Fanack Home / Tunisia / Society, Media & Culture / Culture / Traditional and Contemporary Arts

Traditional and Contemporary Arts in Tunisia

Photo Shutterstock

Tunisia’s traditional ceramics, mosaics, carpets, and other handicrafts reflect the country’s long and rich artistic history. All of Tunisia’s traditional arts are handmade. Some handicrafts reflect Islamic motifs, while others incorporate Roman or Ottoman Turkish elements. There is also a distinctive Berber art, which is reflected in aspects of the country’s architecture and handicrafts. During the Muslim dynasties, calligraphy was widespread, primarily because it was forbidden at that time to depict the human form.

Contemporary arts

In 1949 several artists founded the School of Tunis, which included not only Tunisian Muslims, but also French, other Christians, and Jews. Its aim was to foster the artistic expression of native themes. The School of Tunis dismissed the kind of art employed in Orientalist colonial painting. With Tunisia’s independence, in 1956, artists were strongly influenced by themes such as identity and nationhood.

The 2011 revolution launched another wave of artistic expression, which deals with the years of dictatorship and touches once again on issues such as Tunisia’s national identity. Grafitti and posters are amongst the most frequent expressions of contemporary arts. An art exhibition in June 2012 in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, reflected differing – and sometimes opposing – dynamics in contemporary Tunisian society, with people searching for the country’s identity, which appears rent between modernity and Muslim religion. Some artists who exhibited there protested with their work the increasing influence of Islam in society following Tunisia’s revolution. This led religiously conservative Muslims to storm the arts exhibition, which they considered blasphemous; several pieces of art were destroyed.

Mohammed Rachdi / Galerie El-Marsa
Ibrahim Maatouss / Galerie Agorgi
Ibrahim Maatouss / Galerie Agorgi
Ibrahim Maatouss / Galerie Agorgi
Lnia Lazaar / Galerie Le Violon Blue
Nja Mahdaoui / Galerie El-Marsa

Tunisian grafitti after the revolution

© Copyright Notice

click on link to view the associated photo/image
©Shutterstock ⁃ Jaroslaw Grudzinski

We would like to ask you something …

Fanack is an independent media organisation, not funded by any state or any interest group, that distributes in the Middle East and the wider world unbiased analysis and background information, based on facts, about the Middle East and North Africa.

The website grew rapidly in breadth and depth and today forms a rich and valuable source of information on 21 countries, from Morocco to Oman and from Iran to Yemen, both in Arabic and English. We currently reach six million readers annually and growing fast.

In order to guarantee the impartiality of information on the Chronicle, articles are published without by-lines. This also allows correspondents to write more freely about sensitive or controversial issues in their country. All articles are fact-checked before publication to ensure that content is accurate, current and unbiased.

To run such a website is very expensive. With a small donation, you can make a huge impact. And it only takes a minute. Thank you.