New World Embassy: Azawad
9 September 2014
BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, The Netherlands
New World Embassy: Azawad explores the intersection of art, theory, and activism through the proposition of temporarily instituting an operational embassy as an extraterritorial space of representation, negotiation, and international exchange. Azawad is a stateless state in northern Africa, declared independent from Mali by the political and military National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA) during the uprising of 2012. Although not recognized by any other state in the world, their claim of independence is the outcome of a lengthy, conflict-ridden struggle with and against the legacy of French colonialism in Africa. Led by Kel Tamasheq (Tuareg), the movement strives toward the realization of the right to self-determination for the multiethnic population of the Western Sahara and north-central Sahel regions, including the Fula, Arab, and Songhai peoples. After years of conflict with jihadist groups, the MNLA is currently negotiating the future of their country with the French mission Operation Serval and the United Nation’s MINUSMA, in which the Dutch army also takes part.
The New World Embassy: Azawad includes an intervention on BAK’s facade and an interior installation, which functions as an embassy workspace for Azawadian representatives to establish international relations and seek cultural acknowledgement. At the heart of this endeavor is the conviction that the state as a cultural expression precedes the state as an administrative and military structure. A stateless state is maintained through language, poetry, music, and literature, as well as through visual signs and imagery. It is art that carries the history of a people, and with it, the promise of a new world.
On 9 September 2014, Moussa Ag Assarid and Staal were joined at the inauguration of the embassy by Fathi Ben Khalifa of the World Amazigh Congress; political scientist Jolle Demmers (Center for Conflict Studies, Utrecht University); politician Jasper van Dijk (Socialist Party, the Netherlands); war journalist Arnold Karskens; and diplomat Jeroen Zandberg (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).