In her book, Tamzali writes about the need to go beyond pure pride in the existence of film culture and creation in Algeria to assessing the current standards of filmmaking and how to improve upon them.
The book, in turn, references Merzak Allouache’s film Omar Gatlato, which was released fourteen years after the end of the Algerian War and was regarded as a call for a paradigmatic shift among young Algerians in pursuit of intellectual freedom from the stranglehold of former French colonialism.
Thus, the exhibition’s title is a reference to the need for Algerians to reflect on the development of freedom, artistic and otherwise, in a postcolonial era still heavily ensnared by French cultural influence and collectively affected by their history of French occupation which they are still processing.
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According to Alexander Alberro, a professor of art history at Columbia’s Barnard College who wrote a brief introduction in the exhibition catalogue, it is the first survey of Algerian art in the United States. It is a believable claim: Rarely are Algerian artists exhibited in American institutions in group shows, and cultural and academic ties between the United States and Algeria are limited.
Even in the Middle East, Algerian artists are rarely exhibited. Some modernist Algerian artists, such as Mohammed Khadda, M’hamed Issiakhem and Baya, have entered the canon of modern Arab art, but arguably, some contemporary Algerian artists are more generally known and exhibited simply because they live outside of the country and therefore connected to other artists, curators and collectors, such as the artists Djamel Tatah and Kader Attia, both of whom live and show in France. (See two related articles, “The Artist Kader Attia Mocks Colonial History, then Heals Its Effects” and “A ‘Horizon of Infinity’: The Promise of Arab Abstract Art.”)