Art, Music and Theatre: Another side of the protests in Algeria

North Africa

Artists, musicians and stage-actors are expressing themselves through alternative means during the widespread protests in Algeria.

Five weeks after protests against the authoritarian rule of Abdulaziz Bouteflika first began in Algeria, hundreds of thousands of Algerians continue to flood the streets of most of the major cities in the country. Security forces say that “hundreds of thousands” of protesters gathered in central Algiers on Friday (22nd March) and that demonstrations were also held in 42 out of the North African country’s 48 provinces. Spirits seem higher than ever as political momentum continues grow for the protesters.

On Wednesday (27th March), the coalition ally of the ruling party in Algeria has called for the country’s ailing president to resign, piling pressure on Abdelaziz Bouteflika after the army chief also demanded that he be declared unfit for office. In a statement signed by its leader, recently sacked prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, the National Rally for Democracy (RND) said it “recommends the resignation of the president… with the aim of smoothing the period of transition.”

The army chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Gaid Salah, called for Article 102 to be set in motion, which allows the constitutional council to declare the presidency vacant if the incumbent is too ill to exercise his functions. Following this, the parliament will declare him officially unfit to rule.

However, beyond the political machinations of Bouteflika’s seemingly inevitable downfall, protesters are finding new and creative ways to make their voices heard. Artists, musicians and stage actors have been performing amidst the large crowds of demonstrators.  One group of young artists staged a play entitled Freedom in the Central Post Square about Algerians and their responsibility to their  country. Additionally painters and musicians have also played their part in lifting the spirits of their fellow countrymen during these historic protests.

Artistic imagery have already played a significant part in inspiring these protests in Algeria. A week before International Women’s Day, A photo of a 17-year-old ballerina dancing at a demonstration in Algiers went viral and became a symbol of protesters’ defiance of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in power. Art has long been a medium for people to express themselves politically and these protests have shown that it can be instrumental to bringing people together for a cause.