In Paris, writers and artists in exile show their work
2018-10-01 12:30:03 -
Art & Culture


By Juliette Chantitch


Found within Paris’ 18th arrondissement, L’atelier des artistes en exil, – meaning ‘the studio of artists in exile’ – allows creative refugees to practise their work and to expose it to a wider audience.

Launched in 2017, the gallery now welcomes more than 150 artists, all from different horizons. More than 25 countries, from Syria to Sudan, Yemen to Afghanistan, are united inside the 1,000sqm space.

Through their work, they tell us about their story, what they had to endure to run away from the war, from the horror of their own country.

Mohamed Nour Wana is a Sudanese writer and poet. He never studied literature or poetry formally, and explains how he became a writer during his exile.

His first texts were about Libya, before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. He wrote about what he had seen in the desert, the injustices of Libyan society, and published it on Facebook. Nour Wana then started to write an autobiography, and about his father, his life in Sudan and Chad.

After Gaddafi’s fall, Nour Wana’s texts would take for their main subject the violence he had witnessed. But during his journey across the Mediterranean to flee the country, he lost his notebook and stopped writing.

Since he touched ground in Italy, and finally arrived in France, Nour Wana started to write again – this time about the horrifying journey of illegal immigrants.

His work found an outlet at L’atelier des artistes en exil, and he secured funding from Le fonds de dotation Porosus, an endowment started by the Lacoste family of fashion world fame. Soon, the Sudanese artist will publish two books, and he wants to work with other artists, to illustrate his writings.

Alongside Nour Wana in the gallery is Kubra Khademi, an Afghan performance artist and feminist. She studied fine arts at Kabul University, then in Pakistan where she held her first public performance. Back in her native country, the young artist imposed her art as a response to the stifling patriarchy of Afghan society.

On 27 February 2015, she walked in the streets of Kabul wearing metal armour to protest against female harassment. For this defiant work of performance art, she was forced to leave the country.

In 2017, she has joined L’atelier des artistes en exil by paying the €1 membership fee. She continues to show her art all over ‘La Ville Lumière’ and defines herself as “a soul, a human being, a woman, a feminist, a refugee.”

The gallery organises many events to show the work of its members. It is a place to see and understand – through cinema, music, theatre, dance, literature, architecture and plastic arts – how some people can transform horror, sadness, loss and exile in a piece of art.

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