States of the Arts



by Amina Menia

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Grarem presents us with a drab stack of grey blocks. This is a stela, a slab of stone that serves a commemorative purpose, but what is being remembered is unclear. Amina Menia’s photograph calls into question the value of this monotonous monument. For the artist, politically charged public displays of this type are misleading and futile, elevating certain events as others are forgotten, inhibiting the ability of Algerian society to move on from events of the past. Her deliberately dull image conveys the object’s limits; it argues that it is useless, worthy of neglect.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou


directed by Yamina Bachir
Feature film

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Rachida captures a period of threat and dread, during which there was a heightened risk of terrorism in Algeria. The film’s opening belies the drama of later scenes, juxtaposing a light-hearted start with the menace that is to follow. The protagonist is initially depicted as confident and empowered: she applies lipstick and enjoys teaching a class. But after becoming the target of a gun attack, Rachida feels imprisoned by the fear of violence. Shamed and blamed for the crimes inflicted upon her, she is left to face the ruin that unjustly takes hold of her life.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

Women of Algiers in Their Apartment

by Assia Djebar
Short story collection

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Assia Djebar’s Women of Algiers is a collection of short stories inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s painting of the same name. Just as that artwork depicts women within a private and confined domestic space, Djebar’s protagonists are limited by the spatial and social boundaries that they are expected to conform to. From the fifties to the late seventies, war with France to independence, Djebar traces the trajectory of liberation for Algerian women. In doing so, the text gives voice to the women that, in the author’s words, society has ‘kept walled in’.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou


by Souad Massi

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For her sixth studio album, Masters of the Word, singer-songwriter Souad Massi set a number of Arabic poems to music, spanning from the sixth century to the present day. The text of ‘Hadari’ was written by Tunisian poet Kacem Chebbi in reaction to the violence of French colonialists, and was adopted almost a century later in chants of the Arab Spring. The track begins with soft acoustic guitar, breaking into an offbeat skank when the cry of ‘Hadari’ first enters. Massi’s vocal delivery is one of defiant optimism, resisting the face of tyranny many times over.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

More to discover

Grarem: You can read about the 'Chrysanthemums' series, from which Grarem is taken, on Amina Menia's website here. Clelia Coussonnet has interviewed the artist for Another Africa, as have Laura Allsop for Ibraaz, and the Folkestone Triennial.

Rachida: You can watch an excerpt here, read an interview with Yamina Bachir by Joan Dupont for The New York Times, and read an article on the film by Carole Corm for Al Jadid Magazine.

Women of Algiers in Their Apartment: You can see an image of the Delacroix painting here, and read a postface to Assia Djebar's collection here, as translated by Marjolijn de Jager. Lucy A. Armstrong has written about the book for the African Writers Trust.

Hadari: You can listen to the song here, read an interview with Souad Massi by Maya Jaggi for The Financial Times, and hear Massi on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

Question of the day

Which Algerian artworks would you recommend, and why?
Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

'Aïcha', a song by Khaled. From near-whispers to impassioned vibrato, the raï vocalist gives is a fitting tribute to the spirited self-respect of its dedicatee. (→)

– Hugh Maloney, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)

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