Dear friends and supporters,
Happy Easter! We hope you and your family are safe and well. Spring is finally upon us and the cherry blossoms here in London are giving us a reason to feel hopeful for the new season.
We have an exciting Sandblast event coming up in June, as well as plenty of news and updates to share with you from Western Sahara, and from our work in the Saharawi refugee camps.
As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to friends, family and anyone else that wants to know more about what we do.
June 6, 2022
Please join us on Monday, June 6th at ActOne Cinema in Acton for the screenings of Sandtracks and You Can't Get There From Here, two engaging and original films that shed light on the invisible story of the Saharawi people.
The screenings will be followed by a Q&A discussion with UK-based filmmakers Carolina Graterol, Daniel Petkoff, Peter Shields, and local Saharawi activists. Paula Beegan Haddad from the Cambridge African Film Festival will moderate the Q&A.
This special awareness and fund raising event will help support our Desert Voicebox project - an after school programme that is providing music and English language education for Saharawi children in the refugee camps, and is training local women to teach and run it.
Our fundraising goal of £1500 will help cover our running costs for the next Autumn semester.
People are invited to visit us in the gallery space prior to the film screenings, from 5pm, to enjoy desert hospitality with members of the Saharawi community and be tempted by yummy baked nibbles, Saharawi handicrafts, raffle prizes, merchandise donated by Ottolenghi and a chance to bid on great artwork in a silent auction.
We are deeply indebted to ActOne Cinema for enabling us to host this event at their beautiful historic venue and for giving us exhibition space to feature photography of the region and Saharawi artwork from May 30 to June 9th.
Sandtracks (22min, 2022): This is an intimate look into Sandblast founder Danielle Smith’s mission to bring the unknown struggle of the Saharawi people for self-determination to wider attention. Featuring fascinating interviews with Danielle and Saharawi refugees, filmmaker Carolina Graterol tells this story about how people from such different cultures find common ground and unity.
You Can't Get There from Here (90min, 2022): In 2018, filmmakers Daniel Petkoff and Peter Shields set out to cross the Sahara desert on a mission to deliver a shipment of prosthetic limbs to the amputee unit at the Banjul hospital in Gambia. While travelling through Western Sahara they meet underground Saharawi activists living under Morocco’s occupation there. This encounter provides a chilling insight into the decades of repression endured by the indigenous Saharawis in pursuit of their independence dreams.
Seats are limited, so get your ticket now through Eventbrite. Suggested donation £10.
And keep an eye on your inbox as we will be sharing more details about the event in the coming weeks!
Get TicketsDesert Voicebox Updates
Celebrating February 27
Months of dedicated training given by Embarca Zeyu in traditional Saharawi dance and music, and lots of hard work done by our Desert Voicebox students, paid off in the impressive performance they gave, on February 27, to celebrate their national holiday.
On this date, 46 years ago, the Polisario Front self-proclaimed the creation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976. The SADR is currently recognised by over 40 countries world-wide and is a full member state of the African Union.
Watch the highlights from their performance and listen to their message to the world in the 3 minute video below - it's well worth watching from start to finish!
Cultural exchange between Saharawi and Welsh students
Between March 14 and April 1, our Desert Voicebox students and Welsh children at St. Illtyd Primary School in Wales exchanged videos, photos and artwork to learn about each other's lives and cultures, ask questions, share stories and make friends.
A big thank you to teachers Leah Downie at St. Illtyd and Nicole, Tekween, Fatimetu and Nanaha for their important role in enabling this child-to-child cultural exchange to happen.
Below are a few examples of images that were exchanged- traditional Saharawi clothing and designs and words and images about the lush Welsh landscape -quite the contrast from the Sahara desert!
"Our country is very beautiful because it rains a lot which makes everything green. And there's more sheep than people!"
- Year 2 Welsh students
South African link
We are delighted to be embarking on a new partnership with South Africa thanks to Patrick Rankhumise, the political counsellor for South Africa based in Algiers. He visited our students and teachers at Desert Voicebox during his trip to the camps, in February, and invited our English teachers- Nanaha and Tekween- to participate in the teacher training workshop he gave in Camp Ausserd, on using music to teach English.
The positive outcome of both instances set the stage for building further support and exchanges between Desert Voicebox and South Africa in the future, which we are all excited about.
Please view below a video clip of Patrick's time at Desert Voicebox.
Pre-Ramadan picnic Just before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, on 1 April, Sandblast had the great pleasure of treating everyone at Desert Voicebox to a special picnic outing at a nearby oasis, only half an hour away from our learning centre. There for several hours the children and teachers enjoyed playing games, singing, eating chicken and even cooling off in a shallow water pool!
Ramadan Mubarak to you and your loved ones from all of us at Sandblast!
Sandblast Returning to the Camps!
After more than two long years, Sandblast founder Danielle Smith, and trustees Beccy Allen and Carolina Graterol, will finally be able to travel to the Saharawi refugee camps, in May, to visit the Desert Voicebox project in camp Boujdour and offer on-the-ground support.
They will be joined by Anastasia Oleinik, a Barcelona-based musician, who has been a virtual volunteer with Sandblast for over a year, providing training in musicality to our Desert Voicebox teachers. During her first-ever visit to the camps, she will deliver a 3 week creativity workshop for the children and provide more training. Ana has recently set up a fundraiser to purchase materials to bring with her to the camps.
If you wish to support her Check out her page.Western Sahara in the NewsUK Minister hosts UN Envoy for Western Sahara
Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK Minister of State Foreign Commonwealth & Development Affairs hosted Staffan de Mistura, the UN Personal Envoy for Western Sahara on March 28 to express the UK’s full support in re-starting the peace process.
But some activists pointed out this lip service on Twitter, arguing that “the UK Government is working directly to undermine the work of the UN in Western Sahara by signing trade agreements with the Moroccan occupation authorities that include Western Sahara.”
The UK also has a series of economic interests that link them to the occupation regime, with British multinationals engaged in a range of extractivist industries in the Western Sahara, including the UK-based Windhoist that is partnering with the Moroccan Royal Family’s green energy company, Nareva, to construct a series of wind farms across the occupied territories.
Spain withdraws support for Western Sahara referendum
In a radical U-turn, Spain has announced its decision to break with the United Nations’ position on Western Sahara and back the Moroccan autonomy plan for the former Spanish colony, effectively recognising Moroccan sovereignty claims over Western Sahara.
The move has been widely denounced by the Polisario Front and various other NGOs and activist groups, who have called it " a new treason toward the Saharawi people". Thousands of Saharawi activists gathered to protest the move outside the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid on March 30.
Sandblast stands in solidarity with the Saharawi people and has officially expressed its demands to the UK government to play a more active role in advocating for their right to a UN-brokered referendum for self-determination to be fulfilled.
Read our full statement here.
Saharawis challenge Siemens Gamesa over controversial wind project in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara
Hassana Aalia, a Saharawi with political asylum in Spain, attended the Spanish energy company’s annual general meeting to denounce its projects installing energy infrastructure for the Moroccan government in occupied Western Sahara.
"To me, it is incomprehensible how a company like Siemens Gamesa, can take part in Morocco’s attempts to cement its occupation of my homeland, and even claim that your projects are somehow to our benefit - that is not for Siemens Gamesa to decide," Aalia stated to the company management.
To learn more about how Siemens and other Western companies are ‘greenwashing’ Moroccan occupation, click here.
In Case You Missed It ...
Western Sahara Resource Watch has published its ninth-consecutive annual report on the companies involved in buying phosphates from occupied Western Sahara. It reveals how Mexico will soon take over India's role as the most important client of the territory's conflict mineral.
Read more here.
Spain's unsavoury connections with Western Sahara
In a recent episode of the Sobremesa Podcast, hosts Alan McGuire and Eoghan Gilmartin discuss the links between Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Western Sahara, and how Spain’s recent recognition of Moroccan autonomy is related to Spain's monarchy and its history of occupation. The episode features an interview with Sahrawi journalist Nazha Elkhalidi about this complex geo-political issue.
Listen here and read Gilmartin’s latest piece in The Tribune here.
Support our work
Tapping into the charitable spirit of the holy month of Ramadan, we would like to ask you to please consider donating to Sandblast.Your donation will help us to continue offering a unique opportunity for Saharawi refugee children and women to learn new skills through Desert Voicebox, enabling them to become empowered to express their culture, advocate for their rights and develop important international links.
Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer!
There are other vital ways of supporting us that do not involve donating. If you'd like to be involved with Sandblast, especially with our Desert Voicebox project and the events we organise, you can always think of volunteering.
Please be in touch and we will send you a Volunteers Information Pack on how you can contribute with your time and skills. Volunteering lies at the heart of our ability to further our mission!
Email us at: email@example.com
And finally.....Our very best wishes for a happy and healthy long weekend! Please keep an eye on your inbox for more details about our June 6 fundraiser and other upcoming events.
Please follow us on social media for more regular updates and help spread the word!
News about Sandblast & Western Sahara