The oil tankers of the Sahara
First of all, we would like to thank Mr Stéphane Saintpere, who was kind enough to share with us one of Charles Brouty's travel diaries, found on a market in the South of France, and who put us on the path of this talented artist.
Extract from the book "Pétroliers du Sahara" by Charles Brouty (1897-1984).
"I was impressed by the sight of this surprising Sahara of oil tankers in my eyes as an old track racer," he says. I kept such a memory of this desert, where the derricks looked like palm trees and where air-conditioned huts replaced the tents of the great nomads, that I burned with the desire to return there to get to know it better. Forsaking for a while the hikes in Hoggar and the camel rides across the Tamesna between In-Guezzam and Agadès, I set out to travel the desert from Hassi-R'Mel to Edjeleh, from Hassi-Messaoud to El-Goléa, from El-Goléa to Timimoun, stopping at the oil installations whenever I had the opportunity.
Thus, during many stays spent near drilling wells, I had the leisure to observe and note. Geologist, surveyor, chemist, engineer, radio, chef, barman, labourer, I watched these men, newcomers to the sands, live and I tried to capture with my pen attitudes, gestures, atmospheres... In all simplicity, the oil tankers adopted me. So I was able to mingle with their work, their games, their everyday life. At no time did I feel like an unwanted guest. This, above all, made my task easier. I could draw, according to my mood, at any time and everywhere.
These sketches were taken on the spot and I published them as they were without any retouching, with their clumsiness, their stains, their overloads. And that is good, perhaps that is their only merit! They are not followed by any comment. Everyone will interpret these images according to his heart.
If I have been able to contribute in this way to make live, throughout these pages, a new face of the Sahara, my time will not have been wasted".
Algiers, November 1958
Who was Charles Brouty?
Charles Brouty, from a family of Swiss origin, lived in Nîmes where he spent his childhood. He entered the Nîmes School of Fine Arts and the Ecole Pratique de Commerce et d'Industrie and began to specialise in the art of poster art and lithography. His military father, a battalion commander, was transferred to Algiers in May 1914 to the 5th Algerian Rifle Regiment, and in 1916 he took his first conscript classes in Blida. The war of 1914-1918 sent him as a soldier to Palestine, Syria and Egypt. In the autumn of 1920, Charles Brouty exhibited in Algiers, rue d'Isly, watercolours and drawings resulting from his observations in these different countries, as well as in Morocco. He testified to the development initiated by France, with his report on the "Oil Tankers of the Sahara" in 1958, a series of drawings published by Baconnier, a theme that would be taken up again in a new edition of the CDHA, under the title "Croquis sahariens" (Saharan Sketches). He also participated in the memorable Algiers Fort-Lamy expedition across the Ténéré desert, organized by Berliet, from November 1959 to January 1960. Settled in Nice after independence, he moved to Pau in 1982 and died in 1984.