Verhör In Algerien (Interrogation in Algeria)
Art Foundation Poll, Gipsstraße 3, Berlin, Germany
She stands in silene. But there’s a strength in that silence, a defiance. This statue is a reminder of the brutality of war. And in particular, the brutality of the Algerian War of Independence fought against the French from 1954 to 1962. When the statue was created in 1958 by German-born artist Jenny Wiegmann-Mucchi it was dedicated to the freedom fighter, Djamila Bouhired. A woman whose quiet strength and defiance played an important part in the liberation of Algeria from the French. When she was a young girl at school in the city of Algiers, Djamila went to a French-run school. There, pupils were taught to sing the anthem ‘France is Our Mother’. Except Djamila would swap the word ‘France’ for the word ‘Algeria’. By the time Djamila was 20 in 1954, revolution had erupted across Algeria. She joined the Algerian National Liberation Front. Then, in 1957, she was arrested. Djamila was tortured by French militants. She was beaten. She was raped. But she never gave the French the information they wanted about the Algerian resistance. And for that, she was sentenced to death. It took years of legal proceedings and appeals, but finally, Djamila’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison. A year later, the war was over. Algeria won its independence. Djamila lives to this day in Algiers and works hard to improve the legal and social situations of Algerian women. ‘I am pleased that my life has meaning and a direction that I chose from the very beginning,’ she told journalists in an interview. Djamila Bouhired’s small act of defiance as a little girl in a classroom became her life’s work.