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Artnet news | Spotlight: Algerian-Born Artist Rachid Koraïchi Creates a Shrine for Migrants Lost in the Mediterranean Sea

The artist created the Jardin d'Afrique, a Tunisian burial ground for anonymous migrants.

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What You Need to Know: Recently opened to the public, the Jardin d’Afrique is a memorial burial place in Zarzis, Tunisia, for the many migrants who have drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The burial ground, which is set in a paradisical garden, was conceived by Algerian-born artist Rachid Koraïchi in remembrance of these anonymous victims. Today, the location is a UNESCO recognized site. Hoping to bring attention to the Jardin d’Afrique, Koraïchi is simultaneously opening the “Le chant de l’Ardent désir” exhibition with Aicon Gallery in New York, which brings together four bodies of work rooted in his interpretations of calligraphic modernism.  

Why We Like It: The artist has transformed the gallery into a kind of shrine. He has debuted a new series of canvases painted in a glittering golden-white acrylic paint against a background of vibrant indigo, a color that has a long and meaningful history in Koraïchi’s practice. The paintings, though more ethereal in effect, call to mind ceramic tiles that line the floors of mosques and the entry path to the Jardin d’Afrique. Along with these paintings are luminous alabaster tablets, made at four times the scale of his earlier alabaster works. Powerful and with a tombstone-like appearance, these sculptures lead viewers through the gallery toward a serene woven tapestry depicting the Jardin d’Afrique. One has the sense of being in a place of serene beauty and reflection. 

What the Gallery Says: “Koraïchi plays with the number seven throughout the exhibition both theoretically and literally. The artworks appear in multiples of seven; there are 14 canvases, 14 steel sculptures, and a group of six alabaster tablets lining the path to a monumental tapestry. It is a divine number and omnipresent,” writes the gallery.