Carthage Theatre Days delivers Arab, African performances in Tunisia

Sunday 04/12/2016
Tunisian artist Hafedh Zallit (2nd R) receives the Human Zoo Action Award from Tunisian Minister of Culture Mohamed Zine
el-Abidine (2nd L). Around them is Tunisian theatre director Chokri Ben Chikha (L) and Carthage Theatre Days Director Lassaad Jamous

Tunis - The 18th Carthage Theatre Days entertained thea­tre enthusiasts in vari­ous towns in Tunisia to a well-selected variety of Tunisian, Arab and African plays.
Running over nine days in No­vember, Carthage Theatre Days promoted cultural diversity and spread its message with pre-open­ing performances in Kasserine, Kai­rouan and elsewhere, including at universities.
“This year, the festival was brought to the inner regions in the spirit of involving all Tunisians in the festivities of theatre. It is not restricted to the capital only,” said festival Director Lassaad Jamoussi.
“We had shows and performanc­es in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice in prisons and also in cooperation with the Ministry of Education in universities. These institutions helped us reach the au­dience that needs art but does not have access to it easily. This audi­ence includes youth and children who need to have a moment to en­joy art and theatre.”
This year, 62 plays, including 18 Tunisian ones, 17 Arab plays, ten African and 17 from other coun­tries, were performed at the festi­val.
“One of the main messages of the festival is to emphasise the African aspect of the festival by having a number of African plays, which doubled since last year. We then re­duced the Tunisian and the Arabic plays to give the African plays the space they need,” Jamoussi said.
“This is a festival that belongs to African theatre as it was meant since the beginning to give the stage to the plays that are not showcased elsewhere. African theatre and artists are at the heart of the festival as we are deeply in­debted to African culture.”
As this year marks 400 years since the death of William Shake­speare, the festival featured a two-day conference titled Shakespeare without Borders, which was attend­ed by professors and experts on Shakespeare from across the world
The festival treated its audiences to six performances inspired by the classics of Shakespeare and hosted an exchange programme for stu­dent theatrical companies from Tunisia, Germany, Egypt and Bel­gium.
“This year, we celebrated the iconic values of Shakespearean theatre as we selected six plays that are based on Shakespearean clas­sics. Some were adapted from the same play, which gave the specta­tor the chance to explore the differ­ent theatrical vision of the same text,” Jamoussi said.
“The point is to have the audi­ence enjoy and celebrate the art of theatre. The main street is lively and celebrations are everywhere. There is a continuous effort to bring about this importance of the festival as a platform to launch Ara­bic, Tunisian and African plays.”
The festival also committed to functioning as a platform of ex­change between distributors, spon­sors and artists.
“We included 70 producers and distributors that can work on dis­tributing [works] as well. Also, networking sessions were held be­tween these distributors and pro­ducers to create a network to pro­mote their works,” Jamoussi said.
The festival paid homage to sev­eral actors and directors. Mohamed Adar, a renowned Algerian director and actor, reflected on the impor­tance of the festival in encouraging the performing arts on a regional level.
“It is important to have this as a forum where theatre is celebrated and theatre experts have the room to exchange their knowledge. In this festival, when you see all the international theatrical companies, you will be impressed by the diver­sity that is rarely brought together in one place. The whole world is here and it is an amazing opportu­nity to have these people and ex­change,” Adar stated.
“The theatre of the Maghreb does not have the quantity of other theatre but we have the quality. Af­ter all, theatre has recently gained ground. It is still being built and yet we have managed to establish our own tradition and create a genre of theatre specific to us as a region.”
The festival also enabled those connected with its performances to showcase their work to an inter­national audience, Adar said.
“International recognition be­gins from here, from Tunis, from festivals like these where people from all over the world partici­pate,” he said.
Although the festival bestows no awards on participants, Tunisian artist Hafedh Zallit received a prize from Tunisian-Belgian art non-governmental organisation Human Zoo Action at the end of the event.