A Poem in Two Voices

Pro Helvetia Kairo, Arts visuals

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Swiss curator Danaé Panchaud worked with photography collectives KOZ from Morocco and collective 220 from Algeria, between 2021 and 2023, towards producing stories through photography attempting to transform the Algerian-Moroccan borders into gateways rather than walls of separation.

Overpassing the “I,” meeting the “you” to build the “we” by creating a joint artistic work that recreates a link that goes beyond the existence of the often closed borders. Photographers Imane Djamil, M’hammed Kilito, and Seif Kousmate from KOZ, along with Abdo Shanan, Soufian Chemcham, and Cléa Rekhou from 220, formed an inter-collective union of three tandems who exchanged through field trips to the opposite sides of the borders to draw up a photographic map of the two countries through their reflections on the landscape, personal memories, and local communities.

© M’hammed Kilito

The project relied on a simple premise: the Algerian photographers travelled to Morocco, and the Moroccans to Algeria, and they each developed a new project based on their encounter with a country they had been taught to be suspicious of.

Danaé Panchaud coordinated and accompanied the photographers through their research and reflections resulting in curating the produced work in an unusual exhibition: instead of showing each project separately and clearly labelled, the images were freely regrouped and formed new compositions and mosaics. Instead of highlighting the differences between the two countries, they make their similarities visible. Rather than giving us definite answers about the identity of each nation, they open up new spaces that go from one to the other with fluidity and ease. The exhibition was playful, surprising, and full of grace and wonder, all found in the mundane and every day of Algeria and Morocco. With images sometimes tilted sideways, with playful juxtapositions and unexpected figures, it attempts to recreate the feeling of travelling: when everything is familiar and different, remarkable and banal when our eyes are drawn to the small details and the largest of landscapes.

©Seif Kousmate

A Poem in Two Voices was the name chosen for the exhibition of the single series made by the six photographers and curated by Swiss curator Danaé Panchaud, which was exhibited simultaneously in Casablanca and Algiers.

“I believe that images, or, more precisely maybe, that image making, can be a very powerful tool. I believe in the capacity of images to make self-expression and representation possible in an accessible way and that they can be harnessed to reclaim and reframe one’s history. On the other hand, photography has been used to enforce power structures and impose certain narratives. Its power can indeed be wielded both ways. Since my first encounters with the photography scene of North Africa, I have been impressed by its vibrancy and dynamism, but also by its efficacy and the ability of its photographers to express their points of view in powerful and unique visual languages.” said Panchaud.

The project was in the frame of “2021 On the road again” open call encouraging joint projects between two partners from the Arab countries along with Swiss partner.

Koz Collective

KOZ, is a collective founded in 2020 by four Moroccan visual artists working on long term projects and sharing a passion for storytelling. Aware of the rise of a fast, and sometimes gappy global media landscape, we focus on a hybrid and research-based work.

Koz, meaning 4 in Amazigh, is an obvious pun that highlights the very essence of the members’ visual work, which, from documentary to fiction stand for a deeply rooted and keen urge of making sense of current events.

Collective 220

This collective intends to be a wide field of experimentation and learning for each member, with their varied subjects, techniques and tools. In addition to being a kind of internal shared laboratory,220 is a way to create external links to promote exchanges with photographers, artists and other collectives around the world.

Danaé Panchaud is a curator, museologist and lecturer specialising in photography, based in Switzerland. Director of the Centre de la photographie Genève, after serving as director of Photoforum Pasquart, in Biel.