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Emancipated Art, Tunisia

Interventions on cars burnt during the Tunisian revolution. Art project with artists and neighbours.
By Faten Rouissi | Apr 2011

Art dans la rue - Art dans le quartier (Street Art - Art in the Neighborhood) was an event in public space: an Intervention / Happening using a large number of cars burnt during the revolution of January 14th, 2011, in Tunisia.

The anger and tension of the street and the pain of the youth were in some cases expressed by fire, starting with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. For several days, many properties and vehicles of the family of the dictator Ben Ali and his entourage were burnt.

As a resident of an area located at the northern suburbs of Tunis, on the Carthage Byrsa side, I saw, day after day, burnt and battered cars crammed in a nearby vacant lot. I stopped by this huge ashy picture caused by the anger of the revolutionaries. Fascinated by this image born out of fire, I imagined a positive and visual fertility of a phoenix reborn of its ashes to rejuvenate the image of a free Tunisia. It would firstly echo the willingness of young Tunisians to live in dignity and freedom, but it would also be a symbol of the future action to rebuild the country with the colors of freedom and happiness.

So I launched an appeal on Facebook for a contemporary creation in public space addressed to all visual artists, performers, videographers, photographers, installers, designers, taggers and especially students of art, design and architecture schools, to share space and time, by celebrating an unprecedented present and manifesting hope for a better future with the residents of this district.

The questions were: How to create new artistic and aesthetic forces that promote the collective dynamics in our daily lives, at a time when Tunisia is in a real need of such forces? How to dream all together - artists, critics and citizens - to engrave this action in our sensibility and celebrate our contemporaneousness for a future world while working on promoting the local culture and artistic production with the public?

The current time is prolific, in my opinion, for creations off the walls and public space to face the crisis as well as the constraints and concerns of citizens. It is important to preserve the initiative while remaining in control of our destiny and to find allies in the creation process while building new solidarities and new weavings likely to develop our imaginative worlds. It is vital to produce aesthetic sensibility and thought, emotion and collective memory while waiting for a first contemporary art museum in Tunisia.

The event has exceeded our expectations. Artists, students from all Tunis, as well as residents of Carthage Byrsa and its surroundings, young and old, came to transform these charred cars into a blooming of objects in bright colors, adorned with revolutionary graffiti.

We hope, through this event, to inspire the Ministry of Culture and various cultural actors of our country to support and promote contemporary art in public space, providing adequate help that encourages creativity in the districts and all across the country.


Faten Rouissi

Multidisciplinary artist. University assistant in visual arts, National School of Architecture and Urban Planning (ENAU), Tunis.

(Translation from French: Mary Yazbeck)

Art dans la rue - Art dans le quartier

27 February 2011
9 am - 6 pm

State-owned vacant lot
Carthage Byrsa
Tunis, Tunisia

Intervention and happening using a large number of cars burnt during the Tunisian revolution, with the participation of artists, students, as well as local residents.

Initiated and coordinated by Faten Rouissi

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