In February 1963, just a few months after Algeria’s independence from France, Bettina Heinen-Ayech moved to the home town of her husband, the Algerian builder and quarry owner, Abdelhamid Ayech (1926-2010). For the “Plein air” artist Bettina, the landscape around Guelma would become “the landscape” of her life. She painted he region’s tallest mountain, Mount Mahouna, which stands at 1411m in height, across the decades and created over 50 views of the mountain. The mountain would have the same significance to her work as Mont Saint-Victoire had for Cézanne.
She was visited there by her mother Erna Heinen-Steinhoff and Erwin Bowien from the very beginning. The pair would spend long periods of time in Guelma until their deaths. Erwin Bowien painted numerous pictures of Guelma and the surrounding area. Guelma thus became the last outpost of the Artists’ Colony.