The exhibition “Algiers, Archipelago of Freedoms” links different revolutionary periods from the African continent’s past and present. It brings together more than fifteen artists, whose reflections draw on memories of African struggles and recounts revolutionary paths from iconic to little-known stories which have forged personal and collective narratives, both historical and fictional.
Its starting point is Algiers, and more broadly Algeria, which has seen two periods in its history synonymous with the drive for the emancipation of peoples: the postcolonial period of the 1970s, when different revolutionary movements from African countries, Europe and the Americas were drawn to Algiers; and more recently, in 2019, when an unexpected national revolt was stirred up, known as the “Revolution of Smiles” for its pacifist nature.
Algiers is only a recent example of what Africa is experiencing in terms of the drive for social and political change. Following the example of independence and revolutionary movements that emerged in Africa in the 1950s—which furthermore found refuge in Algiers—since 2011, endogenous revolutions and revolts are being witnessed, led by a new generation; in them, the virtual sphere and social movements accompany the reappropriation of public space, streets and squares. They are striving for individual and collective freedoms, political reforms, better social and working conditions—and in particular call for a change of regime, an end to corruption and injustice. While the revolutions of the past decade do not bear the ideology of an African union, they nevertheless align with those of the 1950s in terms of the drive for the emancipation of peoples.
We are seeking to understand what has been animating possibility and reality in recent decades on the continent of Africa, which “to this day remains the sole place capable of listening to the world”. It is the land where anything can happen, including, and above all, an encounter of elsewheres, a common future, an Afropolitanism that finally reveals the failure of universalism and offers a new perspective. Long a land of departures, Africa is the continent of diaspora, of displacements both desired and, oftentimes, forced; there is no other continent that can so strongly affirm that it “is of the world”, an identity that turns it into a place of confessions. Africa is the space of listening. It is an enormous parlor, visited and revisited for confessions of colonial dreams, fears and at times, fantasies. Amidst the commotion of those speaking, Africa is waiting to be heard.
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