By Javier de Blas in Tindouf, Algeria
Between February and March 2015 I spent a month living with a Sahrawi family in their "haima" in the refugee camps of Tindouf. Every Tuesday, I'm posting here the notes and sketches I made about daily life in the camps.
Since my arrival, Shabu is my host at her parents' home. She lives in the wilaya,(city of) Budjour and she compulsorily accompanies me everywhere I go. Although the camps give a sense of absolute confidence (I have seen women alone, walk among the haimas in the dark) the authorities ensure much for the safety of aid workers and foreigners in general.
With this scheme I had to repress, on many occasions, the idea of wandering at will through the wilaya, stopping wherever I wanted to sketch something. Other times I had to adapt to the Shabu 's domestic obligations, taking advantage of my stay at home to photograph my drawings, recompose, write and publish.
Maybe we have both exaggerated the issue of security, being novices and perhaps this fact has led my experience at the refugee camps to a more personal and family environment, but overcoming these drawbacks, life within the family gives a very earthly view of the place.
Like most of the women here, she is attracted by many things of the "Western" countries, but it goes without saying she would never give up her family. Family ties, for them, are essential. Each Haima (home) is surrounded by those of their families.
The tribal institution remains firmly embedded in the Sahrawi society. According to Shabu, most families can trace their ancestry reaching as far back as the founder of their tribe. This ancient system of guarantees has drawbacks and the government tried to suppress it in its day. But today the governors continue to count on the dialogue with tribal chiefs with many of the issues. As I see, the tribal structure is a huge and direct source where one can explore all kinds of traditions, values and customs.