Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisian Singer On Art After Revolution

Interview by Yasmin Najjar in Tunis for Magharebia - 23/04/2014

Tunisian singer Sonia Moubarek is the director of the 50th Carthage International Festival, set to kcick off in July.

Magharebia met with her in Tunis to ask about security concerns, the role of artists in post-revolution Tunisia, tourism and other issues.

Magharebia: What's the state of art in post-revolution Tunisia?

Sonia Moubarek: Unfortunately, there was no cultural revolution that paved the way for the political revolution. This made the art environment in Tunisia witness some sort of chaos in all fields.

I'm here talking about the freedom of expression, which must be responsible as we live together and we're required to respect others. Freedom must be practiced through controls with rights and duties.

Tunisian artists tried to keep up with the revolution, which came to us without prior warning, and therefore, they started to look for a way to win a place in society. The same thing applies even to some politicians who look for revolutionary legitimacy.

However, those engaged in art must take their place. And one of their most important roles is to realise social peace, help change mentalities, and establish a culture that helps with economic development....

Magharebia: How can art contribute to progress and reform in Tunisia?

Moubarek: ... We must think about establishing an artistic and cultural industry in Tunisia, which would in turn be an engine for economic growth. I think having awareness about the structural and legal framework and the attempt to change the way society looks at artists is one of the most important steps that we must start with to reform the sector.

Under Ben Ali's regime, artists were like a means for amusement and nothing more. As to now, we as artists hope to become an authority and to have opinions that will be listened to and respected, and also help change reality.

Magharebia: Where do you begin?

Moubarek: I think art activities must be intensified. Artists are not just a means for amusement, but are part of a new intellectual framework.

This is in addition to the need to consolidate the role of some 240 houses of culture in Tunisia by civil society. We shouldn't only depend on the role of state, and in this way, we can reactivate these clubs, which can play an important role in enriching cultural life.

Magharebia: As director of the Carthage festival, what are your thoughts on security for the event?

Moubarek: May God protect Tunisia, especially as last summer was hot in terms of security. Nonetheless, the attendance of fans was the factor that made the festival a success. Therefore, I urge Tunisians to come to the festival and try to overcome their fears.

Terrorism grows in emptiness and crises, but we won't give it a chance to live among us.

Magharebia: As an honorary desert tourism ambassador, what are your plans to promote the south?

Moubarek: ...The Ministry of Tourism has drawn up a comprehensive strategy to try to promote this area. My role as an ambassador of desert tourism is that I have to talk wherever I am whether in Tunisia or outside it about those areas and their tourist and cultural wealth.

Here I want to give an important piece of information: there is a project to organise a Sufi music festival in Nafta and a poetry festival in Tozeur.

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