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Photo Exhibition - KAHINA: Art, Action, and Research

Kahina is a participatory social action and research project that addresses social inequality and ethnic coexistence in the Districts IV and V of Melilla City. It is funded by the Instituto de las Culturas de Melilla, and is realised by a team of researchers, artists and audiovisual technicians who collaborate with the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology of the University of Cologne. Among its key members are the social anthropologists Francesco Bondanini and Prof. Dr. Michaela Pelican of the University of Cologne.

Melilla is a Spanish city on the north coast of Morocco. Historically, it has been a center of trade and commerce, connecting North and West Africa with Europe. Today, it is a busy port city and part of a special low tax zone that attracts tourists as well as business people. Moreover, Melilla is a popular transit destination for migrants from Africa and beyond who wish to enter Europe. Its border zone is highly secured by a tall fence surrounding the city. At the same time, many Moroccons live in the city or cross the border on a daily basis to work or shop. Besides the constant flux of visitors and migrants, the city’s population comprises Spanish people of Rif Berber background, Spaniards from the Spanish mainland, as well as a Jewish and a Hindu minority. While in public representation, Melilla has been praised as an example of multiculturalism and religious tolerance, there have also been indications of social tension and conflict in the less privileged suburbs, the so-called Districts IV and V.

It is here that the Kahina project has its focus, as it engages with the population groups based in Melilla’s outskirts, their strategies of addressing social inequa-lity, civic exclusion and public (mis) representation. The project entails two related goals: On the one hand, it includes an ethnographic study of the districts’ social composition, the modalities of coexistence and possible areas of conflict. On the other, it aims at providing the suburbs’ inhabitants with useful instruments to participate in the life of the city, reduce negative stereotypes, and promote their visibility and social inclusion.

Kahina is both an academic and artistic project. It pursues a participatory approach inspired by the idea of transforming the urban experience through arts and audiovisual media.

Its methods include artistic interventions (such as radio/video/painting workshops, exhibitions, theatre performances, redesigning of public spaces) so as to engender public attention and to critically reflect on how to address social inequalities and ethnic stereotypes, as well as how to actively integrate the people of the suburbs in the city’s public life.

The exhibition showed the projects led by Kahina within the last year.

At the opening on 17 November 2014, Francesco Bondandini, Prof. Dr. Michaela Pelican (University of Cologne), Fernando Belmonte Montalbán (Instituto de las Culturas de Melilla) and Fatima Mesaud (artist-journalist) presented the project and answered questions.

The cooperation and the photo exhibition on the news on TV Melilla:, min. 1:32:10-1:37:35h, min. 09:00-16:40h

The exhibition was accompanied by the panel discussion Melilla: on the border of Africa and Europe? on 18 November 2014 at Klosterstr. 79b, University of Cologne.

For more information about the project, please have a look at: