Algeria, art of resistance, Tunisia

North African Stories: Tunis & Algeria in 1950s.

I just stumbled upon George Rodger’s photos from Algeria in 1957 & Tunis in 1958. They are a part of Magnum’s North African Stories, Then & Now.

As they’ve described it on Magnum Photos Blog:

“Rodger’s work encapsulates Mid-20th Century photojournalistic practice, combining a spirit of adventure and ambition to objectively observe. In the 1940s and ‘50s Africa was still a continent relatively new to the medium of photography. Rodger first travelled there during the war following troop movements in Libya and Eritrea. In the foreword to his book, Desert Journey (1944), he writes: “the book is more a saga of travel than a chronicle of war. In it I make no pretence at analysis – no attempt to comment on the strategy of the various campaigns, to criticize the past or foretell the future. I write only of what I saw”. His photographs share a similar ambition, to report accurately and without exaggeration what was happening in front of him.”

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tumblr_n1f17zQMBI1rouua1o9_r1_500all photos © Magnum Photos

For more on this story, go to Magnum Photos.

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Algeria, art of resistance

Rachid Taha – live and alive.

Rachid Taha is a legend.

It’s a simple sentence that carries a lot of weight. But – nothing to worry about, Taha can carry it easily. He’s 56, but yesterday, at his concert here in Zagreb, it seemed like he’s not getting close to being old anytime soon. It was more than 2 hours of great performance, both by him and his band. The energy, the mixture of styles, the transformation, the vividness of the souk – everything Taha is famous for – was there.

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Taha was born in Algeria, and moved with his parents to France when he was 10 years old. That was the beginning of the modern slavery for him and his family. They worked a lot, were payed little, and were never fully accepted – being Algerians in France. In the late 1970s, Taha founded the nightclub called The Rejects or, in French, Les Refoulés, where he would spin mashups of Arabic pop classics over Led ZeppelinBo Diddley and Kraftwerk backbeats. In the 1980s he was the lead vocalist for the Arab-language rock group which they named Carte de Sejour, meaning Green Card or Residence Permit. Taha was loud, he was a rebel, he had a message.

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These were difficult years since record stores often refused to stock their records “because they didn’t want Arabs coming in to their shops.” There was little money; the band performed in suburbs of LyonsTaha took a standard patriotic French song entitled Sweet France (in French: Douce France) which had originally been recorded by Charles Trenet in the 1940s, kept the lyrics, but sang it with “furious irony” which irritated many French listeners, particularly coming from a “scruffy, bohemian-looking Arabic singer,” to the point where Taha’s version was banned from French radio. Taha’s version was an act of protest against discrimination and racism. It’s like he’s screaming – we belong here too, we have the right to be here too.

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Taha started his solo career in 1989, he evolved, started to play more – using many traditonal instruments, mixing it up with rock, punk, reggae, and electronica sounds. He still used his songwriting to talk about the life in exile, life in France – the racism, the rejection, the misunderstandings. He had to cope with anti-Arab sentiment and confusion; for example, the New York Times stated in a front-page story that Taha was Egyptian rather than Algerian, but later posted a correction. 

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Taha’s breakthrough album as a solo artist was his bestseller Diwân, featuring remakes of songs from Algerian and Arab traditions. The album featured traditional instruments like the oud but with a contemporary veneer of programmed percussion and samples added in. One of his great hits is the cover of  The Clash song Rock the Casbah which he retitled with the Arabic name of Rock El Casbah. Many dare to say it’s one of those rare covers taht are better than the original. Yesterday, when the song started – the crowd just went wild. It is just so powerful hearing Taha sing it. 

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The crowd at the concert was as versatile as Taha’s music – from old school punk to belly dancers. It was a chaos, but a good chaos. People enjoying powerful beats, too sweet for this life – habibi ballads, angry rebel screams, simply put – the fusion of life, the fusion of Taha. His charisma keeps on uniting people – and what a great accomplishment that is for a man who truly knows how it is to be excluded. 

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I highly recommend Taha’s new album, Zoom, and, well – all of his music. It’s a journey, one so relevant individually but also globally, because Taha can touch your heart with a love song and get you to fuck up the system (capitalism/fascism) in another. All in all – it was and is an honor, mr. Taha!

IMG_1648all photos © Ivana Peric/Middle East Revised

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Algeria, tea + food, travel

Constantine, Algeria: The dramatic City of Bridges.

Constantine is the capital of the Constantine Province in north-eastern Algeria. There are many museums and important historical sites around the city (one of the most beautiful is the Palais du Bey, in the casbah). The city is often referred to as the “City of Bridges” due to the numerous picturesque bridges connecting the mountains the city is built on. Being framed by a deep ravine, the city has a dramatic appearance and it’s quite possible you’ll end up enchanted quickly.

Here are some photos, enjoy.

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Untitled-24all photos ©Abdouldjalil Djarri/Brownbook

Brownbook has a a very good photo story 24Hours in Constantine, so be sure to check it out for more photos and info.

 

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Algeria, travel

A colorful flashback at Ghardaïa, Algeria.

Ghardaïa  is the capital city of Ghardaïa Province, Algeria. Unfortunately, the city is lately known for violent clashes and issues such as drug trafficking, but it hasn’t always been like that.

Ghardaïa is part of a pentapolis, a hilltop city amongst four others, built almost a thousand years ago in the M’Zab valley.  The area was inscribed under the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982.

Distinctive white, pink, and red houses, made of sand, clay and gypsum impressed the visitors for a long time – even Simone de Beauvoir couldn’t resist its beauty – in her 1963 book, La force des choses, she escribed Ghardaïa as “a Cubist painting beautifully constructed”.

Here are some photos to prove her point.

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Algeria, travel

Oran, Algeria: Where Camus was bored to death and reborn in beauty.

First time I ever heard about Oran was when I was around 14, reading Camus. He was inspired by it, loved it, hated it. For him, it was the capital of boredom,it was ugly, it was beautiful,  it was the sight of freedom, the healing sea.

Throughout the years, I learned much more about the city. It’s the second largest city in Algeria, its history is full of different rulers and influences, and that’s very much obvious in the city’s architecture and diverse lifestyles. The word Oran derives from the Berber root hr’ meaning lion.

In the movie Casablanca, the route for refugees fleeing to the Americas was Paris to Marseille, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, auto or foot to Casablanca. If they were lucky enough to get an exit visa, they went on to Lisbon from there.

That’s all for cute little facts. I’ll let the photos speak, together with some of my favourite Camus + Oran quotes.

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“Everyone agreed that, considering their somewhat extraordinary character, they were out of place there. For its ordinariness is what first strikes one about the town of Oran.”

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“In Oran, as elsewhere, for want of time and thought, people have to love one another without knowing it.”

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“capital of boredom besieged by innocence and beauty”

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“It seems that the people of Oran are like that friend of Flaubert who, on the point of death, casting a last glance at the irreplaceable earth, exclaimed: “Close the window, it’s too beautiful.”

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“This Hell of the present is his kingdom at last.”

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For more photos and info, visit:

virtualtourist

travel&adventures

Oran in Colour 

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