Carthage exhibition makes history accessible to youth

Sunday 03/07/2016
Light installation made ancient statues appear to be dressed in Roman and Punic outfits.

Carthage - The National Museum of Carthage opened its doors at night in late June for visitors to enjoy special lighting and vid­eos in the museum as part of the Mapping of Carthage: The Noctur­nal Path exhibit.
The installation combined con­temporary art video and music to celebrate the history of Tunisia. At the entrance of the courtyard, visitors were guided by lights and music through the path of instal­lations. Once the darkness dissi­pated, visitors were in front of the great pillars in the hall, which were coloured by lights to replicate how they appeared in ancient times.
Special lighting effects made statues appear to be dressed in Pu­nic and Roman outfits and a Punic village was covered with projected calligraphy. Children waited in line to have their photo projected on the missing head of a statue of a Punic child.
“The idea came about when I noticed, through discussions with others, that young people are not interested in history and museums anymore and that stones alone do not induce feelings for young peo­ple to relate to,” said event organ­iser Hatem Drissi.
“We thought it would be inter­esting to think of a way to include new technologies, new tools to get them attracted through a medium they like. We thought, ‘Why not use this tool to highlight the beau­ty of our history.’”
Drissi, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and video map­ping agency Design Lab, designed the exhibition as an attempt to en­courage people to reconnect with history and culture.
The installation used music and light to restore the colours of arte­facts as well as to “rebuild” miss­ing parts of statues and buildings. Statues appeared to be dressed in outfits and colours of their eras. The installation included anima­tion videos and interactive en­hancement of the ruins of Carthage through projected colour and cal­ligraphy.
“This project is of both cultural and scientific value as it addresses the history of the country as well as the relationship between young people and the history and culture of their country,” Drissi said. “The idea is to introduce these forgotten works of art to young people. We added colours to the works of art to simulate the original colours of statues and buildings.
“According to research and stud­ies I have done, they were not white in their original state so we worked on colour pigmentation. The visuals seen on the works of art are displayed in a way that re­sembles the colours of antiquity and how they were originally de­picted and built.”
The project aimed to promote cultural heritage in an appealing way to younger people through new media, such as video map­ping. It also attempts to explain history and patrimony.
“The goal is to democratise ac­cess to art and museums, to de­mocratise sculptures, and to pro­mote an access to history that is fast and pertinent so people un­derstand our heritage.
“Some people don’t even know their history so this medium can function as a pedagogical tool so visitors can differentiate between Roman, Punic and other eras. It is part of educating people about his­tory,” Drissi said.
Drissi said he hopes to expand the experience to other museums in Tunisia as well as archaeological sites.
“This event will inaugurate a se­ries of other video mapping shows in other museums and archaeo­logical sites,” he said. “As long as there are young people who are willing to introduce some change in the policy of culture, we hope to continue with such initiatives.” Drissi said.
“Before, we had a classical ap­proach to patrimony in which we had events where experts lecture about history and civilisations. It is important now to include new technologies in promoting patri­mony. These are the points that we need to work on for culture.”
Lobna Ajmi, a student, was wait­ing for a painting of the nine muses and Diane, the goddess of hunt, to unravel as part of a video installa­tion.
“It is quite original. It shows us our history in a creative and enter­taining way,” she said. “Younger generations are not interested in monuments and cultural events or history, so, it is a new initiative us­ing technological tools that is ap­pealing to them.
“I encourage such initiatives. … I hope it continues, to refresh the spirit of the place and introduce people to history.”