A few weddings and two funerals
One cannot spend anytime anywhere where one has roots, and not be invited to a wedding or two. This is more so in Tunisia where the concept of extended family is deliciously literal. But what stood out in 2012-2013 in my mind are two funerals: that of Chokri Belaid, a leader of the leftist movement "Front Populaire", on February 6th, 2013, and Mohammed Brahmi, the leader a small component of the "Front Populaire" (harakat Ecchaab, or "Movement of the People", which is a Tunisian baathist party). All fingers pointed to the islamist party Ennahdha and its satellite organizations. The funeral was covered on national TV, and according to some accounts, drew close to a million people--in a country of 12 million--despite the party scoring only 5% of the popular vote in the 2011 elections. We expected violence, and both my wife and I wanted to attend. There was no way I could convince my wife to stay home, and because we didn't want our boys to end up orphans for some "feel good" event, we ended up going our separate ways to the funeral; a precaution we adopted in all the demonstrations we attended. I don't normally consider myself very courageous or "hubristic", but if you have ever been to a large demonstration for causes you strongly cared about, it is exhilarating, and what is almost scary, is that I am not sure I have ran away if things got nasty. The kinship you feel with the fellow demonstrators, of all ages, walks of life, genders (two, I guess) is incredibly beautiful. During that demonstration, I ran into my sister-in-law's 'aide ménagère' (housemaid), the president of the association of judges (Kelthoum Kennou, a distant relative "par alliance" (well, the aunt of the husband of my wife's cousin :-)) who was a candidate in the 2014 presidential elections), and an ex-classmate from my childhood, who, a year later, would become the minister of finance (Hakim Ben hammouda). The national hymn never felt as real, where you have a charismatic political leader who had given his life to the country. This painting, based on a cell phone picture, shows the central yard of the El-Gellez cemetery, at the moment that the military truck came in with Belaid's coffin. What you see over the walls are silhouettes of funeral attendees, and the black smoke is due to burning tires outside. The rumour has it that the islamist hired thugs to wreak havoc in an otherwise peaceful demonstration to invite a crackdown. However, it didn't work quite well. The Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera, which supports the islamist party, has shown close up shots of a counter-demonstration (a few hundred people) in downtown Tunis, but with the sound track of the funeral. From that point on, Al-jazeera news crews have become "non grata" in Tunisian public events (e.g. target practice for stone throwers).
CHOKRI BELAID'S FUNERAL
The Animal in the Man is one of the earliest works of my career, yet it touches upon some elements that continue to fascinate me and are somehow embedded into my work. An artist’s theme can often be seen and felt throughout the years, collections, and even individual pieces. Please get in touch in order to learn more about this piece.
Hamma Hammami speaking to the crowd
Hamma Hammami speaking to the crowd
MOHAMMED BRAHMI'S FUNERAL
Mohammed Brahmi ws killed in front on his house on July 25th 2013, which a national holiday "La fete de la République". Of course, the symbolism was not lost on anyone: the islamist do not believe in nation states, constitution, democratic institutions, or such. For this second assassination, the CIA had warned the Tunisian interior ministry about a plot to assassinate Brahmi. The warning was ignored by the Nahdha minister at the time--of course--and the fact that it was ever received was covered up. Several commissions were created, but with the exception of few demotions and early retirements in the upper ranks of the interior ministry, nothing happened. This second funeral happened less than 6 months after the first. Many people were fasting, and several people fainted. I helped carry one to a nearby ambulance :-). One of the speakers in the pictures is the leader of the Popular Front, Hamma Hammammi.
The Brahmi assassination prompted a political crisis which led to a sit-in in front the the National Assembly (Bardo district in Tunis). The word "Errahil" means "The Exodus" or "The departure", and that meant the "departure" of Ennahdha and allies from government. Because it was Ramadan, the fasting festive season, the rallies were held at night. The National Assembly was paralyzed. This, eventually led to a National Union government for all of 2014, led by Mehdi Jomaa, leading eventually to the legislative and presidential elections of 2014.
The islamist were holding their own rallies not far from there, bussing and buying off most of the attendees with money, Qatar money, le "Vilain Petit Qatar".
Iyed Dahmani, of "El-Joumhouri" (back then), exchanging with demonstrators
I should know who these ladies are (or I used to know), but they disappeared from the political scene.
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