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Western Sahara, Tifariti, Tindouf

First dumping in Algiers with the supporters of  USMA’s club.

Algeria Impressions

Spectacles like last years World Cup soccer qualifier between long time rivals Algeria and Egypt and the Pan African Arts festival street parade catalyze a vent, a release and outlet to the years of social upheaval, devastating civil war with country, cities, communities, families fractured by the specter of suspicion and fear. The exposure of another or the other facet of the faces of this place gives the camera, the artist a rare insight to the possibilities, in unguarded moments like these, of a people constrained by history, culture, religion and post traumatic stress. It’s as if everybody was waiting for a reason to be openly happy. The passion and fanaticism that soccer brings and the desire to win just this once, just for today, offer a rare window into this world .The claustrophobia of history given a window to these folks, a moment of exposure.

Tindouf region of south western Algeria

The Western Sahara/Saharawi saga is sometimes referred to as Africa’s Last Colonial struggle. After Spanish decolonization in 1975 neighbouring Morocco invaded the territory resulting in a military confrontation with Front Polisario, the exiled political wing of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). In the ensuing battle a significant portion of the indigenous Saharawi fled to Algerian refuge in Tindouf region of south western Algeria where today 165,000 people live in hopeless exile. An International Court of Justice ruling in 1975 in favour of Saharawi self determination has to date been ignored by Morocco.
The Footsak ball rolls over the dunes to these bleak settlements and discovers the indomitable women of the camps who, since settling here as refugees, play the vital role of custodians and innovators of traditional, social and political issues. This situation, which contradicts traditional perceptions of Islamic paternalism, was brought about by the fact that the large majority of the men are soldiers protecting the territory won during the war and called the Liberated Zone.
The ball rolls past the landscape of refugee camps, tents, precarious adobe brick and mud structures, goats in makeshift pens and focuses on the colorfully clad elegant Saharwi women negotiating their way through this desolate landscape. Through the National Union of Saharawi Women we explore the lives and activities of these malfa clad women paying particular attention to the grace, rhythm, beauty,composure and dignity. Strong narratives, classical Arabic poetry and Saharawi sountracks give further insight into their courageous struggle. We folllow the women to a protest at the the berm, the 2800 km wall constructed by the Moroccans which divides liberated Western Sahara from the occupied territory, a disturbing scenario for the ball given the recent celebration of the fall of the Berlin wall.