Candid conversations with artists, curators, and cultural leaders
The opening of the exhibition Waiting for Omar Gatlato: Contemporary Art from Algeria and its Diaspora in New York provided an opportunity for the Wallach Art Gallery to conduct interviews with the exhibition curator and participating artists. What emerged from these discussions is a model for how to think through the continuing decolonization of art in an Algerian context.
Natasha Marie Llorens is a Franco-American independent curator and writer. Recent curatorial projects include Waiting for Omar Gatlato: A Survey of Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora at the Wallach Art Gallery.
Amina Menia’s work questions the relation between architectural and historical spaces, and challenges conventional notions around the exhibition space.
Fethi Sahraoui belongs to a generation with unprecedented access to visual media, both materials for its production, like high quality phone cameras, and a wealth of references from film and fine-art photography easily accessible online.
TIMELINE OF ALGERIAN POLITCAL EVENTS:
1830 – France officially colonizes Algeria, marking the end of three centuries of Ottoman rule. Armed resistance persists throughout the colonial period.
1954–62 – The Algerian War of Independence is fought between the French military forces and the National Liberation Front (FLN), which simultaneously launches an international campaign for diplomatic recognition by the United Nations.
1962 – The Evian Accords are signed, formalizing Algerian independence from France.
1976 – President Houari Boumedienne passes the National Charter after extensive public debate, confirming Algeria’s commitment to socialism, establishing Islam as the state religion, and limiting the political field to a single party, the FLN.
1986 – Oil and gas prices plunge as a result of the global oil crisis, contributing to a spike in inflation and unemployment. A wave of strikes and violent demonstrations sweeps the country.
1988 – In protest of the worsening economic conditions, the Black October riots occur. Many hundreds are killed.
1991 – The fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) wins an overwhelming number of seats in the first round of general elections and appears poised to win the second round—and, with it, control of the government.
1992 – President Chadli Bendjedid is forced by the army to resign, a state of emergency is declared, and the FIS is banned at the national, regional, and local levels. An Islamist coalition movement is born, inaugurating a decade of violent conflict between the military government and Islamist groups. This period is referred to within Algeria as the Black Decade and outside of Algeria as the Algerian Civil War.
1999 – President Abdelaziz Bouteflika calls a national referendum on the Civil Concord Law, which passes with a landslide, pardoning thousands of members of the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) and other armed Islamist groups. Violence continues for several years in some regions of the country, perpetrated by those opposed to the law.
2003 – The leader and deputy of the FIS, Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj, respectively, are released from prison after twelve years.
2004 – President Bouteflika wins reelection in a landslide victory.
2011 – Major protests in response to economic conditions and unemployment force the government to cut prices on basic necessities. Bouteflika responds to protestors’ demands by lifting the now nineteen-year-old state of emergency.
2013 – President Bouteflika suffers a stroke and is hospitalized in France for three months. He will rarely speak in public after this event.
2014 – President Bouteflika runs for a fourth presidential term and wins in an election that is condemned by the opposition.
2019 – Nationwide protests force President Bouteflika to drop his bid for a fifth term and resign on account of his physical incapacity to rule and a general perception of the current regime as nepotistic and corrupt. Abdelkader Bensalah is appointed interim president, though protests continue into the summer. These demonstrations mark the largest and longest presence of the Algerian population in their own streets since independence.