Art, film and visual cultures, French, trauma

“Made in Algeria”: Mapping Layers of Colonial Memory into Contemporary Art

Promotional image for the exhibition “Made in Algeria: Généalogie D’un Territoire” [Genealogy of a Territory] held at Mucem.
Submission by Dr Amy L. Hubbell

Hubbell, Amy. “Made in Algeria: Mapping Layers of Colonial Memory into Contemporary Visual Art.” French Cultural Studies, vol. 29, no. 1, 2018, pp. 8–18.

From January to May 2016, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (known as MuCEM) in Marseille, France hosted an exhibition called “Made in Algeria: Genealogy of a Territory”.

The exhibit proclaimed to be the first large-scale exposition on the Algerian territory and gathered cartographic depictions of Algeria from the earliest European encounters in the fifteenth century to twenty-first century images of an independent culture still bearing colonial remnants, with a goal to show “this long and unique process which was the impossible conquest of Algeria” (MuCEM 3).

ZinebSedira, Série1 – Les terresde mon Père, 2015, sériede 9 photographies. Collection de l’artiste. Courtesy Zineb Sediraet galerieKamelMennour, Paris
© Adagp, Paris 2015

The most recent pieces, notably by artists Zineb Sedira who was born to Algerian parents in France, and Katia Kameli who has a French mother and Algerian father, show layering of colonial memory into contemporary images of the Algerian people and landscape. The exhibit, which in title wants to show the origins of the Algerian territory, is created primarily in France, for a French audience, and is built upon French imagination. By assessing the lines, grids and other marks that are still visibly mapped onto Algeria in the exhibit, this paper explores how what is in name “Made in Algeria” remains heavily marked by France.

Screenshot from ”Les Terresde mon père1.” DailyMotion. 22 November 2016.

The ‘Made in Algeria’ exhibition shows how the French, migrants included, have made their own conception of Algeria across the centuries. Though the exhibition tells a collective story of how France came to understand (and indeed control) Algeria, it also tells an intensely personal story of what remains today for these artists and how multiple layers of history, from colonial rule to the revolution, remain etched upon Algeria.

Keywords: Art; Contemporary Art; Algeria; French; Colonisation; Memory; Africa; Trauma; Africa;

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