Life, culture shows continue in Tunis despite tragedy

Friday 03/07/2015
The music goes on. (Photo: Hassene Dridi)

Tunis - The Islamic State may have hoped that in the wake of the terror attack on Western holidaymak­ers in Sousse, Tunisia would be plunged into fear and instability. But while the bravery of hotel staff demonstrated deter­mination of Tunisians to stand up to the radicals, ordinary people steadfastly continued with their Ramadan activities and organisers refused to cancel cultural events in the capital.

In Sousse, protests were organ­ised to condemn the terrorist at­tacks, and in the coastal town of Hammamet, Tunisians held a pub­lic iftar on the beach in defiance of the terrorist’s attempts to scare tourists away from what often brings them to the country.

In the capital, cultural events continue to breathe life into the city. Despite the tragedy, the festi­val of the Medina, one of the most anticipated cultural events during Ramadan in Tunis, carried on with its programme.

“We should not succumb to the trap of terrorists. That is what they want. If we cancelled the cultural shows of the festival of the Medina, the radicals would have won and managed to achieve the goal of their attacks, which is to kill life in Tunisia,” said Zoubeir Lasram, di­rector of the Festival of the Medina.

“This is why we should protect what we have accomplished so far. The proof was the Sunday [June 28th] concert, which managed to attract many Tunisians despite the sad events. In a way, that is the aim of the festival, to celebrate life against those promoting the cul­ture of death.’’

The Festival of the Medina has been held since since 1993 to en­courage Tunisian to revisit the for­gotten monuments of the old city of Tunis.

“As many people do not know the Medina, the festival is an opportu­nity for them to discover the place, especially the younger generation who are not familiar with the old city of Tunis,’’ Lasram stated.

“The second purpose is to pro­mote traditional Tunisian music. We also include international mu­sic and not just traditional Tunisian music.”

The concerts of the festival are held in the museums, the old pal­aces and in cultural centres scat­tered around the old city of Tunis. Such an approach serves to famil­iarise the audience with places that constitute a significant part of the Tunisian patrimony and heritage such as Dar Lasram, L’achouria, Bir Lahajr.

“We fought to bring the festival back to the Medina since the last editions featured concerts in other venues located outside the Medina due to security concerns after the revolution,” Lasram stated.

Salwa Darghouth, a member of the organising committee, says the festival has a cultural mission.

“What is interesting is that we all promote culture in different forms. Some are plastic artists; others are advocates of Tunisian patrimony and archaeologists. But we are all united by our passion for the Medi­na of Tunis,” Darghouth stated.

“The festival is committed to showcasing the heritage of the Medina including the traditions and the importance of the site as a historical emblem of Tunisian civi­lization.”

Starting June 21st, the festival inaugurated its 33rd edition with a slogan that pays tribute to Tunisian women artists.

“We need to promote female art­ists since we lack opportunities to celebrate women for their contri­bution to art. We could have paid tribute to specific artists, but we chose to dedicate it to all women artists in Tunisia as they have con­tributed greatly to art and culture,” Darghouth said.

“It is not a sexist approach, but there are women who gave a lot to Tunisian music and art. Why not give them a chance and the recogni­tion they deserve? And women are also in the committee that advocate the cause of women. The more we advocates the cause of women in the country, the more women find more space and presence in public events and activities.”

The festival primarily invests in traditional Tunisian music to bridge the gap between the present and the past and to inspire the new generations to follow the music of the older generations.

In addition to the music, the fes­tival lights up different sites in the Medina on Ramadan evenings.

“I like to come to the Medina to discover these spaces that take on a different shape with musical shows. Each place has its own specificities, which makes it a discovery each time,” Sana, a student, said.

On June 28th, outside the thea­tre a crowd gathered waiting for the show to start.

“It is one way of showing the world that we will not let the cow­ard attempts of terrorists put an end to the beauty of this culture. We Tunisians love to enjoy life and no one can stop us from doing so. Consider it a message to terror­ists but we are not afraid of them,” Marwa, a 22-year-old student stat­ed.

“It is heartbreaking to see what is happening, but it does not reflect us as Muslims or Tunisians for that matter. This terrorism is strange to the culture itself. I mean look around you. Look at how people are out with their families enjoying the nights of Ramadan and going to concerts,” Ahmed, 35 years old, said.

“Tunisia will always keep this image despite everything else, an image of a life-loving peaceful na­tion that will resist and defend it­self against the threats of radicals by embracing life.”