Break-out session: Exploring 'the grain': understanding state/non-state ambiguity through art in Azawad/northern Mali

This session aimed to glance beyond the reductionist distinctions and institutional stereotypes that usually underlie the notion of ‘working with the grain’. Contributors were Dutch artist Jonas Staal (founder of the New World Summit) and Moussa Ag Assarid (representing the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad).

Moderator: Rens Twijnstra (ADPC/IS Academy). Break-out round 1 & 2.

Rens Twijnstra opened by explaining that the popular catchall phrase 'working with the grain' means to try to grasp the complexity of local reality and to work with this, in contrast to imposing certain institutional logics, models and ideas. The aim of this session was to appreciate the fluidity and complexity of ‘the grain’ by looking at the example of the struggle for autonomous statehood in the northern region of Mali, called ‘Azawad’.

Jonas Staal was then invited together with Moussa Ag Assarid, the representative of the MNLA, to introduce the case of Azawad (northern Mali), which was declared to be independent in April 2012. Jonas Staal explained how the New World Summits bring together 'stateless states', and open discussion on what is a state, and what is the role of formal symbols, art, literature, music in the process of state formation. Moussa Ag Assarid gave an overview of the liberation movement in Azawad and its ambitions.

Questions after the presentations addressed issues as the role of art in the creation of a new state and whether art can be seen as an expression of social embeddedness.

Please share your thoughts

We would love to hear what you think. Please react through the form below: