Art curators Najlaa El-Ageli and Tewa Barnosa in partnership with The Africa Centre and Shubbak Festival 2023, present 'Totalitarian Props'.

Taking place from 23 June 2023-14 July 2023 at The Africa Centre, Totalitarian Props Exhibition will be accompanied by a parallel engagement programme led by filmmakers, artists, and researchers.

Set within the context of the Pan-Africanism ideal and Pan-Arabism dream, this transdisciplinary show explores and investigates how the state, government, and utopian dictatorships develop modalities of population mass control and utilise surveillance mechanisms that distort the common reality. By playing with political props, both real and imagined, a further link is made to the ongoing colonial conversation.

Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, ‘Totalitarian Props’ also demonstrates how truth can be perverted, manipulated, and disguised under authoritarian power structures. The selected artists bring insight into intimate, archival works and research journeys, unleashing the imagination to represent what life feels like under totalitarian rule. While some draw on real lived experience, others interrogate the broader socio-political picture, by bringing to light overlooked colonial histories and the formation of complex identities that are caught in between.

Taking Libya as one of the case studies, there is the ultimate pressing question of how severe rule over an extended period is psychologically processed post-trauma. It addresses the prevalent silence and even some denials of a shared ordeal. Real memory can then only be provoked by bringing up the false imagery, sounds and words that were once implanted as instruments of control and hypnosis; otherwise, one is met with selective and collective amnesia.

Barnosa has said: “As an antidote, this exhibition brings forward some of the real and honest accounts that would reflect, discuss, examine, and correct some of the unfounded narratives. It puts forward what was never told and what was never allowed to be written and/or expressed in the first place.”

El-Ageli added: “I believe our history needs to be tackled from new and fresh perspectives to honour the memories still floating in living consciousness. The UK public will be presented with the interpretations of a cross-section of artists (from the MENA region and beyond) on how the political ideologies of Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism and tribalism played out in real life in North Africa, and how that brings us to the current volatile landscape.”

The artists, academics, filmmakers, and others taking part in the show and engagement programme: Amado Alfadni, Jihan El-Tahri, Marwa Benhalim, Mai Al Shazly, Malak El Ghuel, Alessandra Ferrini, Tewa Barnosa, Afsoon, Hadia Gana, Born in Exile (IbrahimShebani), We Sell Reality collective, Marcella Mameli Badi and Alla Budabbus.


For press enquiries, please contact:

Najla El-Ageli: [email protected]

Tewa Barnosa: [email protected]