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 ‘El Moudjahidate: Invisible to Visible

The Role and Memory of Women Anti-Colonial Resistance Fighters in Algeria’

Nadja Makhlouf


This photographic exhibition explores the complex histories of the Algerian women who fought in the National Liberation Front (FLN) and Algerian Communist Party (PCA) during the Algerian War of Liberation 1954 – 1962.   These women not only participated as soldiers, nurses and doctors but they also provided the crucial infra-structures of resistance – food, shelter, intelligence – that underpinned Algerian military resistance in the mountains and countryside. 

Although the role of women is a key dimension of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film Algerian-Italian film The Battle of Algiers, and although this role has been recovered in some measure by the recent brilliant work of Ryme Seferdjeli and Natalya Vince, much of this history remains hidden. 

Nadja Makhlouf’s remarkable project, therefore, addresses this continuing lacunae.  Through a series of black and white diptychs, juxtaposing photographs of the women from the anti-colonial war period with contemporary portraits taken by Nadja Makhlouf, the project enacts a complex dynamic between the past and the present.  It poses complex questions about female agency, historical experience and role of memory within contemporary Algeria as well as the wider Middle East and North African region.   

We would like to thank the Sussex Resistance Network for the financial support that made this exhibition possible.

We would also like to thank the Centre for Photography and Visual Culture at Sussex University and the Middle East and North Africa Centre at Sussex University for their support in co-hosting this exhibition.  


Curated by Dr. Sarah C. Dunstan and Professor Martin Evans.  


Sarah C. Dunstan is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Queen Mary University of London.  Her first book, Race, Rights and Reform: Black Activism across the French Empire and the United States from World War 1 to Cold War, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in March 2021.  She has published articles on questions of French empire and race in the Journal of Contemporary History, Callaloo and the Australasian Journal of American Studies. Further research exploring the relationship between decolonization and language in the French and British imperial contexts, and making the case for thinking through historical iterations of black internationalism and Pan-Africanism in relation to space and place, is forthcoming in the Journal of Modern History and the Journal of the History of Ideas respectively. She is also a co-editor of the Anthology of Women’s International Thought: Towards a New Canon, forthcoming June 2021 with Cambridge University Press. For her current fellowship, she is writing a monograph that maps out how philosophical and cultural understandings of what it meant to be human were deployed in the mid-twentieth century to craft legal frameworks at the level of the international and the national.


Martin Evans is Professor of Modern European History at Sussex University and the author (with John Phillips) of Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed (Yale, 2007) and Algeria: France’s Undeclared War (Oxford University Press, 2012).  He is the co-editor (with Fiona Barclay and Charlotte Chopin) of the special issue of the Journal of Settler Colonial Studies: Settler Colonialism and French Algeria, (2018).  He was the originator and co-curator of the exhibition 'Paris-Londres. 1962-89. Music Migrations' which ran from 12 March 2019 to 5 January 2020 at the French National Museum of the History of Immigration, Paris. This was described by Rolling Stone as 'the best exhibition about music since the V&A's 'David Bowie Is'.  He is presently completing a book on contemporary Morocco to be published by Yale University Press. 

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