ASAD FAULWELL: Les Femmes d’Alger

My work is focused on issues of colonization, faith, power and gender relations through an examination of the political history of the post-colonial Middle East. Specifically, I am currently engaged in a series of mixed media paintings focused on Algerian women who actively engaged in combat during the Algerian War of Independence. These women were all either killed in battle or captured by the French and subjected to imprisonment and torture. After Algerian Independence was gained these women were pardoned by Charles De Gaulle and returned to Algeria. Upon returning to day-to-day life many of them became social outcasts, considered an oddity and an affront to conservative Islamic teachings. Some of them moved to France others stayed in Algeria and fought for women’s rights. I find this subject matter especially compelling because while it focuses on gender relations in conservative cultures it also focuses on the food chain of colonization. Algerian men spent decades fighting in the French Army hoping to gain independence by proving their worth, as these women did in the Algerian resistance. However, when independence was gained the Algerian male community forgot about these women much in the same way that the French forgot about the Algerian soldiers who fought in WW1 and WW2. Through several small and large-scale mixed media paintings of these women, I attempt to shed light on this moment in history and its compelling connection to the socio-political status of the current Middle East/North Africa region. The title of the works comes from Delacroix’s and Picasso’s Orientalist paintings of Algerian women. While those paintings dealt with anonymous Algerian women in Orientalist scenes my work deals with specific female freedom fighters.

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