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A young Tunisian man turns an abandoned place in his area into a cultural space

As you walk in the middle of the Jaiara area in Sidi Hussein (one of the popular neighborhoods adjacent to the capital Tunis), your attention is drawn to the sound of music and laughter of children filling the space, emanating from a modest building decorated with different colors and simple décor, after it was deserted and filled with dirt and bottles of alcohol.

Nabil Issawi, a young man in his thirties, from the region, whose artistic sense and fun loving spirit of life pushed him to revive this forgotten place in his neighborhood, turning it into a cultural space after it lacked the most basic elements of development and entertainment, and he did not receive a “friendly look” from the Ministry of Culture.

Nabil and a group of the people of Al-Jayyara decided to rely on themselves and change the reality of their area, after they were tired of the promises of the concerned authorities, and a long time awaited their fulfillment, despite the lack of a hand, but they resolved and believed that cooperation is strength, and that God’s hand is with the group.

Idea and implementation

The place remained deserted for years, and it was the property of the Tunisian state, and some took it as a dumping ground, ruining its walls, and even part of it crumbled and crumbled. Nabil told Al-Jazeera Net, “The place was scary, dirty, and lifeless, as it was a bastion for drug abuse.”

The young man took advantage of his experience in the field of culture – he works as a dance coach and heads the Association for Artistic Platform for Culture and Arts – in volunteer work that benefits the people of his region, who did not find a refuge to entertain themselves or hone their talents and fill their void in their marginalized neighborhood, despite the proximity to the Tunisian capital.

Nabil’s idea was well received by the neighborhood residents, and he found unprecedented encouragement from them. He says that every one of them is serious about what he has. Some of them contributed paintings and art pieces, others with musical instruments and school tools, and there were those who took care of the cleaning, restoration and painting process.

The interface of “cultural space” after being developed with simple capabilities (Al-Jazeera)

Within weeks, part of the place was almost ready, despite the simple financial capabilities, and despite the obstacles that were encountered by the owner of the idea at the beginning; They accused him of exploiting public space, and threatened to close it several times, but he did not give up and adhered to his small dream, while he was negotiating with the relevant authorities, who “showed a reassuring approval,” as he put it.

Culture is life

The children and youth of the neighborhood waited impatiently for the opening of the cultural space, as it is like a new baby that will add vitality and another life to their modest neighborhood, and they visit the place periodically, until part of it is completed and they did not wait for the completion of the rest, and they began practicing their various hobbies with unrivaled enthusiasm.

Ibrahim (9 years old) says, “I came with my friends to train on stage, our favorite hobby that we did not find where to practice in the past, but thanks to Brother Nabil and the people of the neighborhood, we had the opportunity to fulfill our dream of honing our talent and becoming brilliant actors.”

Despite the lack of capabilities, despair did not find a way to the cultural astronauts, for the features of happiness and a smile of hope did not leave their faces, and what are the most significant indications of those features that hide behind them the disappointments of officials whose culture is at the bottom of even their false electoral promises.

The new space has become an outlet for the children of the region in their spare time (Al-Jazeera)

The disappointments Aziz (16 years old) summed up in the lyrics of rap songs that he organized himself, and he had the opportunity to perform them in the new cultural space in his neighborhood, and to convey what is trembling in the chest of a young man of his age to the people of his region, as they are his small audience that encourages him every time and pushes him to continue.

Their talents and cultural and intellectual activities differ, but the love of life, learning and culture unites them despite their young age, as they encourage each one of them separately and push him to show his talent. They applauded their friend Ahmed (14 years), who was shy in the beginning, until they convinced him to perform the “hip dance” Hop “loved it, and it was them so.

The opening of this cultural space may seem normal on its face, but it hides in its core a rebellion against geographical and historical reality, which has been built since the colonial era on the dichotomy of the periphery and the center, whose dismantling requires an initial awareness that the idea is the origin of everything.




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