Magharebia (Washington DC)

Mali: Art Exhibit Helps Mali Refugees

Nouakchott — The humanitarian situation resulting from the Malian crisis is a source of inspiration for Mauritanian artists trying to express those human tragedies in their paintings. Security tensions in the Sahel region have resulted in the exodus of thousands of people, the displacement of families and children and the spread of famine.

Mauritanian artist Mohamed Aly Bilal inaugurated his art exhibit titled "Peace in Africa" last November in Nouakchott and it will remain on display until March, 2013.

After it wraps up in Nouakchott, the exhibit will pass through the capitals of African countries that neighbour Mali.

"The importance of this exhibition lies not only in its regional dimension, but also in the fact that the proceeds of all these exhibitions will go to Malian refugees in Mauritania who are fleeing from the crisis in the province of Azawad in northern Mali," the artist told Magharebia.

"The current political and security situation faced by the African continent in general and the Sahel countries in particular inspired the paintings of this exhibition. I wanted to highlight the role that could be played by art and culture in drawing attention to the tragedy of the victims of wars and conflicts, especially children, women, and the elderly," he added.

The idea of this exhibition was to create an opportunity for attendees from the political, cultural and diplomatic elite in Mauritania to express their support for the exhibition's cause.

"This is an opportunity for artists to express their presence concerning various issues of importance to humanity," said Mariam Daddah, former first lady of Mauritania and President of the Foundation Mokhtar Ould Daddah, named for the first president of Mauritania.

Malian refugees and those close to them did not miss this opportunity to express their happiness with the attention of the cultural elite.

"We appreciate this step because it is a rare gesture from men of culture and art. This should be added to all the efforts made by Mauritanian authorities to alleviate the suffering of Malian refugees," charity worker Amakaness Ag Aakal told Magharebia.

"Although material profitability is expected from the sale of the paintings in this exhibition, moral support far outweighs material assistance. The moral aspect remains for the artist to serve as a witness of the humanitarian crisis suffered by Azawadi people as well as the rest of the peoples of the countries in conflict," he added.

Malian refugees in Mauritania live between fear and hope about the military intervention in the north. They nervously follow the news on radio channels, their only way to keep up with the international efforts to alleviate their suffering.

In this context, Ibrahim Ag Antuliy, one of the refugees at the Mbera camp, located on the outskirts of Bassiknou, shared his insights with Magharebia.

"Everyone is looking forward to a decisive and fast decision with regard to the military intervention in the North," he said. "They are tired of a life of homelessness in the open while facing the unknown."

"We are well aware of the impossibility of our return to our homes in the presence of armed gangs that cut off hands, flog and kill in cold blood in the name of religion," he added.

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