Take Your Place – A Summer At Algiers
by Amina Zoubir
In Algeria, men and women live more and more separately in public spaces. They do not interact much outside their homes and very often, women are not welcome in public spaces. More and more spaces are becoming – unofficially or officially – reserved for men. I want to question the absence of women in public spaces. I perform actions within these spaces with my camera and impose my feminine presence into the man’s world. In these six short sequences, I worked with the image and sound as an allegory of the separation of women and men in the Algerian urban public space.
1/ I thought that performing Hitist was reserved for men
In Algeria, a Hitist (someone leaning against a wall) has become a social status to describe all the men, unemployed and bored who do nothing but chatting all day long with friends on the sideways in front of their building. We would never see a woman with a friend ‘hiting.’ My action was to do the hitist with a friend of mine; chatting, messing around in a residential neighborhood at Algiers. As these walls against which these bored boys lean against, I too dared to lean on them, challenging the eyes of those who pass by.
2/ I wanted to try straightening my hair at a mens barbershop
The people of Algiers frequently go to the barbershop as one would visit a psychiatrist. Why are most of the hairdressers in Algiers unisex? Should we not use this pampering time to chat with the other gender? By entering a barbershop and asking to blow dry my hair, I was able to impose my body in such places that are meant to be for men.
3/ I dream of swimming like a mermaid dressed in a djeba [long dress with colorful patterns]
The beaches used to be for everyone in Algiers. Men and women would come to the sea with their family and friends. However, fewer women dare to be in a swimming costume on a beach where more young men like to hang around on their own on the side rocks of beaches. Women are not welcome on these rocks. I decided to bathe on the rocks of Algier beaches, but had to dress in a djeba covering my whole body to be able to swim. I dream of swimming like a mermaid dressed in a djeba.
4/ I will dress men in lace
I have noticed that many lingerie vendors are bearded men in Algiers. This is quiet puzzling to me. What can be a conversation between a Salafist shopkeeper and a woman when they talk about lingerie? My action was to sell underwear for men trying to dress them in lace as they do with women.
5/ I will invite Algerian women to the Moorish cafe
Some cafes in Algiers are exclusively reserved for men, as is the tradition at the Moorish Cafe. During this episode I went with a bench allowing women to sit at the Moorish cafe at Algiers, ordering coffee and tea with other women.
6/ I view wedding like a soccer game
A wedding at Algiers tells a lot about men and women’s relationships and of the woman’s status. While weddings are for Algerian women, football matches are reserved for men, a source for entertainment. To conclude the series on A Summer in Algiers, I reversed the roles and commented on a unique soccer match. I set up a football game with the official Algerian female soccer team including young Algerians who can be their sons. I recorded and commented about the day of the game as a performative action because usually the journalist doing the commenting is a man.
Amina Zoubir is a visual artist and curator who lives and works between Paris and Algiers. She has a Master’s in Theory & Practice of Contemporary Art and New Media from the Université Paris 8 and a DESA in Graphic Design from the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Algiers. She is currently pursuing her Phd research at the AIAC laboratory (art of images, contemporary art) at Université Paris 8. Her videos and photographs question the notions of the language of the female body and its projection in urban spaces in the Arab world. Her works have been exhibited at the 13th Biennial of Young European and Mediterranean Artists in Bari, Italy and the 30th Biennial of Contemporary Art in Pontevedra, Spain. Zoubir has also curated several exhibitions including, La scène algérienne at the Hospice Saint Charles, at Rosny-sur-Seine in 2013 and Video killed the radio star at the e.Bannwarth Gallery, Paris, 2012.
All Images were provided by the artist, taken from the web documentary Un été à Algers (A Summer in Algiers) 2012, produced by Narrative and Une chambre à soi, of which Amina Zoubir directed the six performance actions. Watch the documentary A SUMMER AT ALGIERS (Making Off)
This work was submitted by Amina Zoubir on 16 March 2014.