Rahma Mohamed Bachir Sidahmed & Mohamed Sleiman Labat

Birds perform different migratory practices. They move across different geographies, climates, communities, forests, cities, deserts and seas. According to research from Oikos Journal by the Nordic Ecological Society, over 2 billion birds migrate from Europe to Africa twice a year in one of the most fascinating life performances that connect the two continents. But this number is only half the estimate from the 1950s in the only other assessment to date.
As the birds migrate, they carry out different performances, ecological and artistic. They pick up food in different places, they fertilize others, they make the sky and the land temporary homes. Their migratory journeys are not just moving from point A to point B, rather they perform swirling dances, turning the sky into a dance floor. They fly and land in constant nomadic rituals, which historically inspired many human communities to move as nomads.
Birds follow different nomadic routes, sometimes from as far as northern Europe, and they travel all the way down to central Africa, every year they fly out to destinations marked by climatic and ecological cycles and patterns important for their lives.
They usually migrate for many reasons, to feed, to nest and to make a home, but the search for locations with warmer temperatures suitable for breeding is a primary one. They escape the harsh northern winters and seek warmth more in the south.
As temperatures rise in the northern hemisphere, for example, the birds feel unseasoned warmth, which gives them the false impression of summer arrival and large numbers of them decide not to migrate. This creates disruption to their life cycles and health. It also affects many other ecological practices the birds play in the different ecosystems they visit and come across such as worms, insects, seeds and plants’ life cycles. The delay in bird’s migration also affects aspects of life for some human communities such as the desert nomads.

Migratory Birds Arriving in Spain ©Mohamed Sleiman Labat

For centuries, the birds’ migration performances have been part of the traditional knowledge of the nomads in the desert. The arrival of migrating birds indicate seasonal changes and tell about heat levels. When migrating birds cross the desert, they do so at night, by doing so, they avoid exposure to the heat in the daytime, this knowledge is very crucial to survival in this harsh environment. The nomads learn from the migrating birds to know about the heat and change of seasons in the desert.
Climate change has impacted the migrating bird’s travel cycles and consequently the nomads’ life in the Sahara Desert. Today, fewer migrating birds can be seen year after year, it’s unusual and it’s unnatural.

Scenes of migrating birds witnessed in the Sahara Desert and in the Spanish Sky connecting the two sides of the Mediterranean, the migrating birds are not a metaphor for our shared destination, they are our future history played in front of us. They remind us to appreciate life, to dance to its rhythms and to celebrate life regardless of geographies and nationalities.

Migratory Birds Leaving Hamada Desert ©Mohamed Sleiman Labat

This art collaboration was part of a collective exhibition at the Alicante University Museum

MUA. Museo de la Universidad de Alicante, Spain 2023