADR with the support of ArtsAction Group and PackH2o, are conducting a needs assessment for a future roll out. Two of the packs were silkscreened by Sahara Libre Wear and featured in the ARTifariti fashion show!
ArtsAction Group held two arts workshops for children at the local primary school. The first workshop was for the students' to share their stories about water through drawings and a large scale collaborative mural. We shared a water story mural created by a group of students from the Allen-Stevenson School in New York City with the Sahrawi students. In this part of the world water, as one student put it, is the gift of life, as problems with access and quality are a ongoing and growing concern for the camps. For the second workshop balloons were introduced as a medium for creating sculptural headdresses. One of our aims was to introduce the students to art making with non-traditional materials, incorporating skill-building activities through directed play. After much laughter, experimentation and popping of too many balloons the group came up with beautiful, fanciful head dresses. Children were spotted wearing their headdresses throughout the camp center later that evening.
We are deeply moved by the experience and the hospitality extended by ARTifariti and the entire Sahrawi community. More updates and sharing of the project will be forthcoming! Stay tuned.
*ARTifariti is a project of the Ministry of Culture of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic SADR and the Association of Friendship with the Saharawi people of Seville AAPSS.
We will be using this space to comment and post projects, activities and conversations about our work.