Abdo Shanan

2017 - Ongoing

Algeria; France

“In one cubic meter of Algerian soil you can find the blood of Phoenicians,

Berbers, Carthaginians, Arabs, Turks, Romans, French, Maltese, Spanish,

Jewish, Italian, Yugoslav, Cuban, Corsicans, Vietnamese, Angolan,

Russian, Pied Noir, Harki… this is the big family of the Oranges.”

-Aziz Chouaki

I was born in Algeria to a Sudanese father and Algerian mother. When I was

9 we moved to Libya where I spent 18 years of my life convincing myself

that I was Algerian, while my father kept trying to convince me that I was

only Sudanese. In 2009, at the age of 28, I decided to make Algeria my

home and it was then that I realized that I’m not only Algerian, but I’m

Sudanese and Libyan as well. I’m all three of these nationalities, and none

of them at the same time. Living in Algeria I began to feel like I was an

island in the middle of a society with which I didn’t have as much in

common as I thought I did.

How is it possible for an island to exist in the middle of an ocean? Is it

because the island’s dry soil is strong enough to impose itself against the

ocean, or is it that the merciful ocean tolerates the existence of the island?

Maybe it is a relationship of compromise where both sides slightly

renounce their claims in order to co-exist.

I’m interested in how particular environments can influence our identity.

Dry is not just about me. It’s also about many other “islands” I’ve met like

me. Like Eze whom the city of Oran was a home for him , he always referred

to himself as Oranese when asked where is he from , few months ago he was

departed by Algerian security forces to Nigeria through the desert; or

Lamia, who left Algeria for France at age 6, but visited each summer until

she became a woman, and her relationship with society became more

complex, and so she stopped coming; or M’mmar who has lived in France

for 45 years and when I asked him if he would come live in Algeria he said

he couldn’t because it was tough, but that he wanted to die and be buried in

Algeria…” because it is good to die there” .

With Dry, I want to make you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and even guilty. I

want you to doubt what you’ve been told about who and what is Algerian

and I want you to question the idea of nationality, even your own

nationality, for what is nationality anyway ?

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