Algerian Culture


The evolution of literary and artistic expression

  • Following Independence, new cultural elite surfaced in various fields as Algeria asserted its cultural and creative vibrancy. Its movies, literature and music, to name only these fundamental fields of activity gained a national and at times international audience. Some works even created quite a stir: Mohamed Lakdhar-Hamina’s “Chronicle of the Years of Embers” (Chronique des années de braises) received the Golden Palm for best film at the Cannes film festival in 1975 while Mohammed Dib and Assia Djebar joined the ranks of potential Nobel-prize winners.

  • There is something about the air and the sky in Algeria that has always inspired artist from prehistoric to contemporary times. As early as 10,000 years ago, it inspired the rock paintings of the Hoggar Mountains in the far south. These were a blend of Berber and Black African art. The stylized representations of people and animals depicted by these paintings are reminiscent of modern art in a breathtaking time warp.

  • In the 19th and early 20th centuries a new world and a different civilization was discovered, offering a new vision. Foreigners, who visited Algeria, have always been fascinated by it. It aroused enthusiasm and envy and it inspired conquests and occupations.

  • Algeria‘s literature

  • Algeria‘s literary scene is known for its richness, vibrancy, and linguistic variety, as the market offers publications in Arabic, French, and Amazigh. Algerian literature has shone through the works of world-renowned authors and distinguished writers such as Kateb Yacine (1929-1989), Mouloud Feraoun (1913-1962), Mouloud Mammeri (1917-1989), Mohammed Dib (1920-2003), Assia Djebbar (1936-2015), Rachid Mimouni (1945-1995), Tahar Djaout (1954-1993), Rachid Boudjedra, and many others, who penned their works in the French language.

  • Algerian literature expressed in the Arabic language equally varied and popular, thanks to such prize-winning authors, poets or other great scholars of the Arabic language and culture as Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883) himself, Malek Bennabi (1905-1973), Moufdi Zakaria (1908-1977), Tahar Ouettar (1936-2010), Abdelhamid Benhadouga, Ouassini Laaradj, Ahlam Mosteghanemi, and many others.

  • Amazigh literature is fast growing and gaining in popularity, thanks to such classics as the works of Mohand M‘Hand and other more contemporary writers.

  • Popular poetry is also a source of great interest and wide expansion, given the variety of styles it offers, including Kabyle poetry, Southern Algeria poetry known as „Melhoon“, and poetry styles typical of arid and high-plateaus areas. Popular poetry is also the source of popular styles of music, including world-renowned Raï music.

  • Algeria : A Source of Inspira tio n for Pai nters

  • In the quest of the Orient and its mysteries, its sun and particular light, artists have visited every corner of the Near East or of North Africa.

  • There is something about the air and the sky in Algeria that has always inspired artists from prehistoric to contemporary times. As early as 10,000 years ago it inspired the rock paintings of the Hoggar Mountains in the far south. These were a blend of Berber and Black African art. The stylized representations of people and animals depicted by these paintings are reminiscent of modern art in a breathtaking time warp.

  • In the 19th and early 20th centuries a new world and a different civilization was discovered offering a new vision. Foreigners who visited Algeria have always been fascinated by it. It aroused enthusiasm and envy and it inspired conquests and occupations. But many peaceful and sincere artists also came armed only with pencils and brushes. Several hundred painters from every corner of the globe drew from this endless source of inspiration to immortalize the „tremendous diversity of sites and ambiance.“

  • French artists-reporters of the „conquest“ era, from Horace Vemet to Raffet, and more inquisitive and neutral ones from Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain discovered a stupendous country. Through their studies, water paintings, engravings and paintings of a scientific or documentary nature, William Wyld, Adolph Otth and Weidenmann revealed to the world the Algerian shores and the Sahel.

  • Orientalist paintings in Algeria provide another remarkable illustration of the universality of its art. European techniques inspired by Algerian scenery have brought forth a form of art specific to our country. It was Matisse who said: „Revelation came to me from the Orient“ by which he meant Algeria. The stunning revelation of Delacroix‘s „Women of Algiers“ (Femmes d‘Alger) in 1832 precedes masters such as Chasseriau, Fromentin and Chataud who would later make Algeria a preferred land for painters. In the 1860‘s some of them undertook a study of the south and the nomads. Others, seeking authenticity and freedom, would commit fully, such as Dinet who converted to Islam, or Verschafelt who married an Islamic woman. Both of them settled in Bousaada and painted everyday Algerian life. Bousaada and Biskra were true oases, which welcomed French, British and American orientalist painters such as Bridgeman, Thericat, Muller and Lord Weeks-Edvin. In their works one discovers the enchanting natural light, the space, the fantasy, the dances and bright colors of both the Mediterranean shores and the Ksours bordering the desert immensity.

  • Many artists have used their poetic sensibility to pay tribute to the capital city of El Djezair and the Algerian landscape. For example, Eugene Fromentin described and painted „the great mystery and the faded charm“ of this natural environment and its architectural treasures. Also we should not forget the eerie enchantment created by the Casbah and the Algerian port that inspired so many artists: Jules Magy and his seascape on exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts of Algiers; Pouilliard, Caillet and the American Bridgeman who, among others, painted several canvases representing this Mediterranean city, then referred to as the „well protected.“ Italian artists were seduced by the mild climate of Tlemcen, Annaba and Bejaia, while English artists preferred Algiers.

  • From 1907, the „Villa Adeltif,“ an Algerian „Medici“ villa, played host to French artists, year after year, until 1960. It was visited by Cauvy, Carre, Bouviolle, De Buzon, Bouchaud, and Hambourg. After the Second World War European painters still found Algeria fascinating, but orientalist painting tinged with the exotic overtones of former years went out of fashion. Emerging artistic trends were reflected in a very different manner, as brilliantly demonstrated by Dubuffet, a pioneer of crude art, in his painting entitled „Peindre en Arabe.“

  • With artists such as Abdelhalim HEMCHEB, Azouaou MAMMERI, and later Mohamed BOUZID, Bachir YELLES and Ali KHODJA, Algerian paintings of occidental inspiration were quite remarkable, well before Independence. Moreover, thanks to the Racims, Algerian miniature and illuminated art forms developed at an accelerating rate. One must point out the role played by Mohamed Racim in preserving Algerian authentic values. His school suddenly expanded with artists such as Mohamed Temmam, Mohamed Ranem, and Hamminouna as well as new generations of artists who drew inspiration and techniques from this art form.

  • The figurative trend also owes a debt to older artists. Each in their own way, Racim and Dinet have greatly influenced this artistic movement that reflected Algerian traditions, social values and daily life. Baya and Benaboura are representatives of this so-called „naive“ painting, which mirrors the Algerian spirit. Zmirli, Samson, Abdoun and many others also adopted this expression of stunning freshness and simplicity.