1 January–31 December 2016
Project group Necessità dei volti
Selections from a provisional archive
9 December - 23 December 2016
(Opening: 8 December 2016, 19h)
A dialogical procedure
10 December 2016 10 - 17h
For more than three decades, the occupation of Western Sahara has helped destabilize North Africa and fundamentally challenged the norms of international order. Despite all the motive causes for war in the modern era being present in the conflict—colonialism, decolonization, nationalism, self-determination, justice, great power ambitions, geopolitical gamesmanship, failed diplomacy, and natural resource exploitation—Western Sahara remains marginal to world affairs, a textbook case of forgotten conflict.
In this work the Necessità dei volti working group (aka informal collective on Western Sahara) has consistently explored the question of why, for all its importance, one of the world’s longest unresolved conflicts remains invisible. Over the course of 2016, the group has conducted research and reflected on its long history working on Western Sahara. On December 8 the group will open its display of a selection of research material and group-made publications in the nGbK exhibition space. Two days later, on December 10, the Necessità dei volti working group has organized a public dialogue with five invited guests, to be held at nGbK’s first floor event space. You are cordially invited to join in reflecting on the Western Sahara conflict and the group’s activities in an encounter structured with active participation in mind.
Beginning in 1976, the Polisario Front, the resistance movement of the Saharawi people, fought a fifteen-year war against Morocco after the Western Sahara’s northern neighbor invaded this former Spanish colony. During this period the Polisario collected many thousands of personal photographs from the Moroccan soldiers it faced in battle. In the late 1990s, the Polisario put this collection at the disposal of a group of Italian and Saharawi activists. In 1999 this informal collective began working with a selection of 483 photographs from this collection, using an open-ended form of discussion the group terms encounters, whose purpose was and remains to establish connections between the situation of Western Sahara and the quotidian existence of encounter participants. The photographs were assembled in a book entitled Necessità dei volti (The Necessity of Faces), for use at these meetings. The collective produced an edition of twenty copies to give to individuals committed to the Saharawi cause, also donating copies to institutions such as Beirut’s Arab Image Foundation and the Kandinsky Library at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. On its recent trip to the Saharawi refugee camps in southwest Algeria, a further copy was donated to the Saharawi National Resistance Museum, the place where the photographs were originally encountered. Altogether, the collective has held some 300 encounters in private homes, theater spaces, abandoned buildings and art institutions, and has also generated an abundance of printed matter and visual material over their 19-year history. Their work is premised on treating encounters and other activities not as a form of art or activism but an extension of the gesture of the Polisario, who by preserving these photographs and resolving to return them to the soldiers’ families once the conflict ends, have suspended the customary logic organizing military antagonisms.
Saturday 10 December 2016, 10-17h
Public Encounter: A dialogical procedure
In the event space, 1st floor
A dialogical procedure takes an experimental and collaborative approach to addressing the Western Sahara conflict and the questions surrounding the archive the informal collective works with. The group has elected to structure its program as follows. A private conversation between the working group and its invited guests—who represent a wide variety of practices, discourses, and subject positions—will precede the public dialogue on December 10. This initial meeting will serve as a ground for the ensuing public conversation.
Zeina Arida, Director, Sursock Museum, founding director, Arab Image Foundation
Ghalia Djimi, human rights activist and Vice president of Sahrawi the Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State, Western Sahara occupied territories
Erik Hagen, founder, Western Sahara Resource Watch
Dr. Sonja Hegasy, Vice Director Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), researcher on the state, public sphere and civil society in Morocco
Jan Kopp, Artist and member of the collective Suspended Spaces