By Hadi Fornaji.
Tunis, 15 March 2017:
“We need more events like this”, said Libyan businesswoman Fawzia Alfaki, speaking of last weekend’s festival of Libyan culture, Min Ajl Libya, organised in Tunis by the French embassies to both Libya and Tunisia.
“There is so much culture in Libya,” she said, and it should be shown to the world. Unfortunately, the country’s rich heritage was being totally obscured by the current divisions.
For two days, the French Institute in downtown Tunis resounded the music of Libyan musicians such as Malouf from Tripoli, Zoukra from Khoms, a Tuareg band from Ghat and even a Tripoli rap group, GAB.
There were also contemporary paintings and sculptures on show by Libyan artists; a rich diet of Libyan food to be consumed; book and poetry readings and discussions; plus seminars on the country’ archaeological heritage as well as on where Libya might be heading politically. On the day before the festival there was also an economic seminar featuring numerous Libyan political and business figures including the Presidency Council’s transport minister Milad Matouk and the chairman of the union of Libyan chambers of commerce, Misratan HoR member and businessman Mohamed Raied.
Alfaki’s views was fully supported by others attending. “It is important that there are cultural events like this to show that there is much more to Libya than politics and violence” said Mourad from Tripoli.
Tarek Badri had come from Tripoli specifically for the festival. It provided a chance for Libyans to come together to change the current image on their country, he said. The real image of Libya, he added, had been spoilt by what is going on in the country. The country had been dehumanised in the eyes of the world. The festival was a small stop in helping correct that distortion, he believed.
For Libyan art expert Alia Al-Senussi, who works wih Art Basel and who helped in the selection of some of the Libyan artists whose work was on display, one of the most important things about that show was that it took place at all. It showed what Libyans could do and, as such, empowered them. It was reason for belief in Libya and hope for Libya’s future, she said.
“I have never been more hopeful than hearing the dreams of the artists being featured in Min Ajl Libya. If this determination to create beauty can come from such times of adversity, there is no doubt we have a bright future ahead” the daughter of Prince Idris Al-Senussi told the Libya Herald.
“Libya’s heritage is so often forgotten, not just in the outside world but even amongst ourselves,” she added.
“I am not asking us to look back with some wistful memories of emperors and armies, but to simply take pride in what exists around us, and within us. We live with the remnants of the past, but these ancient monuments should be lightning rods of action.”
The show provided a chance for those attending to simply enjoy themselves and let their hair down, so to speak. Many joined in dancing as the musicians played. “Tonight” said Mahmoud from Benghazi on the Friday, “we can be Libyans all together and be proud of what we have and celebrate it together”.
It was not just Libyans who turned up and took part. Tunisians joined in what as well. “It shows that Libya is not just about fighting and arguments”, said Naim, a Tunisian who had worked for a number of years in Libya. Like others present, he wanted the event not to be a one-off, but the start of regular celebrations of Libyan culture in Tunisia.
Another doctor attending, well known in Libya during the revolution for his work in Misrata, Mohamed El-Fortia, similarly expressed his pleasure at the event, likewise saying he hoped to see more such events.
That is likely. A handful of foreign diplomats were also in attendance and clearly impressed at what had been organised in what turns out to have been an incredibly short period of time – no more than four weeks according to one of the organisers.
“We will also have to help organise another event like this”, one of the diplomats was overheard to say.