Writer and representative of Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad [National Liberation Movement of Azawad] (MNLA) Moussa Ag Assarid and artist Jonas Staal present the collaborative project New World Embassy: Azawad, with contributions by documentary filmmakers Rob Schröder and Gabriëlle Provaas.
New World Embassy: Azawad explored 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 the north of Mali, declared by the political and military organization MNLA after an uprising in 2012. Although not recognized by any other state in the world, their claim of independence is an outcome of a lengthy, conflict-ridden struggle with and against the legacy of French colonialism in Africa. Led by the Tuareg, the movement strives toward the realization of the right to self-determination for multiethnic populations including the Fula, Arab, and Songhai peoples from the Western Sahara and north-central Sahel regions. After years of conflict with jihadist groups, the MNLA is currently negotiating the future of their territory with the French mission Operation Serval and the United Nation’s MINUSMA, of which the Dutch army is also a part.
The project included an intervention on BAK’s facade and an interior installation, which functioned as an embassy workspace for Azawadian representatives to establish international relations and seek cultural acknowledgement. At the heart of this endeavor was 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 at 19.00 hrs, Ag Assarid and Staal were joined for discussion at the inauguration of the embassy by political scientist Jolle Demmers (Center for Conflict Studies, Utrecht University); Vice President Mahamadou Djeri Maïga (Transitional Council of the State of Azawad); politician Jasper van Dijk (Socialist Party, Netherlands); independent war journalist Arnold Karskens; and diplomat Jeroen Zandberg (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization), among others.
Moussa Ag Assarid (b. 1975) is a writer, actor, and political representative based in Angers and Kidal.
Jonas Staal (b. 1981) is an artist and PhD researcher based in Rotterdam.
The activities of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst have been made possible by financial support from the City Council of Utrecht and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands. The project Future Vocabularies/Future Collections, realized in collaboration with Centraal Museum, Utrecht, was made possible by the DOEN Foundation, Amsterdam.