2017 wall(s) of shame

Stencils of famous walls, sprayed upon ruined houses in the refugee camps of Western Sahara. #artifariti2017

The ruins of people's houses were caused by the heavy rainfalls of 2015, where adobe brick crumbled like sugar cubes under water. Not only the housing but food and medicine were destroyed, in some cases up to 95%.
The mural of Mariem Hassan made by me in 2015 on the outside of the women's union (UNMS) in the center of Boujdour, Tindouf, Algeria, was altered with the same stencils. 




100 beautiful first messages

no message, 2017, acrylics on canvas, 80 x 60 cm

I love olther woman, haha, 2017, mixed media on canvas, 120 x 100 cm
You go first! 2017, mixed media on canvas 100 x 120cm
Superpowers, 2017, mixed media on canvas, 120 x 100cm
Fantasies up front,! 2017, mixed media on canvas 120 x 100cm
wild man, 2016, acrylics on canvas, 120 x 100 cm
Am I a kind of garment?, 2017, mixed media on canvas, 120 x 110cm
bedpost man, 2017, acrylics on canvas, 120 x 100 cm
shy man with wine, 2016, acrylics on canvas, 60 x 80 cm




Bettina Semmer / Najdat Rustom

Pflanzen, die heilen, würzen und Vergnügen bereiten

Im Rahmen von Pleasure Ground, einem Projekt von Neues Atelierhaus Panzerhalle, 2016

Save the Date: 27. November 2016: Pleasure Ground – Aktionen im winterlichen Garten    http://pleasure-grounds.tumblr.com/post/151746207227/bettina-semmer-najdat-rustom-pleasure-plants

Plants that heal, season and please.

With the framework of Pleasure Ground, an project by Neues Atelierhaus Panzerhalle, curated by Petra Stegmann



Meditation on being a plant, Aktion Pleasure Ground, Juli 2016
Two authors, two languages: Pleasure Plants in Arabic and “German”


Pleasure Plants – with Najdat Rustom (Pleasure Ground project by Neues Atelierhaus Panzerhalle)

Pleasure Plants – plant signs in Arabic from the side of the new neighbours (Pleasure Ground project by Neues Atelierhaus Panzerhalle)
Pleasure Plants – sowing seeds (Pleasure Ground project by Neues Atelierhaus Panzerhalle)




A group of new work at Fort Sagres, Portugal, within the exhibition „Peregrinacao – a partir de las Paneis de Sao Vicente/Pilgrimage – from the Panels of San Vicente“

This piece is dedicated to Emile Akakbo from Togo, who made for me a beautiful crow mask, and all the artists around the world.

My gratitude to Drury Brennan, based in Berlin, who travelled to Sagres with us and made the beautiful calligraphy; to Babette Semmer assisting in the making, and Fico Artista who helped and performed the crow dance.

PDF_Slaves and Saints

Indigo Saints (installation)
Indigo Saints (installation); canvas painted with real indigo, part of the colonial exploits from overseas
For those who went round the mark stone of shame
First participant in “Pilgrimage to Nowhere – 12 minutes a Slave”
Handing over the certificate for taking part in “Pilgrimage to Nowhere – 12 minutes a Slave”
Performing “The Shrowd of Saint Vincent covering the mark stone of shame”
Covering the Mark Stone of Shame with the shrowd of St. Vincent
“12 MInutes a Slave – A Pilgrimage to Nowhere” Opening ceremonial march
Performance with Fico Artista and Bettina Semmer, shrowd covering mark stone
Shrowds (installation); human body prints on canvas
Scriptures and Saint Vincent’s shrowd (installation at church de Dama de Graca, Fort Sagres); calligraphic works by Drury Peregrin Brennan; text by Jacinto
Jacinto Palma Dias after signing the calligraphy
Drury Brennan – Calligraphy:  “I know not what tomorrow will bring” (Pessoa)


Planting seed mines for peace in a circle. In the back, the church containing the scriptures
Indigo eye (centre of the secret circle of seeds)
stranded Indigo Saints (pre-installation)
Indigo Saints (pre-installation)

paintings 2015 – 2016

Five senses, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 290 x 190 cm
donuts and a yogi, 2016, acrylics on canvas, 210 x 200 cm
spiral and two circles, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 210 x 210 cm
a whirl and a wind, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 210 x 210 cm
redgreen_veil, 200 x 300 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2015









multiple hearts, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 300 cm
I am one and I want to be many, 200 x 300 cm, acrylic and chalk on canvas, 2016


Rajasthan file 1, 210 x 200 cm, oil on canvas 2016
These paintings are reflections of my recent research into body, mind, spirit and sacred traditions.
Ranging from prints of my own body to chaos-driven expressions, they also include images that I find in Indian and other traditional imagery of divinity. I do not wish to install hierarchies and favour one approach over the other. On the contrary, the aspects filter into one another, freeing me to form a new tradition of the „free fall“, parallel to abstract expressionism but less dogmatic. At the centre, one could detect a „truth of the present moment“ idea, that if one is totally present and free of conventional thinking, colour and shape will manifest themselves immediately due to an immediate necessity. This requires a frequent process of tying the work back to the body be it through hands and feet that touch the canvas, printing the body as a whole, or through knowledge and experience. Titled “In Pursuit of Chaos and Light”, these paintings are a continuation of the „Body, Gender, Fluidity“ series of earlier years.
bones of a woman, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 160 cm
blcak sun, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 210 x 210 cm
bowing to each other, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 200 cm


Chinnamasta, 220 x 200 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2015
Eight breasted Jesus, 210 x 155 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2016
A blue Goddess in the night, 210 x 175 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2016


2015 Mural in Western Sahara

MARIEM HASSAN 1958 – 2015
A tribute to the women of Western Sahara
Boujdour, Sahara refugee camps, Tindouf, Algeria 2015


Outside wall of Saharui Women’s Union
Right side (with the artist present)
Left side, with Ismail Banan, artist and calligrapher



„Mariem Hassan 1958-2015“ is a mural, placed on the outside wall of the Union National de Mujeres Saharauis(the national women’s association of Western Sahara), which was planned and executed by myself, Bettina Semmer in November 2015 in Boujdour/refugee camps during the 9th edition of ARTifariti.

Divided in two by the entrance, the wall has a portrait of MH singing to the left of the gate,  and five figures that portray her dancing during a concert on the right.

This division marks a duality of beauty: the beauty of outer shape and colour (the singer in a blue melfa, with pretty face and traditional head jewelry), and the beauty of movement or action, as seen in the dancing multitude of figures in black, on the right. One could also project a duality of Apollinian and Dionysian attitude into the two sides of the mural: wild dance, with hardly discernable features, on the right, and calm composed expression with Mother-Mary-like body language on the left.

This is not some kind of personality cult, nor the simple portraiture of MH, even though she is probably one of the finest examples in world music  of a combination of tradition, political resistance and a unique voice, deserving far wider recognition than she already has. To paint  her in the year when her life ended – prematurely caused by a terminal illness, that finally prompted her to return to her people in the refugee camps – would be reason  enough. But there is more to it: I used the figurative representation of MH, together with words (This exile is too much – Morocco out – freee Sahara now!) and concrete shapes (the two big, intersectioned circles on the left as well as many smaller spheres on the right) to make up a postmodern, readable narrative in many facets.

The stylistic eclecticism gives room for imagination, for making connections and for free play of creative readingwhich is one of the most rewarding things in art/life. Last but not least, the mural serves as a huge opportunity to have one’s portrait taken there, should one agree with the words, thereby sending out a message to the world.

Colour has always been a great attractor, associated with experiences out of the normal everyday life (church windows, medieval art and it’s rare and costly pigments), with exultation, joy and lust for life. Specific colours have been said to have powers over the mind-body-unit, as in colour psychoogy and therapy.

The intersections of the larger circles on the left are inspired by Barbara Steppe, who in turn takes her inspiration from Otto Neurath, the inventor of graphics for statistics. They can be read as depictions of states of mind, of a country’s socio-economic order (or disorder), as arbitrary as the world’s division of riches, or merely as formal play. They are based on Mandalas with their power to focus the mind.

The priority was to make something understandable, readable, a common narrative combined with decorative elements, and also a tribute to the strength and beauty of Saharaui women. It would not occur to me to alienate the ladies who run the place, (Fatma, Hassina) so a meeting over the drafts preceeded the actual painting process. Occasionally, children from the nearby school and neighbourhood would assist, even in my absence adorning the wall with handprints and marking the faces with pink dots, making this piece complete. This fits in with my general approach of taking participation seriously, and incorporating into my work what I find in a place, and in its people.

I hope to contribute to a free Sahara where people can live in dignity, without being oppressed by a hostile regime, and where the Saharaui’s talent for a good life, as we as particpants know it, can blossom in a peaceful surrounding, in independance.