وعدة النفوس

The Cult of Souls

Fethi Sahraoui

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Rural celebrations are seasonal festivals organized by the local people of different regions of Algeria to celebrate Muslim saints. The local name for a rural celebration is ‘Waâda,’ derived from the word ‘promise’ - a promise given by the local villagers to celebrate their devotion. These celebrations are more frequent in the Western part of the country, and they usually coincide with autumn, the season of grape harvesting. Those that have good harvests are expected to share their bounty, thought to bring another successful year, and thus, they become more like the creator by providing for others.

The preparation for festivities start from in the early morning by installing tents, but the waves of curious people start flooding after ‘Al sr’ prayers iIn the afternoon. Fantasia shows of synchronized race horses end with simultaneous ceremonial shooting in the air by the cavaliers, as all the horses cross the finish line. Guesba music bands are omnipresent, with lyrics about love, betrayal, and adultery. They sing about all that concerns rural life and what differentiates it from city life. The singers constantly mock the lifestyle of the people of the city. Here you also find the peak of ecstasy in Hamdawa groups, a type of religious sect who perform their dances under the beats of Bendirs, encircled by a crowd of followers.

As a child, I grew up visiting rural celebrations with my family members, and I remember the festive atmosphere, the sounds of the music, and the dancing. When I started photography, these festivals were one of the first subjects that I documented. After many years of attending, I photographed a sort of concrete idea - the rural celebrations became my imaginary circus, my alternative world. Rural celebrations are a social phenomenon established to prospect the grace and benediction of God with a hope of a more beneficial harvesting season. Through time, it has become a whole system of amusement that fills the lack of places dedicated for that. There you can find what is joyous, strange, and saddening in the same moment and place - that is the circus of life.

Algeria

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A rural celebration visitor taking a nap in his car a few hours before the start of festivities in Bouhanifia, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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Two men taking shelter from rain, Sidi Lazreg, Relizane, Algeria, 2017.

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A Hamdawa sect devotee pulling his friend to a larger group as one of their rituals, Sidi Ahmed Benali, Mascara, 2017.

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Guesba band members and visitors installing a loud-speaker for an improvised music show, Ghriss, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A construction site near the location of a rural celebration, Mendes, Relizane, Algeria, 2017.

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A youngster preparing a horse for a fantasia show, Mendes, Relizane, Algeria, 2017.

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Hamdawa devotees while performing their rituals, Sidi Ahamed Benali, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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Visitors watching a stick fight, locally known as ‘Al-Matrag,’ Snayssa, Mascara, Algeria, 2017

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An old man who had fainted after entering a trance under the rhythms of Guesba music, Sidi Ali, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A man covering his face with his straw hat from a passing sandstorm, Belhacel, Reline, Algeria, 2017.

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Visitors leaving the site of a rural celebration at the end of the day, Sidi Kada, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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Two youngsters in a swing, Bouhanifia, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A Guesba band member and a visitor performing a dance. The lyrics of this type of music are about social issues, love, betrayal, divorce, alcohol, and adultery, Sidi Ali Bouchentouf, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A covered vine, Belhacel, Relizane, Algeria, 2017

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A man peeing near the location of a rural celebration, Snayssa, Mascara, Algeria, 2017

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A visitor covering his head with a scarf while facing the mausoleum of a saint, Sidi M’hamed Benaouda, Relizane, Algeria, 2017.

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Children playing in a playground installed especially for the rural celebration, Sidi Ahmed Benali, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A dead body of a donkey bitten by a venomous snake, according to the children who witnessed it, El Keurt, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A group of Hamdawa while performing their rituals, vicinity of Tighenif, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A visitor having some rest a few moments before the beginning of the festivities, Ouizert, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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Portrait of two visitors at a rural celebration, Sidi Kada, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A young boy playing while cavaliers getting ready for a fantasia show, Snayssa, Mascara, Algeria, 2017

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A cavalier trying to catch his horse after he fell from it during a fantasia show, Sidi Kada, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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Two old men holding hands, Tighenif, Mascara, Algeria, 2017.

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A crossed road with a compulsory one direction sign, Sidi M’hamed Benaouda, Relizane, Algeria, 2017.

Fethi Sahraoui

Algeria

Born in 1993 in the Southern town of Hassi R’Mel, Algeria, Fethi Sahraoui is an Algerian documentary photographer working on the local social landscape. In 2016, he joined the 220 Collective and in 2017, he was awarded a grant by the SAIMA Arab World Institute in Paris. He is currently in his final year of studies for a masters degree from the university of his town, Mascara, preparing a thesis about the contributions of Black American photographers to the Civil Rights Movement.

www.instagram.com/fethi.sahraoui/