Kindly invited to the opening of a solo exhibition of Abdelhakim Asnabla, "Notes on the Margins of Exile",
at Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova mesto on Thursday, 6 July 2023, at 7 pm.
Abdelhakim Asnabla presents his photographic series that is part of a yet unpublished photobook at the exhibition entitled Notes on the Margins of Exile in the Alkatraz Gallery. At the core of his interest lie people's stories. Stories that should be heard and seen, but are pushed to the edge of social awareness. These are the stories of refugees, asylum seekers or their descendants. They reveal the plight and suffering of individuals and record their despair in the face of a rigid social system, which is not interested in people, but only in numbers. Abdelkahim Asnabla challenges this by giving visibility to the portrayed people, highlighting their dreams, passions and hopes, and searches for visual metaphors of perseverance and endurance through photography, while every detail in the photo carries its own meaning.
The series dedicated to Edgar Alexander – who, after several years of staying in the Asylum Centre Ljubljana, had the desire to return to his homeland and was therefore detained in the Centre for Foreigners in Postojna, with the intention of deportation – includes photographs of his three favourite places, which Alexander could no longer visit due to the deprivation of his freedom. Asnabla can sympathize with him, as ten years ago, he himself experienced a detained living for more than five months in the Centre for Foreigners in Postojna. Despite the fact that life in the Asylum Centre was full of tension, uncertainty about the final answer and witnessing the deportation of fellow residents, it was one of Edgar Alexander's three favourite places. The other two were the Stožice Hippodrome with horses – symbols of unhindered freedom – and the proverbially inclusive Metelkova, where Abdelhakim Asnabla, in his own initiative, organized an outdoor exhibition dedicated to Alexander, entitled Extended Eyes, which summarizes his role as an eye extension in this project.
Abdelhakim Asnabla spends a lot of time at Metelkova, organizing pop-up exhibitions and arranging its surroundings in his own initiative, also so as to make Metelkova more inclusive and friendly to visitors. Especially to migrants, for whom it represents one of the few points of contact with the new environment. The emphasis both in this and in his other activities is on community, which is also the main theme of the photographic series about Rahma Ben Fredj, a Tunisian performance artist who was forced to seek refuge in Germany due to political instability in her home country. Asnabla travelled to an artist residency in Dresden as part of the project Art is Us by APIS Institute, where he met the creator and captured her story with the help of a camera. The story narrates a strategy of facing hard reality through community organization, which helps her overcome bureaucratic, systemic obstacles, focus on her passion for performative arts and persevere.
As the author writes in the Rahma's Photo Story, art can be a powerful tool for social change. Moreover, in the video Extended Eyes, which will also be featured at the exhibition, he says that creativity is the only absolute power to stay free and achieve your goals and dreams despite the circumstances. These two key points are the motivation behind Abdelhakim Asnabla's endeavours. As a political refugee who was expelled from his own homeland because of his political beliefs, he, like almost all refugees, found himself in a foreign cultural environment, which, through its bureaucratic apparatus, limits, controls and disciplines his activities. Life in an unknown country, in the grip of unfriendly restrictions, is very demanding, so it urgently needs mechanisms of support and empowerment. For the author of the exhibition, the source of strength is creativity, which offers him the opportunity to express his own individuality and make independent decisions. With the help of the camera, he conveys his values and contributes to the integration of his own community. His story is the proof that art has an emancipatory potential, which can change human stories.
Since 2012, Abdelhakim Asnabla has gained a lot of experience in the field of working with international non-governmental organizations in Slovenia. He collaborated and worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Slovenian Philanthropy, the Institute for African Studies, the APIS Institute and others. The foundation of his interest lies in connecting with others, both through organizations and on the personal level. Through his activity, he came across many stories that are pushed to the margins of society, but precisely because of that, they are all the more important and worthy of being brought to the fore. For the last few years, he has devoted himself to stories artistically, with the mediums of photography and videography. His first documentary film from 2014, done in collaboration with the Slovenian Philanthropy, can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSplenx3Awo&t=38s
Curated by: Ana Grobler, Sebastian Krawczyk, Nataša Serec
Proof-reading in Slovene: Neja Berlič
Translation: Ana Makuc
Support: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, City Council Ljubljana
Photographies of the exhibition by: Nada Žgank.