African Oral History
African Oral History: Artist in Residence
This year The Leverhulme Trust granted Patrick Altes a year-long Award to pursue this project as Artist in Residence at the School of Languages and Area Studies (SLAS) at Portsmouth University. The project, co-written by Dr Natalya Vince. Senior Lecturer in North African and French Studies aims to make a bold and innovative contribution to academic, artistic and popular debates about the relationship between power and representations, by bringing into direct contact an artist of ‘pied-noir’ (Algerian colonial settler) origin and an area studies department, which is a leading centre for the study of Algeria and the Arab and Francophone worlds.
Biographical note: Patrick Altes
I am a visual artist of French and Spanish origins. I was born in the middle of the Algerian war and part of exodus that saw nearly one million settlers of mixed French, Spanish, Italian, Italian and Maltese backgrounds (Spanish in my case), leave Algeria and ‘return’ to France. Whilst I can relate to feelings of displacement and alienation common amongst the pied-noir community in post-1962 France, I struggle to identify with other aspects in the dominant pied-noir narrative, which repositions Algeria as a paradise lost whilst marginalising the deep racial inequalities, discrimination and repression which were at the heart of colonial rule.
These elements make the question of my identity quite complex as it does for many other people who don’t really “fit” in the country they call home. I actually don’t feel very French but moreover, as a utopian, I believe that there is a bit of French-ness in the heart of the Algerian as there is some Algerian-ness in mine.
I hope the work I am developing during this ten month residency at the University of Portsmouth funded by The Leverhulme Trust will contribute toward a more open, tolerant and accepting Franco-Algerian relationship. I wish my work to help the Pied Noir community come to terms with its past as well as contribute to a process of bridge-building between the Algerian people and their former colonists, thus creating a much needed space for reconciliation and cooperation.