the role of art and artists in the Mediterranean society

July 10th, 2018 the role of art and artists in the Mediterranean society

-Speech at the 'Rethinking the Euro-Mediterranean cultural partnership' 2018- 


In 2016 a survey[1] to evaluate youth drug consumption and free time use, took part in the Medina, the historical urban quarter of Tunis. The survey concerned youth age 15-19, students in 9 high schools. The result of the survey showed 11% drugs consumption among Medina’s youth, which according to experts, less than worldwide average, but high enough to raise the concern of our newly open society.


As a project coordinator, what was more worrisome, was to discover the ‘nothingness’ in their lives between home and school as well as the ‘nothingness’ in their future dreams. What I considered more alarming than drug consumption, was the 25% who already at that age dream of immigrating and the 2% who dream of illegal immigration ‘harka’ in our dialect.


Youth with lives full of ‘nothingness’ should be a national priority in my opinion. I have just been elected city council member in Beni-Khalled, only 60km from Tunis and ‘youth nothingness’ is even more important. My dream is to eradicate cultural deprivation and make the word ‘harka’ obsolete from our dialect!


And it is possible...


We have 100 years of musical and performing arts archives, well locked in inaccessible storages, hungry thirsty for viewers and listeners, in urgent need for digitalization, enabling them to become underestimated opportunities for research, development, innovation and inspiration for youth. Youth hungry for inaccessible performance spaces and complicated open urban space use for performance. Youth that mainly gets its inspiration from angry YouTube rappers, promoting ‘harka’.


We have historical buildings heavy with breath-taking artisanal work, hungry thirsty for master artisans to restore them. We have master artisans with 4-6 generations craft history, transported from other Mediterranean cities, excluded from vocational training institutes. We have vocational training institutes closing down for having instructors with no artisan background, and no material to teach with, abundant in falling down historical buildings…. And youth with no dreams! 


Most of our museums are in the capital and some big cities; with million years of history, there are hundreds of myths and historical stories, that could become AI experiences and 3D museums, that can travel around the country, fuelling the imagination of youth in every corner of Tunisia… instead we have ‘youth nothingness’ waiting to be recruited and dreaming of ‘harka’.


I have led 2 modest projects, with the same surveyed youth in the Medina of Tunis. I was told by their schools, that they were not so good for school and the school finds it challenging to keep them in school. The first project was the printing of 2 special editions of ‘Journal de la Medina[2]’ a participatory newspaper, that was totally written by high-school youth in ‘derja’ Tunisian dialect[3]. The not so good for school youth, were very disciplined, wrote beautiful articles about their daily worries, described their school and community with funny sarcasm, and even described themselves with a great sense of humour. The finished printed newspaper totally written by them, made them so proud and gave me so much hope for their future; but teachers and headmasters, decided it is better not to distribute the special ‘Journal de la Medina’ in their school, because they did not want to promote writing in ‘derja’ as it will ruin student’s Arabic.


The second project, is called FANTEK[4], a digital arts school; where digital art workshops, were organized for the same youth, who are about to drop out of school due to their low grades; and their creativity was the most positive surprise.


Since those 2 experiences, I am wondering, do students fail school or schools are failing their students?


I would like to also share a survey[5] conducted in 2014, related to creative industries status in the Medina of Tunis. As we interviewed artisans with workshops in the Medina during the survey, we travelled on a journey of cultural euro-med exchange, as the carpenter explains the techniques he acquired from his Arabic master and those inherited from Italian masters. The gypsum carving that mixes floral European styles with geometric Arabic styles to make it Tunisian today, and the book-binder who is proud of ‘dorure des livres’ technique he added to his craft which he learnt from a French master over 40years ago. The Euro-Med cultural exchange, regenerates itself naturally, and is part of our lives; to rethink cultural partnership, we need to rethink youth, culturally enable communities and rethink education.


Finally, as a social entrepreneur, who believes that social entrepreneurship will save the planet, I hope that we design together sustainable models for culture to become an enabler for socio-economic development. Tunisia’s revolution most important gain, in my opinion, is converting inhabitants into citizens, and we are more than ready to transform and rethink!


[1] Survey was led by ASM Tunis, funded by AIMF and the City of Luxembourg
[2] ‘Journal de la Medina’ is a project launched by Collectif Creatif
[3] Project was led by ASM Tunis, funded by AIMF
[4] FANTEK is a partnership between The Municipality of Tunis, RFLM and Collectif Creatif
[5] Survey part of MEDNETA project, EU funded where ASM Tunis was the local Tunisian partner

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