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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Introducing Algeria to the UK

Documenting the struggle and plight of real people affected by political and economic conditions.

Exterior shot of the Cornerhouse in Manchester
1,300 visitors attended the exhibition preview at Cornerhouse, Manchester.

Manchester's cultural sector has a long heritage of exhibiting works by African artists and artists of African origin, but the exhibition 'New Cartographies: Algeria-France-UK' at Cornerhouse, Manchester in 2011 was the first of its kind to focus explicitly on the significance of Africa's largest country and its historical and contemporary links with both France and the UK.

The research-backed exhibition "New Cartographies" brought together the work by ten emerging and established contemporary artists to explore Africa's largest country and highlight its complex relationship with Europe. The event enabled collaboration between those artists and visits by Algeria-based artists to the UK to network with fellow artists, informing their own practice, and gaining international exposure for their work.

Using a variety of media - video, maps, photographs of the disappeared, documentary photography and installation - this exhibition facilitated civic and cross-cultural awareness by informing debates on colonial and post-colonial politics and culture, mapping out relations between Europe and Algeria, delving into the country's troubled history and exploring the issues of diaspora, migration, memory and identity.

Visitors were asked to reflect not just on the legacy of a particular colonial relationship, but also on the broader and equally urgent questions of how contemporary Europe understands and envisions its relationship to the places beyond its frontiers, and how artists in Algeria are responding to this.

Interior shot of an art gallery
The exhibition ran from 8 April - 5 June 2011 and attracted 14,649 visitors.

Our research

The exhibition formed a key output of the research project 'France-Algeria: Visualising a (Post-) Colonial Relationship' which sought to examine the visual economy of France and Algeria since 1954.

  • Each of Cornerhouse's three galleries was dedicated to one of the key themes that our research identified within the shared visual economy of both countries: journeys, resources and memories.
  • Images have played a crucial role in mediating the understanding of colonial and postcolonial relations between the two countries.
  • Our choice of participating artists (both established and emerging) and of works for exhibition therefore sought to illuminate these issues for the wider public, facilitated by incorporation of specific works analysed within the research project: Zineddine Bessaï's H-OUT: The Immigration Guide (2010); Zineb Sedira's Gardiennes d'images (2010) and Katia Kameli's Dissolution (2009).

Lead academics

  • Dr Joseph McGonagle (The University of Manchester)
  • Dr Edward Welch (The University of Aberdeen)