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La Transsaharienne 1982

By ReagentAH
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Joint project between myself and TheKutKu (www.deviantart.com/thekutku)

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Excerpt from: The 1952 Democratic Party Platform (1952):

The Taft Administration, in four years, has squandered the unprecedented power and prestige which were ours at the close of the Pacific War.

In that time, more than 650 million non-Russian people of twenty-one different countries have been absorbed into the power sphere of Communist Russia, which proceeds confidently with its plan for world conquest.

We charge that the leaders of the Administration in power have abandoned countless human beings to a despotism and godless terrorism, which in turn enables the rulers to forge the captives into a weapon for our destruction.

The moral incentives and hopes for a better world which sustained us through our conflict with Japan were betrayed, and this has given Communist Russia a military and propaganda initiative which, if unstayed, will destroy us.

They abandoned friendly nations such as France, Belgium, and Italy to fend for themselves against the Communist aggression which soon swallowed them. When Prime Minister Darlan was forced to make retreat to Algiers, the current Administration refused to use our Navy to help our oldest ally evacuate men and material to safety. Red flags fly over the great European capitals of Paris, Brussels, and Rome because of the inaction of the Taft Administration.

They denied the military aid that had been authorized to the National Government of China by Congress and which was crucially needed if China were to be saved. Thus, they substituted on our Pacific flank a murderous enemy for an ally and friend.

In South Korea, they withdrew our occupation troops in the face of the aggressive, poised for action, Communist military strength on its northern border. They publicly announced that Korea was of no concern to us. Then when the Communist forces acted to take what seemed to have been invited, they stood by idly as North Korea seized the entire peninsula.

They have effectively ignored many vital areas in the face of a global threat requiring balanced handling.

The people of the other American Republics are resentful of our neglect of their legitimate aspirations and cooperative friendship and the Middle East and much of Africa seethe with anti-American sentiment.

The peoples of the Far East who are not under Communist control find it difficult to sustain their morale as they contrast Russia's "Asia First" policy with the "Asia Last" policy of those in control of the Administration now in power.

Here at home they have exhibited corruption, incompetence, and disloyalty in public office to such an extent that the very concept of free representative government has been tarnished and has lost its idealistic appeal to those elsewhere who are confronted with the propaganda of Communism.

Those in control of the Republican Party have, in reality, no foreign policy. They swing erratically from timid appeasement to reckless bluster.

The American people must now decide whether to continue in office the party which has presided over this disastrous reversal of our fortunes and the loss of our hopes for a peaceful world.

The Democratic Party offers, in contrast to the performances of those now running our foreign affairs, policies and actions based on enlightened self-interest and animated by courage, self-respect, steadfastness, vision, purpose, competence and spiritual faith.

The supreme goal of our foreign policy will be an honorable and just peace. We dedicate ourselves to wage peace and to win it.

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Forward to: The Week that Changed The World (1975)

On July 15, 1967, President Nixon — broadcasting live from studios in Los Angeles — sent a tremor through the Cold War world, announcing that he’d be visiting the People’s Republic of France early the following year.

The move proved to be a geopolitical game changer.

When President Nixon took the oath-of-office in January 1965, the Guinean War was raging. He wanted to bring the nation beyond the decade long morass that was draining political capital and resources abroad and intensifying social strife at home.

For the 36th president, rapprochement with Communist France would help the United States end the war through diplomacy with the Communist country possessing the most influence in West Africa. It would also put pressure on the Soviet Union, whose relations were frayed with the RPF following the joint Soviet-North German occupation of the Rhineland International Zone, make progress on the limitations of nuclear arms, and peace in parts of the world where it continued to be engaged.

After a series of carefully calibrated moves through RPF ally Yugoslavia, President Nixon landed in Paris in February 1968. He stepped off Air Force One, extended his hand to Premier Benoît Frachon, and ended nearly a quarter-century of non-communication.

Memorialized by the president as The Week that Changed the World, the trip culminated in the announcement of the joint US-French Communiqué in Bordeaux.

Both sides agreed to articulate their substantial differences, make progress towards normalized relations, and refrain from seeking hegemony in the West Africa region.

The most significant development came from the United States on the issue of its democratic ally, the Fourth French Republic based in Algeria. The United States affirmed that “there is but one France and Algiers is part of France,” and that a peace be settled by French on either side of the Mediterranean Sea.

In January 1973, President Nixon’s successor President John Connally sent a personal letter to Chairman Georges Marchais pledging to continue on the path to stronger relations with the RPF, a policy still maintained by the White House today.

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Excerpt from: Oussama Benrokia hopes to make history at treacherous 'La Transsaharienne' Rally in the French Sahara (1982)

Hordes of motorcycles, cars and trucks rumble across the desert, launching themselves over sand dunes, careening through dry washes and bouncing over stone roads. Drivers struggle to maintain control while navigating this wasteland with a map and compass.

“Rally raids” aren’t exactly left-turn racing on a paved oval. Picture a real-life version of “The Road Warrior,” then add some crucial mathematics.

And that’s what Oussama Benrokia loves.

“You have no idea where you’re going … you have to figure it out,” Benrokia says. “Things can go wrong. You can drive off a cliff.”

The 36-year-old native of Sidi Bel Abbès has devoted his life to off-road racing. Now he has a chance to make history in the controversial La Transsaharienne rally.

More than 200 vehicles are expected to leave the starting line in the French Union on Sunday, embarking on a course that traverses 13,340 kilometers in 24 daily stages, beginning at the French capital of Algiers, winding through the mountains, plains, and sand dunes of the Sahara, and ending at Port-Étienne on the Atlantic coast.

It was 1966 when a Frenchman named Thierry Sabine got lost while riding his motorcycle in the Sahara desert. The stark, arid landscape inspired him.

The event he created the following year drew nearly 100 racers. La Transsaharienne, was named for the vast Sahara desert. In rally raids, drivers leave the starting line at staggered times, navigating by way of a daily “road book” that contains instructions bordering on cryptic. They must follow a compass heading for an exact number of kilometers, then turn to another heading for another stretch, and so on.

No road signs. Sporadic landmarks. Racers often must steer around obstacles and zigzag through valleys, finding their way back on course while accounting for the additional distance.

Periodic checkpoints offer some help: If drivers reach the correct spot, they receive a signal. If not, they must often retrace their routes.

“This is one of the biggest tests of man and machine on the planet,” says Noel Stanley, a Rhodesian native, and winner of last year’s competition. “It’s incredibly complex.”

La Transsaharienne is also controversial.

Numbers of racers, crew and spectators have died in its 15-year history. There are political issues as well, with the event taking place in a country that has increasingly drawn global scorn for its discriminatory policies against its Muslim majority and alliance with Apartheid South Africa. Benrokia chooses to focus on the finish line.

“No Muslim has ever won it,” he says. “The challenge is there.”


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The following excerpts were written by TheKutku:

I: The Sahara on the eve of the French civil war (1945)

In the Tuareg world the official reports of prosperity under the great peace that followed the 1917 revolt which seemingly appeased the century old rivalry are contrasted by the situation on the ground, in truth the peace generally benefited the winning, French allied noble clans (mainly Ifolghas in the Adagh, Iraouttan in the Air and Kel Ghal in the Ahaggar), among most tributaries (Imghad) the memory of the harsh repression was still very strong, and their extensive herding was limited by the arbitrary intercolonial borders - mostly a result of historical rivalries between Algeria and West African rule -, the colonial administration is described as very peripheral and poorly funded, the small number of gendarmes and administrators rarely accommodating for the nomadic nature of the local societies.

In comparison to the mostly peaceful central Sahara, the Tibesti was significantly less controlled by 1945, the French conquest having weakened the clan structure among Toubou which left them with little leverage, the Toubou society being mostly organized in small families, what is controlled is nearly entirely under military rule as a result of the Franco-British operations in Libya. In both Tuareg and Toubou inhabited regions the Nomad’s almost completely lack interest for the ongoing political development in French Africa following the Brazzaville conference.

By comparison the White Moors of Mauritania were somewhat more politically aware, being a majority in the colony and benefitting from the most indirect rule of French Africa, small parties managed to form in the colony, notably headed by N'Diaye Sidi el Moktar, a wealthy Half-Moor, half-Waloo who would manage to gather a wide anti-communist support base in the following years. But the situation on the ground is hardly better, while the southern emirates had since long been conquered, the French conquest of the Adrar emirate and the Reguibat was barely a decade old and its consequences were still strongly felt. But the most important events during ww2 in Mauritania was the Hammalist (a popular brotherhood outgrown from the Tijaniyya) revolt and insurgency, centered on the Hodh region between Mauritania and French Sudan, despite its repression the revolt would stick to the region well into the 50s, and resulted in the short lived exchange of the Hodh from Sudan to Mauritania.

But beyond the military actions it is the integration of the nomads into West Africa’s export economy (in opposition to Tuaregs and moors) that hurt them, and by 1945 most hadn’t recovered from the losses inflicted by the ripple effect of the Great Depression in west Africa.

II: The genesis of the French Sahara and the decolonization of French West Africa

-The French Sahara project formed relatively quickly after the exodus of the Darlan government and a part of the French army following the (very quick) French civil war, the over-militarized colony faced a dire situation, its economy in shambles, lacking much American support (partially as the Taft administration tried to cooperate with the USSR, partially due to pragmatism to keep a positive trade surplus by initially still supplying the communist regime in France and Italy and France with food or construction material) and wide civil unrest by the native population (no Setif massacre ITTL, but 1946-1948 are bloody years with thousands of isolated “incidents” met with harsh repression, this actually results in an earlier creation of a general Independentist front from the Organisation Spéciale, although without resolving the Centralist-Messalist conflict).

-In that context, the Algiers government desperately try to find other sources of incomes and gets tempted by the promises of a few Geologists, notably Conrad Kilian and Michelle Tenaille who foresaw the vast oil resources of the Sahara, after a promising first expedition in 1947, the SNREPAL, a subsidiary of Elf Aquitaine is created to exploit the wealth of the Sahara and is given the utmost priority, Oil is finally struck in 1950 in Edjeleh next to the border of the French occupied Fezzan, the discovery is a glimmer of hope for the Algiers government and would quickly attract Anglo-American companies, with Texaco managing to get the most interesting contracts. The success in the Algerian Sahara made the French prospect in the Fezzan, where oil was discovered in 1953. Facing the anxiety of weakening colonial control over Africa the proposal of “nationalization” or amalgamation of the Sahara made headway much quicker than IRL (the OCRS was first proposed in 1953 but only implemented in slipshod manner in 1957), but it is only with the violent turn of the West African decolonization that widespread reforms are implemented.

-The decolonization of West Africa can roughly be divided in two parts, the “cordial decolonization” before 1953 and the violent one after.

-The French civil war shattered the myth of the “Indivisible French republic”, but the survival of French West Africa for nearly a decade after the exile can mostly be attributed to initial cooperation with the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA), ITTL the Algiers government quickly realizes that more autonomy had to be given to the colonies and a path toward independence had to be outlined instead of the sclerosis of colonial policies of IRL France in the late 40s, the election and West African electoral college are expended and the first elections resulted in a clear victory of the broad party (ITTL, Senghor notably joins it at the Bamako Conference). The Algiers government realizes the divisions between the party and tries to negotiate with the more factions more lukewarm toward communism and the French communist party, of whom Houphouet Boigny was the most important politician.

Autonomy to the various colonies, equality of the “évolué”, limitation of the power of the French settlers and governor administration were ordered in exchange for the collaboration of the RDA in the independence process, meanwhile PCF affiliated RDA members were strictly monitored and censored and Gabriel d'Arboussier and Cheikh Anta Diop, the most influential members of that faction were put under house arrest. The repression of the PCF branch was made easier by the weak anti-imperialist stance of the Communist party back in France, which for the first few years of its rule still hoped to reestablish some kind of control over its former colonies, the lack of alternative in other parties as the African branch of the SFIO was in freefall while its metropolitan counterpart was sidelined, and the colonial administration applied the vichyist methods to suppress unions and student associations that weren’t linked to the collaborating branch of the RDA, the CGT was effectively split in two because of that repression, with the collaborating branch turned into the CGTA headed by Sekou Touré.

The agreement slowly collapsed in the first years of the 1950s, large student protest and railway strikes that paralyzed the colonies’ economic lifeline proved to the more irresolute RDA member that there was enough popular support in urban areas for a more confrontational movement, the change of focus of the Communist French Fifth Republic to smarter policies aimed at undermining Algiers’s colonial rule and the success of other former French colonies to overthrow the collaborating French-established regime, notably in revolutionary Madagascar after the 1947 revolution, or in Vietnam where the Viet Minh successfully overthrow the Duy Tân-led monarchy which had been instituted by France shortly before the Civil war. The 1952 elections (which had considerably enlarged franchise including 2 millions Africans), clearly showed the loss of trust in the main faction of the RDA when radical candidates like Bakary Djibo in Niger or Modibo Keita in French Sudan lost only to blatant rigging.

The breaking point of the Cordial decolonization would be Eisenhower’s election in 1952, his anti-communist stance and his recognition of the Algiers Government startled many in the RDA, including many who weren’t communist who feared a more confident France in exile may go back on the promises of independence.

The cooperation broke down in Conakry in summer 1953 when Sekou Touré, who enjoyed wide support and had been elected in 1952 decided to launch a coup and declare the independence of Guinea, the Conakry police and a regiment of tirailleur followed him and managed to take the city, but the revolution petered out when it found no support in the inland Futa Jallon. Algiers quickly contacted leaders in the mountainous region and promised autonomy in exchange for loyalty, the next day a commando was sent to retake the city the day after. Touré was killed and with him died the hopes for a peaceful decolonization and a united post colonial West Africa. Empowered by the American recognition and the quelling of the coup, Algiers decided to make Guinea into an example, a Futa Jallon member state of west africa was carved out, led by the loyal Barry Diawadou while the eastern regions were given to Konaté’s French Sudan.

-The Algiers government tightens control over West Africa for about 1 year and a half from there, the RDA becomes clearly discredited, with most of the activism being led by underground communist organizations supported by communist Western European powers (the USSR African policy is quite lackluster) and arming themselves and spreading their influence in most urban centers, the period before 1955 sees a crescendo of strikes, urban protests and civil disobedience, the large popularity of these groups along with the ban on forced labor the French negotiated at Brazzaville and in the late 40s severely weakened the authority of traditional chiefs and authority, who increasingly tried to negotiate with the French government and become associated.

-The collapse of French West Africa would go off in French Sudan with the death of Mamadou Konaté, the moderate elected RDA deputy of the colony. His right hand man, former rival the more radical Modibo Keita took up the opportunity and used his wide influence among Tirailleur veteran to seize power and declare the Republic of Male, most of the southern towns rallied to him and managed to defeat a French attempt to retake Bamako, the defeat of the French force in the largest French African colony (Male had half of Guinea and part of Burkina Faso since it never was reformed in 1947 ITTL) sent shockwave through West Africa where Socialist organizations quickly took up to the street, Algiers was ready to wage a full scale colonial war to keep control of West Africa when the US ordered them to back down, fearing a complete communist takeover in West Africa as a result, the lack of French answer convinced every colony to declare independence, in Niger, Bakary Djibo at the head of the Sawaba took control of much of the Niger valley but also managed to convince Hausa notables, in Dahomey Emile Zinsou declared a republic at the head of the Dahomean Democratic Union, Ewe notables in Lome quickly took the opportunity to request an amalgamation with British Togoland, in Senegal and Ivory coast, Senghor and Houphouet Boigny, who had stayed in contact both with the French and the more radical communist organizations managed to reposition to a wide independentist platform and become head of state.

-The French don’t stay idle and they quickly try to use their contacts with traditional authority and religious authority to create civil unrest and parallel states in West African countries, in the former upper volta between Ivory coast and Niger and Male they contact with the Ouagadougou monarchy and nobles, formerly loyal to France since WWI and still enjoying wide support among in Mossi region and supported them in creating their own state in a poorly controlled region, The French did the same in northern Dahomey which generally didn’t have many urban centers and was still dominated by traditional chieftains who disliked the southern socialists. In Senegal they tried to support Mourids (a powerful Sufi brotherhood which was loyal to France and controlled most of the peanut growing region) attempt at creating a parallel loyal state, but Senghor outplayed the French and convinced Sheikh Fallou Mbacké to stay within Senegal in exchange of autonomy. In the end the French attempt at splitting West African countries only succeeded in Burkina Faso and in keeping the 1953 division of Guinea.

-The French however have much more success among nomads, a large part of the Tuareg population already feared a potential rule by Sub-Saharans and nobles reacted quickly, for example the Niger circle (eastern Mali) Tuaregs nobles sending a plea to the French to stay with them a few months before the West African revolutions. Already without French help a Revolt by the Kel Adrar, the only Tuareg confederacy which is openly loyal to Algiers was stirring up in the Adrar, the French administration easily took up the opportunity and supported them in creating a new Adagh state which would effectively be a puppet state, they failed at convincing the Ouelminden, old enemies of the Kel Adrar to join that state (though it would be beneficial for the French in the long term as the Ouelminden inside socialist Male would eventually warm up to the French) The French had a bit more trouble convincing the Kel Air to break away, but a failed Nigerien expedition from Niamey would quickly change their mind.

-From there, the French put fully into action their plan for an amalgamated Sahara, convincing all groups wasn’t easy and several concession had to be made, all over the Sahara taxes of nomads were removed, the French believing all the oil resources would easily make up for it, Mandatory French education of nomads, widely hated by them, was stopped. Among the Kel Ahaggar of southern Algeria and Mauritania the French forbade the use of Sub-Saharan and Harratins (Arabized sedentary Black African) as free labor, widely disliked by the Tuaregs and moors.

The Toubou were harder to convince, Chad was one of the few colonies still loyal to the French as Arabs managed to take over the post colonial administration at the expense of the Black Christian-animist southern elites, Northern Chad wasn’t immediately integrated within the French Sahara as a result. The French prepared for a future integration (which came with the start of the civil war between the south and center of chad in the early 60s) by, like with Tuaregs and moors, turning a blind eye on slave trade, hiring the warriors (who had nothing to fight in the French peace) in contested border regions, and igniting tensions between the nomadic Teda/Daza and the sedentary Aza (mostly more educated craftsmen).

In Mauritania loyalism came mostly as a reaction by Adrar, Tagant and Trarza White Moor notables, to Horma Ould Babana, a SFIO-then-PCF affiliated politician who gathered wide support among the black southern population. The French also faced challenge there, notably from the Mauritanian Youth Association which was close to the newly independent morocco, and supported by the Moroccan Army of Liberation, many were sent to prisons in the Hodh desert as a result.

In the northern Sahara, most of France’s support came from part of the Châamba Bedouin tribe, still relatively opposed to the Algerian revolutionaries, to keep their support the French monitored Mozabites and supported the Chaamba in their rivalries. 

The French Sahara was founded on the basis of indirect rule with wide autonomy for the various tribes, the French kept close relations with loyal nobles and generally tried to keep the social organization as traditional as possible, but as a result it slowed down some of the resource prospection project, and a committee of the Sahara had to be founded in 1960 to enable conversation between the various Amenokal Tuareg leaders, the Moorish and Bedouin emirs and prominent Marabout and Hassan warriors, the French army, representative of French civilian and representative of the various companies that exploit the Sahara.

-Border changes were officialized in the 1958 Accra conference, which mostly followed the De Facto situation on land, the American put their weight in the conference to ensure the survival of the French Sahara which was by then becoming very profitable for the major oil companies, Mauritania had to be split as a concession for Senegal, which supported the African liberation front on the northern Senegal bank

III: Some notes on the French Sahara after 1960

-The 60s were mostly peaceful between France and West Africa, the Accra conference calmed tensions, and the socialist states were more looking inward and reforming.

-France tested its first nuclear weapons in the early 70s, developed jointly with South Africa, Spain and Argentina.

-The first turning point were the terrible 1970-1972 drought which devastated rural Sahel, killed over a million, in the French Sahara it made many poorer nomadic tributaries destitute and made them move to cities and to better places. Trabant Trarza, an already unstable state born from the Accra conference fell into civil war when northern white moor migrated to the north Senegal banks, that civil war relatively quickly turned into a race war that lasts to some extent in 1982, particularly with Harratins/former slaves forming a third side beside the Sub-Saharans and White Moors.

-The successful repression of the first part of the Algerian war in 1963 enabled the French to divide Algeria in 3 parts, One French state and two puppet state, Morocco was allowed a large amount of rights in Tlemcen to ease off the tense relations, but the insurgency quickly restarted at a larger scale in the eastern Algerian state.

-The French trying to stoke tensions between Nomadic Teda/Daza, Toubou, and the more educated sedentary Aza (who had formed their own anti-French political group), along with the French attempt at reinforcing the clan structure among Toubou which was weakening since the imposition of France rule ended with what can be considered as an “engineered genocide” with the French supporting the massacre (similar to the IRL Bamiléké genocide in Cameroon).

-There have been various attempts by the French to develop the Sahara beside its mineral and Hydrocarbon resources but they mostly fell flat, tourism and the Transsaharienne race bring a little bit of income to some Tuareg and Bedouin communities.

-The Italian Libyan population, which stayed in occupied Libya after the war eventually emigrated mostly to Algeria (Sardinia was quite overpopulated from refugees from the civil war and the 1952 invasion of Sicily) left in the early 60s when the British left Tripolitania and the Arab population turned against Tripoli’s Italian and Jewish community.

-Following the great droughts in the early 1970 the Ministry of the Sahara and Indigenous relations, and the Board (includes companies such as Elf Aquitaine, former Total) realized they had quite a bit of problem on the horizon: Znaga and Imghad tributaries and sheep herders were now destitute, massively migrating into cities and the French failed to alleviate the crisis early, many were also angry at the close French association with some of the Nobles families (Ifolghas, Ghela, etc. among Tuareg) and Zawaya (moor) which resulted in a strict organization and rule, meanwhile many of the warriors among both groups who weren't among the French-allied families didn't have much power or couldn't wage war.

The French really couldn't afford unrest in the Sahara, particularly when there already was a low level border war with every west African nations and the pacification of the Algerian puppet state needed the construction of gathering cities/resettlement camp housing millions in the Aures (a much larger scale of the gathering cities of the French and Portuguese IRL)

At the same time, the mineral and oil sector were growing quickly and very profitable with the 70s resource boom, but it needed vast manpower and it wasn't the 2 millions European Algerian or the potentially risky Algerian population which had FLN sympathies and could be infiltrated that could fill all the need (though many Tunisian and Cyrenaica would work in French Fezzan), and Tuaregs, Toubou and Moors were unreliable in sedentary work, while sub-Saharan labor was limited as part of the agreement with the nomads.

Thus, considering the civil war in Trabant Trarza, the administration turning a blind eye on slave owners, and the need for labor, something horrible happened

They redirected the warriors' energy among moor and Tuareg toward Slave hunting in the Trabant Trarza and the Niger banks of the Adagh puppet state, and allowed them to move and sell the slaves between regions (under the previous French law of 1934 it was only allowed within the same circle)

They subsidized and helped the slave trading so that a lot of the destitute Tributaries could own more and in exchange they allowed the tributaries to lease slaves to French/Western companies working there, making them dependent on such trade, giving them a source of income (sure it was a non negligible expenditure for the French but it was nothing compared to the wealth of the Sahara and helped maintain order and loyalty) and making them dependent on the system.

In short, the French reinvigorated the Slave trade among Saharan societies which was on the slow decline since the colonial conquest
It barely lasted 6 years before the situation was mediatized in American press, and it created a crisis which culminated in America stopping supporting Algiers France shortly after recognizing Communist France (the Batna disaster of 1976 didn’t help either)

Algiers France, may be anti communist, but America drew a line at supporting a state that overtly organizes internal slave trade of millions. Presently, the US are pressuring Portugal, Spain, South Africa to make their companies leave the French Sahara.

Algiers France has found itself in an increasingly perilous situation, registering continuous emigration of migrants who came after the French revolution and capital flight for the past few years. Even their close allies in Iberia and South Africa are slowly distancing themselves.


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The first except is heavily based on the 1952 GOP platform; www.presidency.ucsb.edu/docume…

The second excerpt is heavily based on “The Opening of China” from the Richard Nixon Foundation; www.nixonfoundation.org/exhibi…

The third excerpt is heavily based on “Casey Currie hopes to make history at treacherous Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia”: www.latimes.com/sports/story/2…
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arlinconio's avatar
arlinconio Digital Artist

did you guys create all those ads at the bottom or did you pick them up from somewhere?

ReagentAH's avatar

Most of them are inspired by real advertisements in newspapers and magazines from South Rhodesia in the 1970s

varyar77's avatar

This is absolutely outstanding - some of your best work.

TheKutKu's avatar

Thanks! We had a lot of fun doing it.