Forty years after its people were promised freedom by departing Spanish rulers, the Western Sahara remains Africa’s last colony. While a UN-brokered ceasefire put an end to armed hostilities in the territory in 1991, the Sahrawi people have continued to live under the Moroccan armed forces’ oppressive occupation, and what peace exists in the area is fragile at best.
The new film from director Iara Lee will examine these tensions as it chronicles the everyday violence of life under occupation, giving voice to the aspirations of a desert people for whom colonialism has never ended.
Watch the trailer:
My name is Mariem Hassan. I have been active as a singer/songwriter since I was 20 years old. My career in music started in an unusual place, as I and my people have lived as refugees since the late 1970’s. In the camps, I began singing as a hobby, reading poetry and putting music to words that famously described my people and culture. But over time, I developed and refined my voice and started singing at the professional level. I found myself spending more and more time with other musicians and Saharawi poets. Sometimes we would spend weeks together, practicing and preparing for national festivals and other important cultural events.
In the late 90’s, a Spanish production company, called Nubenegra Productions, chose a group of Saharawi performers to tour internationally, and, after the tour was over I remained with the company to further my music career.
I have performed in many international festivals, earning awards alongside many other prominent artists and vocalists.
In total, I have produced four albums, each serving to convey various aspects of my Saharawi culture, history and most distinctively, our national struggle for independence. My first album was entitled, Wishes, followed by Throne, then El Aiun and most recently Dance, Sahara, Dance. Throughout my career as an artist and advocate for my nation I have received many threats and was even physically attacked on one occasion by Moroccans who attempted to silence the message I was conveying through my music. They were unsuccessful, as I have continued to press on in spite of such aggression.
It’s my hope that I have succeeded to give my listeners and fans a glimpse into the rich culture of the Saharawi people.
Morocco’s control of the ‘last colony in Africa’ is at the centre of campaigners’ legal challenge to the labelling of Saharan produce and the tax breaks it receives
British consumers are also being misled: sweet mixed baby tomatoes – sold by supermarket giants Tesco and Morrisons – have been labelled as produce of Morocco when in fact they were from giant agribusinesses in the Sahara, some of them owned by the wealthy King Mohammed VI, others by powerful Moroccan conglomerates or French multinational firms. None is owned by the indigenous Saharawi people.
Read the article in full: