Wind, Sand and Stars

by Linda Bournane Engelberth

I am a Norwegian/Algerian artist raised in Norway by my Norwegian mother, and without knowing my Algerian father and his family. I have always been curious about my other country of origin. As a teenager I finally made contact with my father and more recently, my wider family in Algeria. When my Berber grandmother turned 100, she wrote me a letter so that I wouldn't forget about my father's homeland. This project is an attempt to research my own identity as a western woman investigating this foreignness that makes up half my bloodline.

As a stranger, with a feeling of being on the outside, I have walked the streets of Algiers trying to connect. I have documented everything from the city to the life of my family. I have been interested in the smaller details: street signs in Arabic, a cactus growing through the fence and people in the streets. These photos are attempts to absorb the nuances of life in Algiers. They are my first steps into a culture that feels like it should be part of me, but which I do not yet know.

Algiers, Algeria. I lie awake in the night, the intense warmth keeps me away from much needed sleep. My nightgown sticks to my body, my breath is slow, I run a hand along the wall and its deep crevices, all that should be familiar is unknown. I try to imagine my grandmother running her hands against these walls, these details she knew so well, perhaps she made these markings herself, one day when she was young and in love and pushed the bed against the doorway so no one could enter. I am trying to live another woman’s life, smell the scents she smelled, imagine that the etchings in the wall represent my own life lived. But they are not. No matter how much I pretend that this is my life, this is my life, this is my life...it is not.

As I walk slowly out of the airport, I see them smiling at me, I smile back. We pretend to know each other; we pretend that this situation is a perfectly normal one. Lynda takes my luggage to her car, we don’t speak the same language. The car drives away slowly, eventually landing us right into the busy traffic. I open the window and try to take in the smells; such an unfamiliar scent, the scent of a land I know nothing of.

This is an ongoing project.

Linda Bournane Engelberth

Linda Bournane Engelberth is a Norwegian/Algerian artist based in Oslo and Berlin.

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