the land of dreams for young artists
Many people have expressed their views on the Sahara. Few know intimately the reality of its topography and geography.
“How can we consider this forgotten territory or this forgotten territory? reflected the philosopher Maïa Hawad. With the artistic curators of the General Stores (in Pantin, in the Paris suburbs), Anna Labouze and Keimis Henni, Hawad designed the resulting exhibition “Hotel Sahara”, which is open until October 2 as part of the Africa cultural season. 2020.
“Studied mainly from its margins or at a distance from Europe, the history of the Sahara has long been peripheral to the history of the continent,” writes Hawad. “Most of the research in this area is done exogenously; therefore from the outside.
How to speak of the Sahara when one remains confined to its edge? While most of its territories are officially off-limits to travelers, which means that their movements are determined by default …
This realization explains Hawad’s idea for this original creative project. Ten young artists, from seven countries partly crossed by the Sahara, took part in a one-week residency at the gates of the desert, in the region of M’Hamid El Ghizlane, in the south-east of Morocco.
It was there that they began to design the exhibition, in a tourist location at the gates of this vast territory which stretches over 5,000 km from east to west and represents nearly 30% of the continent’s surface.
“How can we speak of the Sahara when we remain confined to its edge? While most of its territories are officially off-limits to travelers, which means their movements are determined by default? This hidden and partial access was at the heart of our reflections during the residency, ”explain the curators.
Oasis and nomadic views
The result? A curious exhibition that explores the fantasies that the Sahara nourishes more than the Sahara itself. “What is examined here is a relationship in absence and all that this invokes, between estrangement, effacement and exoticism.
The guest artists – Alex Ayed, Tewa Barnosa, Salim Bayri, Tayeb Bayri, Hiba Elgizouli, Famakan Magassa, Sara Sadik, Ahmed Serour, Hanin Tarek, Ismail Zaidy – all have diverse and plural creative practices. ‘Hotel Sahara’ includes videos, paintings, sound installations, photographs and sculptures.
Presented in the same space at the General Stores, the creations intertwine, collide and resonate in a chaos that reflects the various perceptions that we can have of the desert. It feels like a hotel, with its passing travelers, its doors that open, its ephemeral stories … Some images open onto emblematic sandy landscapes, others let music filter through, others are obscured by light sails.
It takes a little while to feel comfortable in the unknown world that artists have created. But it doesn’t take long to realize that the Sahara is in danger of slipping away, even for those who usually frequent its margins.
Thus, everyone will pick up a few grains of golden sand, sit in the shade of an oasis, experience nomadic glimpses. In this way, they will escape the age-old clichés about life in the Sahara.
The Malian Famakan Magassa dared to create gigantic paintings – we think of a baroque version of “La Danse” by Matisse – and his work refers to Takamba, a musical genre and dance practiced by both the Songhai and the Tuareg, au- beyond the borders decided by colonization.
The French artist Sara Sadik has opted for a video installation (“The power”) based on Snapchat films of two young French of Moroccan origin who have returned home. It explores their pride of identity… but also reveals the gulf that separates them from their country of origin, and even more from the Sahara.
More conceptual, the Egyptian designer and couturier Ahmed Serour has created a series of fake fossils of everyday objects – bottle opener, plastic bottles – to form the installation ‘Eroded Traces’, which questions the reality of the stories around the Egyptian oasis of Siwa.
The stories of homosexual practices between seasonal agricultural workers on the outskirts of this oasis have indeed fueled a whole imagination and given rise to many fantasies for international tourists in search of a gay orientalist paradise.
“In his work, Ahmed Serour creates traces that do not exist, set off in search of erased memories, of pre-colonial histories which remain inaccessible while the front door remains that of exotic fantasy, ”write the curators.
This is perhaps the ultimate paradox of this exhibition entitled “Hotel Sahara”: you will not find the desert, you will only hear the distorted echoes of all the stories it produces.