By Linda Bournane Engelberth
© Linda Bournane Engelberth / VII
Algiers, Algeria, 2019. The main street of Algiers center is crowded with people; it is Friday, the day Algerians have gathered to protest since February 12. Flags are waving in the wind; there are nearly as many police as protesters. The policemen are standing ready with shields, teargas and batons. Suddenly, the march begins and people are running to the main street from all directions. All groups are represented, ranging from feminists to Islamists, women and men, children and grandparents. They all have one thing in common; the desire for change, and a new government.
Several young men are being arrested. They are screaming as they are dragged across the street. The mood is heated, and many of the young people are seeking trouble. Amongst this, families push their grandmothers in wheelchairs. There are children and parents, all waving in the wind. Several of the older generation experienced the liberation from France in 1962 and believe that Algerian people once again are fighting for freedom. However, this time the anger is directed at their own government, a hated and corrupt regime.
It all started on February 22, 2019, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced he would be running for a fifth term as president of Algeria.
Mr. Bouteflika is 82 years old and he has been president since 1999, but since suffering a stroke in 2013, he has not spoken to the public. After massive protests from the people, Bouteflika pulled back as a candidate on March 11. However, the protests have continued. According to the BBC, the frustration and anger is also aimed at the country’s governing elite—a group of politicians, generals and business people are the people believed to actually be ruling the country. It is also believed that this group is very corrupt.
Every Friday, the country’s population meets outside “La Grande Post”, where the protests begin outside the main square. On Tuesdays, the streets are packed with student demonstrations. They will all continue until there is change in Algeria. The election has already been postponed twice, and the people fear that Mr. Bouteflika will extend his fourth term as president.
In June 2019, Gaid Salah, the commander of the military, announced that the people were not allowed to use the Amazigh/Berber flag in the demonstrations. Large parts of Algeria’s population have Berber origins. The people started to protest, wearing traditional Berber clothes in the march.
There are many women protesting, and in the middle of the crowd is the feminist square, where the feminists meet before they start marching. The feminists are a small and marginalized group in Algeria. The focus of this article is on the interviews with feminists and women in general and what they think about the future.
You can literally feel the energy and hope from the people in the demonstrations, but they are facing limitations when protesting. The crowd is full of undercover police. The government has control, and freedom of the press in Algeria is a complicated issue. If the police think you are from another country, it gets even worse. I, the writer of this article, was arrested after taking a camera out of my bag. After being interrogated at the police station, I was released from police custody, but banned from doing any photography in Algeria.
The only thing that is similar for the different groups in the protest march is that they want change. But the groups in the protest come from different backgrounds. The Islamists are screaming at the feminists, and the feminists shout back. A lady screams, “First, we have to save the country, then we can think of the situation for women later.” But one thing is certain, women and men are fighting side by side. They have all had enough. Has Algeria’s next revolution started? Only time will show us the answer.
View more images from this project here
Linda Bournane Engelberth
Linda Bournane Engelberth is a Norwegian/Algerian artist based in Oslo and Berlin.
On July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty vigils captured the attention of the US and beyond as thousands of people took to the streets to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants. VII photographers were there to witness the powerful vigils. Click here to see what Ed Kashi, Danny Wilcox Frazier, John Stanmeyer, Maggie Steber, Sara Terry, and Nolan Trowe of the VII Mentor Program saw and heard.
From April 11 through June 16, 2019, Museum Hilversum and Ilvy Njiokiktjien will look into the Born-Frees; the generation that was born immediately after the abolition of apartheid in a new and free South Africa. They are considered to be Nelson Mandela’s children. In the multimedia exhibition “Born-Frees – Mandela’s generation of hope,” Njiokiktjien shows how the young people of South Africa are getting on, 25 years after Mandela’s election.
A particularly topical theme, as the new elections will be held in South Africa on May 8, almost 25 years after Mandela took his oath and was sworn in as the first black president of the Republic of South Africa. He laid the foundation for a new democratic South Africa. Since 2011, Njiokiktjien has been following the Born-Frees, who have had access to equal opportunities for the first time in the history of South Africa. Njiokiktjien’s goal she set for herself is to capture this unique generation through imagery.
In her visual research, Njiokiktjien pays attention to the range of cultures and religions and to the differences in social, economic and cultural principles; her work shows that the life, the views, the possibilities and the ambitions of the Born-Frees differ greatly. There are young people who have defined their own careers and achieved a great deal. This is how a creative class of fashion designers, designers, dancers, and theater makers emerged. On one hand, these young people are successful, but on the other, like their parents, they are faced with unemployment, poverty, and inequality. Njiokiktjien portrays this in a personal and sometimes intimate way.
“Personal experience is the starting point in the exhibition,” says museum director Stef van Breugel. “Ilvy Njiokiktjien poignantly captures the essence. Through photography and film, the visitor can identify with the Born-Free generation and the layering of the exhibition has made the new arrangement in recent South Africa tangible.”
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