Carthage Festival banner 2011
Tunisia - Zaghdoud Nébil
Tunisia’s Minister of Culture in the transitional government, Ezzedine Bach Shawish, set out to prove today that life was getting back to normal after the revolution as he opened the 47th Carthage Festival - on of the most
prestigious art events in Tunisia. Bach Shawish commented: “the majority of the scheduled activities at the festival reflect the spirit of the revolution”, confirming the government’s “commitment to the revolution by scheduling sessions and shows for artists who have been excluded in the past, and were marginalized for years.”
Going against the norm, the festivals will not be held at the Theatre of Carthage, situated in the suburbs of Carthage, due to maintenance work that the government is carrying out. A number of cultural speculators noted that “not holding the festival in its usual place and distributing the sessions in different cultural locations is a sign of security fears.”
The opening ceremony, held at the Carthage Acropolium, under the “Will of Life” included ten musical works, five of which are brand new and were produced directly after the 14th January revolution. They included: “Freedom,” “I Dream,” “The Will of Life,” “Prayer”, and “The Rooster.” These pieces were performed by a number of artists of the revolution such as Ben Ahmed, Nawal Ben Saleh, Waleed Al Mazooghi, Rawda Ben Abdallah and Lubna Noman.
The opening ceremony music composed by Reda al Shomk, and directed by Ashatheli Alerfawi, was exceptional as it included a mixture of works of music and poetry, celebrating the values of freedom and human dignity and will power, which poet Aboul Qacem Echebbi wrote about saying: “If people have the will to live then fate must respond.” The audience praised freedom and love of the homeland, as recorded poems of Mahmoud Darwish were played such as “Doves Fly,” “Freedom,” “It Grows”, the famous story by poet Nizar Qabbani “The Rooster,” and finally the famous poem by Aboul Qacem Echebbi “The Will of Life.”
The festival’s performances were distributed between six cultural spots in the capital and its Northern suburbs. The festival saw the absence of famous Arab artists due to the new direction the festival is heading in, which encourages Tunisian artists to get involved, especially the youth who were not supportive of the overthrown leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The festival also included performances by numerous artists such as singers and bands that were marginalized during the ruling of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Some of those included Amal Almathloothi, Amlad Mines band, and Southern Sun band. What is also different about the festival this year, which lasts up until the first week of Ramadan, are the Arabian poetry evenings
as a “salute to the birth of Arab revolutions” performed by poets from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
During the weekly meeting of the Tunisian press, Abdelhamid Almazooghi said: “this year, the Ministry of Culture based the planning of the festival on several grounds including the achievement of equality between the quality of the presentations, and the value of the material and the policy of cultural decentralization through the support of the largest regional festivals, particularly in priority areas as well as the promotion of cultural exchange between Tunisia and its brotherly and friendly neighboring countries.”
He added: “the Ministry reduced the budget for the festival from 2.5 million Euros to one million Dinars, increasing the financial support to local festivals which cost 250 thousand Euros this year.”
Almazooghi continued: “Tunisian acts are dominating the summer festival this year. For example, local Tunisian acts at the Carthage Festival make up 75% of the acts altogether, equivalent to 60 shows divided between 6 cultural spots adjacent to the Theatre of Carthage in Carthage which could not be used this year.”