In July 2015, UK-based charity Sandblast Arts launched Run The Sahara 2016, taking place at the end of February, next year, in the Algerian Sahara. This international solidarity race, known as the SaharaMarathon, supports the indigenous Saharawis of Western Sahara, the majority of whom are refugees based in desert camps near Tindouf in SW Algeria. Funds raised for the charity go to its Studio-Live music project in the camps.
Next year's race coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR,) self-proclaimed on February 27 in 1976. Recognised by over 80 countries world-wide, the government in exile, based in the camps, represents the collective aspirations of the Saharawis for independence in Western Sahara. The territory was colonised by Spain for a century, but upon its withdrawal was then occupied and forcefully annexed by Morocco in 1975. This sparked a mass civilian exodus and a 16 year long war with the Polisario, the Saharawi liberation movement.
The 16th edition of SaharaMarathon, in 2016, will take place in the refugee camps, home to close to 200,000 Saharawis spread out over five camps. Although dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, the refugee camps are nevertheless run by the Saharawis themselves who have built, hospitals, schools, vocational and special needs centres, public institutions over the past 4 decades.
The professional race is organised by the local camp authorities and volunteers from Spain and Italy, attracting between 300 to 500 participants annually and around 100 locals. For a week, runners are hosted by refugee families in Smara, experiencing a rich encounter with the people and their legendary culture of hospitality. Last year’s UK runner Tomasz Laczny proclaims the race as “Unforgettable mentally and physically. The camps are a fascinating place to visit — I would recommend this journey to anyone as it definitely changes your point of view.”
As official promoter of the race, in the UK, Sandblast has recruited more than 60 runners and raised over £40,000 for its Studio-Live project since 2010. The £20,000 target for 2016 will enable Sandblast to train young adult refugees sound engineering skills in two additional camps and provide the resources and know-how for establishing sustainably run recording studios in each one. The project give camp-based musicians access to professional recording facilities for the first time and is helping to build a local music industry that can gain global recognition. Internationally known artists such as Aziza Brahim and Mariam Hassan have had to leave the camps to record their music and advance their careers. Studio-Live hopes to change that and to encourage international artists to record in the camps and collaborate with local talent.
News about Sandblast & Western Sahara