Abdo Shanan | Dry

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Country of origin: Algeria
Project location: Algeria
Program: Arab Documentary Photography Program
Year: 2018

I was born in Algeria to a Sudanese father and Algerian mother. When I was 9 we moved to Libya where I spent 18 years of my life convincing myself that I was Algerian, while my father kept trying to convince me that I was actually Sudanese. At the age of 28, I decided to make Algeria my home, and it was then that I realized that I’m not only Algerian, but I’m Sudanese and Libyan as well. I began to feel like I was an island in the middle of a society with which I didn’t have as much in common as I thought I did. How is it possible for an island to exist in the middle of an ocean? Is it because the island’s dry soil is strong enough to impose itself against the ocean, or is it that the merciful ocean tolerates the existence of the island? Maybe it’s a relationship of compromise where both sides renounce part of their claim to the other in order to co-exist. Dry is not just about me. It’s also about many other ‘islands’ I’ve met, like Lamia, who left Algeria for France at 6, but visited each summer until she became a woman, and her relationship with society became more complex. Or M’mmar who has lived in France for 45 years. When I asked him if he would return to Algeria he said no because it was tough, but that he wanted to die and be buried in Algeria, “because it is good to die there.”

With Dry, I want to make viewers feel uncomfortable and uneasy. I want them to doubt what they've been told about who and what is Algerian, and I want them to question the idea of nationality, even their own, for what is nationality anyway?