Tuesday, 25 May 2010

New Website Tells the Saharawi Story through the Arts

“Arts and human rights charity Sandblast launches new website on its
5th anniversary to highlight mission with the Saharawi people.”

London, May 25th - To celebrate its 5th anniversary, arts and human rights charity Sandblast today announces the official launch of its new website www.sandblast-arts.org. The website was re-designed to complement the charity's vast multi-media resources on Saharawi life and culture and promote digital engagement with community members, artists, scholars and activists with the Saharawis.

Following several months of research on the uses of websites for small charities, the new design was developed with stakeholders, designers and creatives with the aim of creating a space that is easy to access and experience Saharawi art and culture, get information on the situation in Western Sahara and learn of Sandblast's work with the Saharawi refugees.

Cathrin Lemoine, Digital Communications Manager, Sandblast says:

"The new website is now optimized to make information on Saharawi culture and society easily and dynamically accessible to the public to raise awareness for the situation in Western Sahara. Sandblast facilitates art and capacity-building workshops in the refugee camps each year which just could not be showcased very well on the old website.” 

"Now we can engage and connect with artists from all over the world. Members of the public who want updates on ongoing projects will not only encounter facts and figures in endless reports, but also images and stories from those running the workshops and the Saharawis benefiting from them," enthuses Sandblast Director, Danielle Smith.

Through this virtual space, the charity hopes to encourage collaborations to develop ideas and projects with or in aid of the Saharawi people."

New features on the website include:
  • access to a vast array of multimedia art by and about Saharawis;
  • updates and high-quality material on ongoing projects in the refugee camps;
  • archive of multi-media resources on the situation in Western Sahara.
The launch of the website represents a crucial phase in the charity's online presence as the primary UK hub of information on Saharawi culture and its mission to build an active community of collaborators working in different ways to promote the visibility and support of the Saharawi plight through the arts and other educational means. 

You can view the new Sandblast website at http://www.sandblast-arts.org. To win a Tiris Sandtracks mp3, the sound of the Saharawis, send your feedback to info@sandblast-arts.org.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sandblast at the Arts4HumanRights Festival "DisPLACEment"

Charity director Danielle Smith spoke at the first Arts4HumanRights festival "DisPLACEment" in Southwark last week (May 13). Partnered with social worker Ioannis Athanasiou on the topic of Displaced Peoples and Creative Practices, Danielle spoke about the indigenous people of Western Sahara, the Saharawis, whose identity and culture has been threatened by the twin impact of protracted exile and Morocco's integrationist policies since their invasion in 1975

Addressing the audience at Art's Bar for the first time, Danielle read a Saharawi poem from the bilingual poetry book, 31 treinta y uno, a collaboration project between Sandblast and the editors Pablo San Martin and Ben Bollig at Leeds University (published in 2007).

Danielle's warm and sensual voice carries the poem line for line through the room, reaching not only the ears but the hearts of the audience. She has read them many times, to herself and to others. She knows the poem word for word, but more than that, she knows its meaning, its origin, the poet and his story behind the words. It touches the audience, draws them in and doesn't let them go.

When Danielle goes on to speak about the Saharawis and the major obstacles they face in fighting for their right for self-determination, her voice is not warm any more. Her voice is passionate instead. Unadulterated passion for the cause, for the promotion of the rich Saharawi culture, for making the Saharawi voices heard:

The indigenous people of Western Sahara were forcibly displaced when the Moroccan army invaded their homeland in 1975 claiming its sovereignty. When a 16-year long war enraged between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, thousands of Saharawis escaped the war-ridden territory to seek refuge in Algeria. They have lived in temporary refugee camps since then. Having been denied their Heimat, the Saharawi refugees embraced creative practices, such as poetry, performance art and music as a way of expressing their culture. As a way of keeping their distinct identity alive, the refugees use the arts to actively defy the uprising bitterness of not being heard by the international community, of not being able to work and earn a living, of seeing a people's hope and aspirations drained by protracted exile.

When the talk comes to a close, the audience felt enlightened and thankful to being able to learn about the Saharawi refugees and Sandblast's work. A raging success in 2010, we are all looking forward to next year's Arts 4 Human Rights festival and hope for many more events to come in the next few months.