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Tunis Fesival, Sacre Du Printemps by ChatHa Company. Photo Credit: © Blandine Soulage
Articles, Essays, Volume 4

A Counterpoint Reading of the Moussem Cities@Tunis Festival

A Counterpoint Reading of the
Moussem Cities@Tunis Festival
By Joachim Ben Yakoub & Fida Hammami 
Arab Stages, Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2016)
©2016 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publication

The censorship and strict regulation of the public sphere during autocratic times in Tunisia took their toll on artistic freedoms as they anesthetized most of cultural life. The revolutionary movement however marked the beginning of the 21st century in a hopeful way. Five years later, the Nomadic Art Center, Moussem, invited five young Tunisian directors to show their work on the stages of BOZAR and the  “Maison des Cultures” in Brussels.   The festival explored how artists look back on this period and tackled the question how artists can contribute to the construction of a new social conscience on the ruins of an autocratic regime.

“Moussem Cities @ Tunis” brought a fine selection of performances alternating revolutionary reflections and everyday disillusionment. Remarkably, many directors engaged with the revolutionary moment through canonical adaptations. This reflex surely is no exception in the present performing art scène, but wasn’t the “Arab Spring” supposed to herald the end of post-colonialism? Didn’t these historical upheavals pave the way for a fundamental restructuring of society, far removed from historical colonial and persistent postcolonial power structures and archaic oppositions such as “The West & The Rest?”  In his study Orientalism (1978), Edward Said warns not to underestimate the consequences of a widespread internalization and reproduction of the dominating Western cultural discourses embedded in the canon. Can one thus construct a new consciousness, as proposed by the festival, by referring time and again to a normative body of work and normative concepts without reproducing the entrenched historical power relations?

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