Recovering Features. Necessità dei volti – 5th Extension

The Informal Collective on Western Sahara is a heterogeneous and fluid constellation of researchers and practitioners of different origins, interested in the relationship between image and conflict in processes of decolonization. Since 1998, it has been looking at photographs and video footage from Western Sahara and the occupied territories and their use in the Western Sahara conflict.


KW Institute for Contemporary Art (4th floor)
Auguststraße 69, 10117 Berlin


Attendance only with advance registration:, free admission.

Western Sahara, 1975–91. A pile of photographs on the sand in the Algerian desert (photographs taken by the enemy). A war hidden by those who started it (censorship ordered in Rabat). Two populations against each other, in grief and in arms (neighboring communities, distanced by war and exile). An unexpected gesture of safeguarding which turns that pile and “what didn’t happen” into a mirror for both. A gesture that reveals the potential of speaking to the enemy, listening to them. Looking at them, even. To attempt to build a relationship from the ground up, directly, family to family. Slowly at first, then faster, after the conflict will have died down as freedom comes. Actually, as soon as that pile is returned to whomever is portrayed in it—to those who shot that portrait and loved it.

An occupied African region, closed off from the world, with the voice and photography of the occupied banned. An improvised activity, from clandestine to public, turns the “unseen” into a document of the Sahrawi present. The blackness lightened, the ban circumvented (in the streets, in the prisons, in the courtrooms), the resistance to the military is peaceful but not silent. More photographs and videos, proving that the border between invisibility and its opposite can be a place that favors uprising. Those resistant to the colony have several voices to tell the world about themselves. Voices made of little things, simple, cheap, used against their ordinary destiny.

This is the story of Necessità dei Volti [The Necessity of Faces] and Vedere L’occupazione [Looking at the Occupation], two segments of the work of the Informal Collective on Western Sahara, to be developed during the 12th Berlin Biennale in their fifth extension. Inside the biennial: a diary by the writer Fabrizia Ramondino translated into German, workshops, and presentations with those who know how those wartime photographs were taken (and how they could be returned in the future), with those who disagree with the occupation and risk their lives (on either side of the border), with books and films made available for consultation. Outside the biennial: meetings in private homes to look at one of the twenty copies of the book Necessità dei Volti and other editorial materials.


Necessità dei volti, initial studies of photographs collected during the war, 1999, courtesy Informal Collective on Western Sahara

Public Encounter: A Dialogical Procedure

In the form of a public encounter, this event takes an experimental and collaborative approach to addressing the Western Sahara conflict and the issues raised by the Saharawi’s image practices.

Two days of closed discussions between the working group and its invited guests—who represent a wide variety of practices, discourses, and subject positions—precede the public encounter on August 19, 2022. These initial meetings will serve as a basis for the ensuing conversation.

Additionally, the collective’s hand-bound, limited edition book Necessità dei volti [Necessity of faces] can be seen for two weeks at a private home in Berlin. For an appointment, please contact

Curated by

Informal Collective on Western Sahara


Ali Lmrabet

Francesco Correale

Mohamed Mayara

Sultana Khaya

This presentation is part of the discursive program of the 12th Berlin Biennale. Taking the restitution debate as a starting point, it explores how colonialism and imperialism continue to operate in the present.