Tunisia Arts

Tunisia Arts and Cinema


According to allunitconverters, there are few artistic traces of the Carthaginian civilization, due to the total destruction of Carthage by the Romans (146 BC). However, the literary sources, the underground burials, the votive steles, as well as certain stylistic survivals in later monuments, reveal the Phoenician imprint of the motherland, with large Greek influences in a composite style of orientalizing character. Typically Phoenician were the funerary costumes, as shown by the anthropoid sarcophagi and funerary masks. In the Carthaginian civilization the tophet developed, Phoenician sanctuary where human sacrifices were performed (Carthage, Hadrumetum). The greatest archaeological documentation of Punic Carthage comes from the extensive necropolis (Sahel, Cape Bon) which has returned rich ceramic material, gems and ivories. With the Roman conquest, Tunisia experienced a flourishing development in the northern region. The newly founded Roman cities followed a regular checkerboard plan, while those built around indigenous nuclei adapted to irregular layouts or overlapped them (Gighti, Thuburbo Maius, Dougga); the terraced arrangement of various cities built on the hills for defensive reasons is characteristic (Carthage, Uthina). The temples repeat the Roman types, but are always closed within a peribulum. Tunisia is very rich in monumental doors and arches with one arch (Maktar) or three (Sufetula Thuburnica). In addition to theaters and odeon of Carthage and Dougga there are 25 amphitheaters including the grandiose one of Thysdrus. The abundance of thermal springs also allowed the construction of vast spas; the water supply system by means of cisterns and numerous aqueducts (Thuburbo, Sufetula, Carthage etc.) is also grandiose. Among the bridges, it should be remembered that of 6 km that connected the island of Meninx (Djerba) with the mainland. The mosaic with figured or geometric ornamentation is very common in the houses (the famous one by Dominus Iulius of Carthage, sec. IV), while the sculpture does not offer notable specimens (the best are imported, as revealed by the material of the ship wrecked near Mahdia, now in the Bardo Museum in Tunis). The Christian churches, dating back to the time of Justinian, are of the basilica type, with three or five naves without a transept, some with a quadrangular atrium. Notable examples of the Byzantine construction technique are found in the fortification works (walls of Vaga, fortress of Limisa). In the second half of the century. VII the country was conquered by the Arabs. The major center of Islamic culture was Kairouan, which experienced its maximum splendor under the Aghlabites, to whom we owe the Great Mosque, with a square minaret with rear floors and a typical Tunisian plan. and they built those of Sousse and Sfax. Autonomous in architecture, the Aghlabites instead followed Abbasid Baghdad in the decorative arts (tiles with metallic luster motifs of the Samarra type, wood carvings). Also in the period of the Turkish domination madrāse, hermitages, kindergartens, fountains were built, as well as notable private houses and villas especially in Tunis (Bardo palace).


Active since 1921, the cinema produced around twenty feature films under the protectorate, but only one, Occhi di gazelle (1924), made by a Tunisian, the pioneer Samama Shikly. With independence (1956), the first impulse was given to short films and newsreels, film clubs and amateurs. In the 1960s, the creation of Satpec, a state-owned production and distribution company linked to the Ministry of Culture, favored a development, albeit partial, even in the feature film. The best-known directors were Omar Khlifi (The dawn, 1966; The rebel, 1968; Fellaga, 1970; Grida, 1972), Férid Boughedir (The anguished death, 1969; The picnic, 1971), Brahim Babai (And tomorrow?, 1971). In the seventies Abdellatif Ben Ammar, from the intimistic A story so simple (1970) passed in Messages from Sequan (1974) to the history of the labor movement in Tunisia, and in Aziza (1979) to an intense profile of the condition of women among the contradictions of social reality. The “national” role played by Satpec then went into crisis for the benefit of the private sector, while the studios of Monastir have been increasingly rented to foreigners, especially Americans. Tamar Chériaa, the Tunisian critic who in 1966 had created the biennial meetings of Carthage (Journées Cinematographiques de Carthage), was imprisoned for fighting against neo-colonization. Local filmmakers found themselves working in co-production and abroad. Thus were born, in 1976, Ridha Behi’s The Ambassadors of Naceur Ktari and Sole delle Iene; and so, in 1982, Traversate by Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud and The Ballad of Mohamed the sharecropper were produced by Abdelhafidh Bouassida. Although the national production is rather scarce (from 1966 to 1992 just over 50 feature films were made), the 1980s and early 1990s saw, in addition to the growing success of Journées, also the release of some successful films: L ‘ Nouri Bouzid’s Man of Ashes (1986) and Bezness (1992); Haltawin (1990) by Farid Bourghedir; Swallows Don’t Die in Jerusalem (1993) by Ridha Behi. The Nouveau Théâtre, born in 1976 by Fadhel Jaïbi and Jalila Baccar, has given a notable impulse to Tunisian dramaturgy and to cinema itself; in particular, the director Moufida Tlatli, famous and esteemed throughout the Arab world, should be mentioned; among his most famous films Les silences du palais (1994), La saison des hommes (2000), Nadia et Sarra (2004). Among the most relevant films of recent years are: À peine J’ouvre les yeux by Leila Bouzid (2017); The laste of Us by Ala Eddine Slim (2018); Aala Kaf Ifrit by Haouther Ben Hania (2019).

Tunisia Arts