Here we see a collaboration between the Swiss architect Manuel Herz and the national union of Sahrawi women, a collective of artists based in southwestern Algeria.
Due to the onset of a war in Western Sahara, the Sahrawi people were forced to move to Southern Algeria, and for the most part, have been living there self-sufficiently since 1975. What we're looking at is one of the first representations made by the Sahrawi people of the Rabuni camp, a refugee camp that has been in existence for nearly 40 years. While recognized in a sense, the government in exile of the Sahrawi people maintains an uneasy relationship with the Algerian nation.
Once individuals enter into a refugee camp, we have this condition that I’d like to call permanent impermanency. Refugees are forced to confront the notion that they may never, ever get back home. And so the construction of home, the construction of their own governance is quite important.
This is woven on a very, very large loom by up to 10 women at a time, using yarn that comes from over 1,100 miles away. And what we are seeing here is a form of representing but also preserving a cultural tradition of weaving among the Sahrawi people. If you take a look at the wall label, you’ll see the names of all of the women involved in making this work.