The Remarkable Artists and Activists of the Western Sahara

WESTERN SAHARA BANNER


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For Life Is Waiting, we were privileged to speak with an amazing collection of artists and activists fighting for a free Western Sahara. Below are a few of the great people featured in the film.


  • Mahmud Bahia Awah is a poet and founding member of Generación de la Amistad Saharaui (Sahrawi Friendship Generation) and Poemario por un Sáhara Libre. Having studied in Algeria and Cuba, he went on to work at a radio station based in a Sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria before becoming a professor of Philosophy and Literature at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Sahrawi Friendship Generation is a poetry anthology and ongoing collaborative project led by twelve Saharawi poets seekingto draw attention to the human rights violations taking place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara, including the imprisonment and torture of activists.



  • Limam Boicha is a poet from Western Sahara who writes in Spanish. Boicha was born in the Western Sahara in 1972. He is a member of the Generación de la Amistad Saharaui (Sahrawi Friendship Generation). Limam studied journalism in Cuba before returning to the refugee camps where he worked at the Saharawi National Radio Station.

    He has been included in two Saharawi poetry anthologies in Spanish: Añoranza (Longing, 2003) and Bubisher. He has also published a collection of his own, Los versos de la madera (Verses of Wood, 2004). He lives in Barcelona.

    "Versos de madera"
    Yo bebí los versos de la madera
    En mi infancia yo bebí los versos de la madera.
    Un almurabit me enseñó a fundirlos en el alma.
    En su mano colocó una lisa madera, castaña de rostro bello.
    Con tinta de carbón empapaba su fina pluma.
    Escribía versos en la memoria de la madera.
    Después de las lecciones vertía agua en la poesía.
    Un caudal de versos descendía.
    «Tómatelo todo -dijo- para que fecunde tu mente».
    En mi infancia yo bebí los versos de la madera.
    Un almurabit me enseñó a fundirlos en el alma.


  • Djmi El Ghalia is a prominent female activist and vice president of the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations (ASVDH). She was held for three years in a secret Moroccan prison without trial and suffered under inhuman conditions. After the abduction of her grandmother, she organized a human rights movement by creating a Coordination Committee comprised of Victims of Forced Disappearances in Western Sahara and helping to organize ASVDH.



  • FLĩtøøx/Crầĩzy: Said, a.k.a. FLĩtøøx, is a young rapper from Western Sahara. Born in 1994 in Laayoune, FLĩtøøx launched his music career at the age of fifteen and has since released several solo albums. In 2012, he joined the Bad Boys label and continues to release music in protest of Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Check out his music on Soundcloud.



  • Aminatou Haidar, known as the "Sahrawi Gandhi," is a prominent Sahrawi human rights activist and advocate for the independence of Western Sahara. She is the president of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). She was imprisoned from 1987 to 1991 and from 2005 to 2006 on charges related to her independence advocacy. In 2009, she attracted international attention when she staged a hunger strike in Lanzarote Airport after being denied re-entry into Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Haidar has won several international human rights awards for her work, including the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the 2009 Civil Courage Prize. In 2012, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.



  • Mariem Hassan is a singer and refugee who has been living in Catalonia, Spain since the end of 2002. She began singing traditional songs at weddings and baptisms when he was 14. At the end of 1974, she says, "I began to learn revolutionary songs—songs against Spanish domination, and supporting the Polisario Front as the representative of Sahrawi identity. In 1978 I became part of Luali, and since then I have traveled the world revealing suffering with my music and voicing the legitimate demands of my people." She continues: "My voice belongs to my people. It's in their cars, in their homes, their mobile phones in their stores. My songs are about the tortured and the prisoners, the resistance on the street and in the universities."



  • Sultana Khaya is a young student activist at University of Marrakech and one of the victims of a wave of repression that took place in May 2007 against numerous Sahrawi students who were protesting peacefully. As a result of beating and torture by Moroccan police, she lost her right eye. She has since faced additional arrests, interrogations, and detention both in Morocco when attempting to travel to Spain.



  • Nadhira "Lucha" Mohamed is a Sahrawi actress and activist based in Spain. Amongst other films, she has acted in the award-winning Wilaya (2011), also known as Tears of Sand. Directed by Spanish director Pedro Pérez Rosado and shot in the Sahrawi camps in Tindouf, Algeria, the film dramatizes the experience of a Sahrawi refugee family grappling with diaspora, separation, and a mother's sudden death.




  • Yslem Mohammed Salem Nafah, better known as Hijo del Desierto, holds the claim as the first rapper born in Western Sahara, and, at age 21, he remains one of top rappers hailing from the territory. Now living in O Porrino, Spain, Yslem maintains a close connection with the Saharaui people, and the injustices they face are a central theme in his lyrics. Following on the success of his first album, Cuestión de fe (A Question of Faith, 2010), he is preparing to release a second album, Sahararap.




  • Ameidan Salah/Touhmatou, a.k.a. "The Runner," is a world-champion long-distance runner from Western Sahara who left behind his family, his athletics career, and his citizenship to run for the cause of a free Western Sahara. Having grown up under Moroccan occupation, he went on to become three-time Moroccan champion, two-time Arab champion, and a runner-up in the African Championships. But since pulling out a Sahrawi flag at the end of a 2003 race in France, Salah has paid heavily for his activism: while he was still in Morocco, his family home was repeatedly raided; he was blindfolded, taken to prison, interrogated, and tortured. Even since moving to France, he has been attacked several times. Meanwhile, three members of his family, still living in Western Sahara, have been imprisoned for nonviolent activism, and his uncle was recently killed by Moroccan police under dubious circumstances. He has no citizenship, and survives on race winnings and the support of charities. Salah was the subject of the 2013 film The Runner.




  • Mouloud Yeslem is a Western Saharan painter and Member of Por Cada Mina Una Flor (For Each Landmine a Flower). His work aims to highlight the situation around the Wall of Shame, which is the world’s largest defensive structure, guarded by some 100,000 Moroccan soldiers and surrounded by over 5,000,000 landmines.