Algeria / ‘Nime’: popular artist jailed for anti-regime drawings

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Arrested and held on remand in late November 2019, Nime, an artist, has been sentenced to one year in prison, amid a wave of arrests targeting pro-democracy activists.

Abdelhamid Amine, alias ‘Nime’.

Abdelhamid Amine was arrested last November 26 at his office in Oran, while plain-clothed security services officers proceeded to seize all of his equipment. The prosecutor of the court of Oran had requested from the court 18 months in prison against him.

Nime is accused of “damaging the image of the authority” after publishing drawings depicting the political situation that has marked the country since February. His drawings portray the candidates for the disputed presidential election of December 12; but also figures of the Algerian regime such as Abdelkader Bensalah, the acting head of state, and even the defunct de facto ruler (and army chief), Ahmed Gaid Salah.

The artist is highly esteemed by Algerians, especially on social networks where his satirical works are widely shared by social media users. His most emblematic artwork is considered to be “The Chosen One” (pictured left, published on November 3), depicting the, at the time of publication, upcoming enthronement of Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

In the drawing, one can see the candidate Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who ended up being appointed as president on December 12, seated on a throne. Tebboune is surrounded by Ahmed Gaid Salah, prentend-candidates and interim president Abdelkader Bensalah. In the depiction, the recently appointed president is presented with a golden shoe from Ahmed Gaid Salah, the de facto ruler of Algeria who died in unclear circumstances on December 23. In the background, a framed painting of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika is hung on the wall.

“Until the end”, portrays a sinking Algeria, while former prime minister Bedoui, interim president Bensalah and defunct army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah continue to play musical instruments. The artwork clearly references the Titanic movie.
By far his most provocative artwork; a corrupt female judge is seen wearing a military general’s shirt and cap, following what appears to have been a sexual encounter with a high-ranking military official. An empty bottle of Jack Daniels sits on the floor while a tilted framed justice symbol hangs on the wall.
“The King’s costume” depicts regime figures preparing the next superman’s outfit while Abdelmadjid Tebboune awaits his upcoming appointment. Hung on the wall is a framed painting of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Nime’s sentencing for drawings marks a new direction in censorship and arbitrariness in Algeria. The young artist became the first Algerian artist to be jailed for his creative artwork since the start of the protests in February.

Most recently, after Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s appointment, another artist was jailed; Tadjadit Mohamed was sentenced on December 19, to a year and a half in prison for poems published on Facebook which denounced the Algerian regime.