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“ ‘The roses are incredible fishes. The fishes walk like human.’ Two lines from the poem, framed and hung as a picture at the centre of the gallery, conjure best the atmosphere of Algerian artist Houria Niati’s one-woman Africa Centre exhibition ‘Delirium’. Outline figures and faces, human and animal – or mixture of both – float over vivid, quickly-drawn pastel backgrounds: blues, pinks, reds, greens. There is no perspective, only the warm giddy sense of a brightly-lit frescoed cave.

Houria Niati speaks of the ‘happenings’ in her life: during the battle for independence, her short imprisonment for writing anti-french graffiti; a colonial education-Beaudelaire mixes with medieval Arabic poetry; Algerian folk-tales. Here the ‘happenings’ bubble-up spontaneously, dream-like, surreal. But sometimes the connections are more conscious. In ‘L’oiseau rare de l’anthropologie’ she tackles the glib expectations of English art college. Where were her Islamic patterns? Her reply is gentle irony: the rare bird surrounded by clichéd symbols of Africa and at the bottom, a prison cell.”

Nigel Pollitt – City Limits, 1984.