Algerian New Feminine Creation
Ghania Khelifi - 14/03/2009
Samia Merzoug : I play with colour
Seven years ago, Samia Merzoug shed her skin. First, a change of look; no more make up, and simple and comfortable clothes. The young girl who had just finished her training as an aesthetician and make up artist in Paris, decided to throw it all away and start up with ceramics. “I knew that being an aesthetician wasn’t my future. Since I was a child I liked drawing and I always looked for a way of turning it into a job. One day a friend of mine proposed me to work in a ceramics workshop which was “lacking” a decorator. So I painted motifs on pottery for three years. This is how I learned this craft but it was getting boring. I had ideas that I wanted to develop by myself. So I decided to take the risk and create my own objects”. Her parents let her use the family garage and her sister, who graduated in Fine Arts, gave her a hand. Samia was then free to use her imagination. “I had a period in which I used flashy colours then I started using darker hues, brown and ochre colours. Later on, I understood that I needed to listen to the workpiece, as it’s often the piece that decides its own colour and design. I have fun with colours during the glazing part. You can get great surprises sometimes! According to my inspiration I use other materials on the clay, like wood, nails, metal and even grains of rice! The function of the object never dictates its aspect.” Samia named her workshop “Soupçon d’Art” (a Hint of Art), because “It isn’t an art workshop after all!” and it is getting well-known both by private customers and entrepreneurs. In big commissions, objects are never really identical because “it’s difficult to reproduce the same piece, you’re always improving it or modifying it”. Samia never speaks of money or payoffs but of her future creations since, “she still has to go a long way to know everything about ceramics”. However, by now she knows everything about the difficulty of imposing herself as an artist in a field where people still believe it takes the strength of a man to turn the pottery wheel. Samia shows us her wheel “I turn it very well! And so do other women”. The kid the family used to call the “Devil’s advocate” in the family is now forced, as a grown up, to play “naïve” to meet her needs: “with the clay importers and the suppliers of other materials I almost have to act dumb to get what I want. It’s bothering to see a young woman who has her hands in the clay and who knows what she’s talking about”. Samia belongs to a family of determined people. Her older sister went on a hunger strike for several days to convince her parents to send her to the Fine Arts school. After a long moment of silence she says as if noticing it for the first time, “After all, this job causes some deceptions but a lot of happiness.
Nabila Metni: nothing is better than a book
Nabila is not what you would usually call a creator, though she has the imagination and the talent to be such. She writes and publishes children’s books because she wants them to have “beautiful works with beautiful contents” in their hands. “My books are made of shapes and colours, I am a reading militant” declares Nabila, “I run reading workshops and reading sessions for children. They’re free of course. Although people keep saying that in the era of Internet children aren’t interested in books anymore I keep on believing that there’s nothing like a book to feel, to hold against your heart, to sleep with. Monitors are odourless and cold!” A graduate in psychology, Nabila worked for seven years as school psychologist for public education. She was then sent to the national centre of educational documents. Is it the average quality of school manuals, the disrepair of the few libraries that spurned her? Perhaps it’s a bit of everything. Assisted by her family, especially her father who works in the printing business, she created her own publishing house. She opened her door to young authors and multiplied the initiatives to support children’s books. She dreams of reducing the books’ prices to make them accessible to everyone. Her face lights up under the veil as she waves her hands frantically to back her words. Nabila is a passionate woman who never gives up. “The aim is definitely worth the pain. Children are pure energy, they’re a clear world like mountain water. So I hang on”. She adds laughing “my mother wanted me to remain a civil servant and to get married. My father always supported me even though he knows that publishing and printing are a man’s world. It doesn’t scare me, I’m ready to make other sacrifices as long as I can work for and with children”.
Adila’s metal and fabric chair is quite a strange object. It’s too beautiful and elegant to be reduced to the mere definition of chair. The concept is simple, it can be stacked, easily de-assembled and the cushions in various colours can be swapped. A graduate in Fine Arts, Adila, aged 27, defines herself as a creator of shapes. She just finished preparing her participation to the Biennial for young creators in Europe and the Mediterranean in May in Italy. This is not her first exhibit abroad and she is present in all exhibitions in Algeria. Present everywhere, she’s working hard on the decorations of a children’s show. Artistic creation, it must be said, has always run in the family. Adila’s parents are interior designers and her grand-father a painter, studied with Etienne Dinet. This environment has allowed this young artist to open out far from social constraints. “We talk a lot at home” she confirms, “we don’t let ourselves be influenced by the considerations on gender differences. I believe we have to impose ourselves, stand out for our ideas, because artistically it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, the only limits are lack of talent and imagination”. Adila apparently seems to have the matter in hand. Her boyfriend, who works with computers, follows his lively mate who drags him to all exhibitions, though he keeps repeating that looking at paintings and sculptures “bores him”. Though she declares herself apolitical, she would like to see more women empowered and especially see artists obtain more possibilities. As for many other creators in Algeria, she regrets the rareness of materials and qualified handiwork for the finishing works to give life to objects.