Due to a lack of attention from its city officials, Tunis, an overpopulated city, lost its Mediterranean charm and became depersonalized. However, every two years, the capital finds itself dreaming. Since 2007, the Dream City festival has transformed the medina by bringing together different artistic disciplines and the urban population.
Tunis: the medina (again) becomes trendy
This 8th edition opened on September 30 with a concert by Emel Mathlouthi and will end on October 9. We will see in particular On, a sound show by visual artists Malek Gnaoui and Ala Eddine Slim that tells the story of the prison world. We will also witness the symbolic dropping of a Carrara marble, engraved by the sculptor Rossella Biscotti to denounce the rigidity of Frontex, the European border guard agency.
City of freedoms and contradictions
To these restricted and constrained spaces, the choreographer Radhouane El Meddeb opposes “Fragments of fire”, an ode to a city of lights and freedom. The body, its fragility and time are very strong themes taken up by the dancer Mohamed Toukabri, who dances with his mother until erasing the years that them separate and the aging imposed on their bodies. In a country where taboos are gradually imploding, that of the LGBT cause is dissected by the playwright Essia Jaïbi, who, with “Flagranti”, confronts the public with the contradictions of society.
Overflow from the medina
After the break imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the event is gaining momentum this year. Articulated around fifty events, it takes place over ten days instead of three, and goes beyond the medina to reach the other heart of Tunis: the city center of the colonial era. A presence and an imprint that no one would have imagined fifteen years earlier.
This 8th edition confirms that the creators of Dream City have won the mad gamble of perpetuating what seemed, at first, a simple fad in a sleepy capital, under a political regime insensitive to artistic creation, even suspicious.
The project, which its own creators, the choreographers and dancers Selma and Sofiane Ouissi, had imagined as a provocation to burst the gangue of gloom and experience the urban space differently, exceeded all expectations. It now acts as a sounding board for the concerns and questions that agitate Tunisians.
With the support of the National Heritage Institute, the contribution of associations such as Beity (which fights against violence against women) and the partnership of the European Union, the organizers have developed a solid network. However, they do not communicate on the budget of an operation which attracted 20,000 participants in total in 2019 and already 15,000 at the midpoint of this 2022 edition – a sign of success in a Tunis where the cultural return is particularly dense.
Volunteers and spectators
“When I opened my door one afternoon, I saw a performance in the vestibule of the house opposite. It seemed surprising, normal, familiar and very important to me at the same time”, says Souad, a resident of Tourbet El Bey who sometimes comes to lend a hand to the Art Rue association, which promotes the meeting of the arts. Like her, many habitants of the medina join the approach of Dream City, which has become “their” event since it takes place on their territory. They also have free access and are often involved in logistics.
“Dream City would not exist without its volunteers,” says Sofiane Ouissi, who also counts on the demanding gaze of playwright Jan Goossens, former artistic director of the Marseille festival and co-artistic director of the event since 2015.
Wander and get lost
The strong idea of Dream City is that the spectator wandering from one place to another, even with a map, gets lost, discovers or composes other routes, in order to reconnect with his city. From alleys to squares and discreet dead ends, the medina and the colonial district of Tunis come alive to outline, without Ariadne’s thread, choreographic, visual and sound journeys. “I don’t feel like a spectator. I am invited to apprehend and share an idea, a message, an impression; I lose myself to find myself. It is a particular moment, at the limits of wandering. Dream City invented medinance, ”says a regular
At the heart of this medina, melting pot of civilizations, the event brings together more than fifty Arab, African and European artists evolving on the stages of the world and offers often visual expressions that are reinvented over the editions.
Art also serves as a substrate for experts to express themselves. The historian Leyla Dakhli and the urban planner Adnane el-Ghali push aside the walls of the city to lead a reflection around the Mediterranean, “the middle sea” hit by the tragedies of illegal migration. At the local level, conferences are also organized on the Sejoumi lagoon, which is undergoing a veritable ecocide. In tune with this eco-responsible and citizen theme, the choreographer Radhouane El Meddeb, the singer Emel Mathlouthi, the group Alsarah and The Nubatones, the dancer Andrew Graham, the playwright Essia Jaïbi set the tone for an ever more avant-garde Dream City. guardian.
“No one paid attention to it, but Dream City participated, in its own way, in liberating an expression that turned out to be fundamental at the time of the 2011 revolution”, comments Wassim, volunteer from 2009.