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.
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