Beyond Metaphor: Women and War

curated by Katarzyna Falęcka

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Beyond Metaphor: Women and War showcases the work of five contemporary artists who explore women's experiences during the Algerian War of Independence. The war, fought between 1954 and 1962, ended the long French colonial rule in Algeria. As anti-colonial movements multiplied across Africa following the Second World War, women became key figures within struggles for independence.

Histories of decolonization have foregrounded the role of men in challenging European colonial control, and marginalized women's involvement as fighters, nurses, community organizers and educators. In rare instances when women are evoked, they figure merely as symbols of a collective and sacrificial struggle against colonialism, revealing little about how women lived through the war. Not entirely forgotten, but also not fully remembered, women continue to hold a tenuous place within narratives of the war.

This exhibition illuminates this blind spot by showcasing art works that address the heterogeneity of women's experiences during decolonization. Zineb Sedira's video work presents the artist in conversation with her mother, emphasizing oral history as a site of gendered memory transmission. Nadja Makhlouf photographed women veterans who fought for Algeria's independence, pairing these portraits with historical photographs and short biographies. In Kader Attia's video, the artist's relative recalls everyday forms of resistance. Marwa Arsanios confronts the visual trope of the Algerian woman fighter, while Katia Kameli presents us with a visual mosaic that eclipses a fixed national history.

Work by contemporary artists will be shown alongside historical photographs and magazines, offering a glimpse into the war's visual legacies.

Special thanks to Zineb Sedira and kamel mennour, Paris/London; Nadja Makhlouf; Kader Attia; Marwa Arsanios and mor charpentier, Paris; Sophie Cobb; Katia Kameli; and Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisualle de la Défense (ECPAD), Ivry-sur-Seine.
Katarzyna Falęcka is a Lecturer in Art History at Newcastle University, specializing in modern and contemporary art from North Africa. She holds a PhD from University College London and co-leads (together with Jessica Gerschultz and Nadia Jelassi) a program in modern art history at the Centre d'Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT).