Oran, on Kamel Daoud’s Traces
In the city of Oran, the photographer Ferhat Bouda met the Algerian intellectual and journalist Kamel Daoud. The latter confided about Algeria and ‘the Radiant City’. Between the man and the town, an astonishing proximity is forged.
“To be Algerian is to be schizophrenic.” Kamel Daoud uses these words to describe his feelings concerning his nation, Algeria. A journalist for Le Quotidien d’Oran with his 12-year-old column titled ‘Raïana Rakoum’ (My opinion, Your opinion), Kamel Daoud symbolises freedom of speech in his country. A defender of individual freedom, the intellectual collided with radical muslims who claimed in December 2014 a fatwa against him. He does take a critical look at his homeland. Neither secular, nor religious, according to him the Algerian State assumes a deliberate indecision. For Kamel Daoud, Algerians barely dare admit their modernity. Torn between Western capitalism and religious dogmas, Algerians still have to take over their own identity. Oran is the reflection of this tension. Wearing a Mediterranean hallmark, Oran reinvents itself day after day. Commercial port and small fishermen harbors, Portuguese basilicas and Ottoman ramparts, former French emblems and Raï labels, Oran is a melting pot where Berber, Arab, Jewish, Spanish, Ottoman and French people meet each other.
The Sidi El Houari district is a good example of this multicultural evidence, where differences are expressed daily. While churches and mosques are places for sociability and culture, the musical scene which in olden days had revealed Raï stars, still is in full swing, gathering a dynamic youth. Women do not hesitate to go out to take a walk in pedestrian streets without their husband, letting themselves be lured by luxury brands. Between fresh start and tradition, freedom and introspection, a complex wind lulls Oran beautiful coast which inspired Albert Camus and his contradictory modern counterpart , Kamel Daoud.