Traversée – Ch9af el 7orrigua

« Traversée » Projet itinérant et participatif.

Le projet « Traversée » pensé et réalisé lors de la résidence d’artiste Utopies Visuelles, Juin- juillet 2018 à Sousse se compose de plusieurs travaux qui ont pour principal sujet « El Hargua »: traversée  qualifiée de « clandestine » d’une ou plusieurs personnes appelés « Harragua » de la méditerranée à bord d’une embarcation généralement douteuse. Traversée dans un sens unique sud>nord et généralement peu appréciée par les pays hôtes. 

*Traversée très dangereuse qui cause chaque année des milliers de victimes.

Le projet « Traversée » traite d’une traversée en particulier : celle du 3 juin 2018. Une embarcation coule près des côtes de l’Ile de Kerkennah (Tunisie). Une trentaine de personnes sauvées mais une centaine mortes ou portées disparues dont femmes, enfants, nourrissons, adolescents, jeunes, moins jeunes…

Aide à la production : Galerie Elbirou et Wissem El Abed.


« Ch9af el 7orrigua », fresque itinérante et participative. Sousse > Paris > Genève…

The Raft of the Medusa by Hela Lamine: New Mural pays Tribute to the Kerkennah Migrants We Lost Last June

The Team behind the Mural: Amir Chelly (Sculptor), Mohammed Ali Bali (photographer), Nesrine Douzi (theater and visual arts), Hela Lamine, Karim Sghaier (Elbirou manager), Salma Khfifi (photographer), and Mariam Karrout (videographer). Photo by Aymen Tourabi

Hela Lamine’s contribution to Utopies Visuelles consisted of a mural entitled, “Shqaff al-Hurriga.” The mural can be seen on the sea-facing wall of the Comptoir National de Plastique (CNP) in Bhar al-Zibla (literally, the sea of garbage).

Bhar al-Zibla was originally called Borj Khadija. The area acquired its new name after parts of the neighborhood became a municipal landfill and (allegedly) a dumping ground for the National Sanitation Utility (ONAS). The Sousse municipality organized multiple cleaning campaigns in the area in recent years, but the neighborhood continues to have an insalubrious reputation.

Not far from the CNP building is a sales depot for alcoholic beverages frequented by the city’s poorer residents. The ill-kept houses in the neighborhood stand in stark contrast to the luxurious hotels a few hundred meters away. For Hela Lamine, no neighborhood could have been better suited to host the mural than Bhar al-Zibla. She tells me, “le lieu est pile-poil ce qu’il me fallait.”

A detail from “Shqaff al-Hurriga.” Photo by Aymen Tourabi.

Shqaff al-Hurriga” is a tribute to the 150 lives lost in the undocumented migrant trip in Kerkennah this past June. Lamine’s mural is essentially a re-imagining of Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa” (1818-1819), exactly two hundred years later.

Just like in Kerkannah, the victims of the Medusa shipwreck were also 150 people.

Just like in Kerkannah, the victims were the poorest of the ship, the ones that the French captain chose to abandon in order to save the dignitaries and the politicians.

However, unlike the Kerkannah victims who were headed to the southern coasts of Europe, the French Medusa was headed to the western coasts of Africa to reclaim Sénegal from the British and to appoint a French governor on African soil. Two opposite routes. One long entangled history.

“Shqaff al-Hurriga.” Photo by Hela Lamine

Lamine kept all the dimensions of the original painting, but radically changed the aesthetic. Unlike Géricault’s dark and dramatic rendition of the shipwreck, Lamine’s  “Shqaff al-Hurriga” is a cartoonish re-interpretation of the tragedy. Perhaps a nod to the childhood dreams that sunk with the 150 lives we lost. Upon a closer look, however, the cartoonish pastel figures of the raft appear to be ghosts with hollowed eyes. Their bodies are malleable like jellyfish (hurriga). They melt into the background and disappear into the sea, replicating the fate of the harraga (undocumented migrants).

The choice of the simple line can also be an abstraction and a generalization of the fate of the migrants. As Scott McCloud tells us,

Perhaps, “we are all on the Raft of the Medusa,” as one contemporary of Géricault said about the painting.


Lamine did not keep the rescuing ship that we see in Géricault’s work, but she did keep the iconic flag-waving figure of the original painting. The flag, a plea for recognition and a threadbare symbol of hope beckons the passers-by, the drinkers, the swimmers, and the alt-tourists to stop, contemplate, and remember.

The artist also says that she seeks to establish an “impossible dialogue between Géricault and the famous Medusa mosaics in the nearby Sousse Archeological Museum.” The Medusa with its petrifying gaze is _according to Herodotus_ a Libyan monster. Representations of her face in Roman Sousse were meant to prevent evil from entering one’s home. However, as the contentious history of the Mediterranean has shown us, this evil is impossible to prevent. All we can do is re-work and perfect our (shared) mythologies.

Shqaff al-Hurriga is an itinerant and participatory project. Three more versions of the mural will be painted in the next two months in Hammamet, Paris, and Geneva. More reproductions will be scheduled soon. With each new copy of the copy, Lamine wants to exhaust the meaning of the original painting. Each time also, new participants will help the artist color the mural. Locals, visitors, and passers-by will all be invited to take part in Shqaff al-Hurriga ‘s journey around the world.

Medusa Mosaic (Second half of second century)-Sousse Archaeological Museum. Photo from WikiCommons


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Crédit photo : Aymen Tourabi 


Equipe participante (de gauche à droite) : Amir Chelly (sculpteur), Mohammed Ali Bali (photographe), Nesrine Douzi (théâtre et arts visuels), Hela Lamine, Karim Sghaier (directeur d’Elbirou), Salma Khfifi (photographe) et Mariam Karrout (vidéaste) .

crédit photo : Aymen Tourabi


Fresque « Ch9af el 7orrigua « , B7ar ezzebla, Sousse, 3 juillet 2018.


Fresque « Ch9af el 7orrigua « , IESA, Paris, 11ème, 11 septembre 2018.




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