Article paru dans Free Arabs.
“I hope for the day when I can walk down in the streets and see surprising and impressive frescoes everywhere in Algeria,” says Klash 16, AKA Idir. Until that day, the young self-taught Algerian street artist, cartoonist, calligrapher, graphic artist and amateur photographer knows that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Born in 1981 in Algiers, Idir creates his first comic book at the age of fourteen. He found hip hop when he was a teenager and subsequently discovered graffiti, street art and the dark avenues of his city. Idir then became Klash 16: “Klash refers to both Clash (reference to my hip hop inspirations) and Kalashnikov (Klash in Algerian slang),” he said in an interview. “It’s a weapon that left a mark for me and for many Algerians who lived through the dark decade. I tried to use my own means of expression as an arm to “clash” everything compromising, in one way or another, freedom and justice.”
In the wake of the hip-hop and World musicians emerging in Algeria, using their words in defiance of the autocratic policy of the Algerian regime, the multidisciplinary work of Klash 16 adds one more testimony to those fighting for freedom of expression. His activism is visual and hard-hitting. “My work is just who I am and how I feel,” he explained. And while some people don’t like his art, Idir is staying true to himself: “I only reflect what history, society and politicians project onto us. My message is clear: stop conditioning us and let us live our difference!”
In 2007, Klash 16 joined a collective of Algerian musicians and artists speaking out against censorship. While other visual artists agree on the importance of copyrights, Idir longs to share his work with the world: “Internet has now become an indispensable medium where you can easily expose your work to the public. It also provides a forum for free expression, where talent and progressive ideas come together and stand up to the large level of misinformation, intellectual conditioning, and political and moral censorship.”
Nevertheless, Idir still has hope for his country: “I don’t think the Algerian art scene is poor, talent does exist in this country. Our scene suffers from the consequences of a devastating cultural policy, built by incompetent officials.” In another interview, the artist adds: “authorities and society refuse any form of concession or evolution, and that’s what creates a barrier to the development or the existence of a movement. (…) You can graf whatever you want, as long as you don’t touch politics and morals. (…) Personally, and despite everything, I think it’s even more challenging to defy taboos. It’s the essence of the discipline”.
By Ayla Mrabet