Graphic artist and cartoonist Slim and author Fatna El Bouih tackle civil and political rights issues in Algeria and Morocco.
M any Americans perceive North Africa’s political landscape as dominated solely by autocratic monarchies, theocracies, or military regimes. This view negates the Maghreb’s robust civil society and political culture. European colonial powers subjugated the populations of North Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their struggle culminated in the Algerian war of independence that defeated the French. Current struggles over political power and legitimacy have been detrimental to the exercise of human rights, and advocates for democratic practices and institutions continue to raise their voice in defense of free speech and shared power and resources.
The legendary Algerian cartoonist known as Slim, has defended human rights and dignity in more than a dozen graphic novels and animated films, as well as in syndicated cartoons and comic strips, many of which feature Bouzid El Besbessi, his archetypal Algerian everyman. the vehicle for decades of sociopolitical satire. Slim’s visual and political acumen was demonstrated in a UCLA presentation focusing on the history of cartoons in Algeria and the role of the artist as critic and activist.
Slim was born in Sidi Ali Benyoub, Algeria, in 1945. He received his training in Poland and France. Over the past 30 years he has published his cartoons and strips in El-Moudjahid, The Republic, African Revolution, El-Manchar, and L’Humanité. He is currently a designer for Djazair News and DZ News (Algiers).
A powerful voice speaking against oppression and repression was heard at a public reading and lecture at UCLA by author and human rights activist Fatna El Bouih, who was first arrested in Casablanca as an 18-year-old student leader with connections to the Marxist movement. Over the course of a decade she was rearrested, disappeared, tortured, and moved from prison to prison. Behind the walls, she helped organize a hunger strike, completed her undergraduate degree in sociology, and began work on a Master’s degree.
Her recently published memoir, Talk of Darkness, begins with the harrowing account of her kidnapping and goes on to tell of her struggle to secure political prisoners’ rights and defend herself against unjust imprisonment. After her release from prison, El Bouih became a high school teacher and continues to devote herself to human rights. She is one of the founders of the first shelter for battered women in Casablanca. She also works for released prisoners’ reintegration into society and for the abolition of the death penalty in Morocco.
Talk of Darkness: Human Rights in Morocco
A public reading and lecture at UCLA, March 10, 2009.
Copyright © 2009 Center for Near Eastern Studies