01 January 2019 Dar El Harka, unleashing Medina's possibilities
‘Dar el Harka’ literally means ‘the house of movement’ in Tunisian dialect, and a term traditionally given to a Palace Wing where there is plenty of movement such as cooking, washing, ironing and all activities that require a bit of movement that is dependent on palace residence and improves their livelihood through ‘Dar el Harka’ dynamics. ‘Dar el Harka’ is also the name of Tunis Medina’s first co-working space and creative industry hub. There is quite a bit of movement here too, of young creative people passionate about historical urban quarters revival using its urban heritage and traditional culture as a tool to create opportunities for themselves and the community around them.
Dar el Harka, is a member of Collectif Creatif, an association that aims to use design, arts, crafts and culture as a tool for socio-economic development. Dar el Harka houses ‘Journal de la Medina’ Medina’s first participatory printed newspaper, by and for the inhabitants of the Medina. The Journal is totally managed by a group of volunteer young people, who search subjects, interview Medina residence, describe the Medina of their dreams in Tounsi dialect and fundraise to cover printing costs. Dar el Harka also houses ‘Doolesha’ a collective of young architects who take Medina visitors on alterative tours around the Medina; legends and myths are as important as historical facts when telling the story of the Medina, and are used by young tour guides to design treasure hunts which bring the Medina in a whole new light. Dar el Harka also houses INTERFERENCE, the first light art festival in the Medina, which was totally sponsored by in-kind services delivered by small businesses of the Medina and a passionate dedicated army of young festival volunteers INTERFERENCE enabled the Medina to live unforgettably laminated nights last September.
Dar el Harka is also the only space in the Medina today where you can learn book-binding from the last remaining master artisan bookbinder and learn the art of Arabic calligraphy, through dedicated master calligraphers. Traditional threatened crafts meet young graphical artists, architects and designers at Dar el Harka, interact, share their passions, create opportunities for each other, preserve traditional crafts through innovation and create a new dynamic for our culture, hence making the Medina open for innovation and creativity. Dar el Harka also offers skills development classes for free to community unemployed young people and technical assistance to Rachidia digital archive project, the first musical digital archive space in the Medina which will be launched before summer of 2017.
As the first co-working space, Dar el Harka is providing important interactive space for young people who dared to imagine the Medina of their dreams and stayed in it to make it happen, Dar el Harka offers working space for young people who had the courage to create their own jobs for themselves during the current tough economic times. Dar el Harka helped Medina activists find a place to design their jobs in the Medina, hence reinvest in the Medina and create shared-economy and enthusiasm with the community. This creates low but sustainable historical urban quarter revival.
The Tunisian revolution brought economic hardship, but also brought whole new sense of possibilities, which allowed youth to unleash their creative potentials; a project such as ‘Journal de la Medina’ would have been unconceivable before the revolution. This new sense of possibilities, has enabled civil society to contribute to urban regeneration through innovation and creativity which contributed to democratising culture and arts. Nevertheless, this important new cultural activism will not be sustainable with the participation of the public sector, who despite plenty of good intentional, has been slow in moving from command and control position to contributing to a more enabling environment for further investments and job creation. Dar el Harka team is currently hoping to show case a successful social enterprise model, with high socio-cultural return on investment, which we hope will accelerate public-private partnerships in historical building reuse and management.