Traversée in three ACT
Participatory performances 
Between south and north of the mediterranean

The starting point was the national drama that shook Tunisia at the beginning of the summer of 2018 twenty eighteen: (image) The sinking of the makeshift boat that carried two hundred people in the night of june second  twenty eighteen , out of Kerkennah (Sfax) to reach Italy, (image carte) and which led in the end, to the death and the disappearance of more than a hundred people, including infants, children and adolescents, of various nationalities. (image)

Various interviews with the survivors were recorded and massively disseminated in the media, narrating in great detail this journey that is unfortunately becoming more and more frequent.

The « Crossing » project draws deeply on one of these interviews in particular: a very touching interview I heard on one of the local radios, where one survivor, clearly still in shock from what he had just experienced, who after giving all the details of this aborted crossing, ends his story by saying « I died at sea… I died with them… and today I am reborn again, today I have a day, today I am a newborn… ».  

The project « Traversée » questions the notions of migration and immigration, documented and undocumented. « El harga » (the burning: clandestine migration) and the « Harrag » (the burner: migrant), « those who burn » both their papers, and the borders, who do not hesitate to risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean. A crossing, a group movement during which the place and the role of the individual, embarked in this flow, are put to the test of doubt, improvisation and survival.

It was very important that the project « Traversée », physically implies the body of the other (that of the public), to have it embark in a crossing, which would take by its form of ritual, or festive and convivial ceremony to celebrate together a rebirth.From its inception Traversée was thought and designed as two folds, with two different forms and temporalities :  “The Ch9af el 7orriga” hybrid mural // and the participatory immersive performance « Blue Iftar » (Tunis) and « Crossing » (Perugia)

Traversée – ACT I : Ch9af el 7orrigua

Ch9af el 7orrigua ("The jellyfish boat")
Sousse (Tunisia) > Paris (France) > Geneva (Swissland) > Parugia (Italy)
Traveling and participatory fresco

fresco « ch9af El 7orrigua » (boat of the jellyfish) which is a fresco made on  July third of twenty eighteen in Sousse, during the artist residency “Utopies visuelles” « Visual Utopias » organized by the gallery Elbirou.

I had imagined a dialogue of the deaf between two works « The raft of the Medusa » of Géricault found in the Louvre in Paris (France) and the mosaic of Medusa found in the archaeological museum of Sousse (Tunisia).

The « boat of the jellyfish » remains visible to the day on one of  the walls of the old post office building in « b7ar ezzebla » (sea of garbage) It was important to have this participatory work in a public space, where the ownership of the work is communal. Ultimately the mural  belongs to this neighborhood and to the public.

I had painted the design in black line and suggested to my former students to add the color. The idea was that it was the color that would allow the boat to take off. 

I imagined then that it could become itinerant. I wasn’t going to move the wall. But I was going to make it travel, in the form of an itinerant and participatory performance across Europe to raise this political issue in a striking visual way that would also have a public participatory component, whenever it was possible to do so.

As a teacher, with a monthly salary, working in the public sector, I was granted a visa to Europe . I could cross the Mediterranean legally, without putting my life in danger. I had to get my passengers from the Medusa boat and they had to reach Europe safely. Finally, Medusa will have the opportunity to meet Géricault and his raft.(it’s essential to note the current political context, where EU countries are making it harder to get visas, even for those, like me, who are not considered undesirable, who do not constitute what Europes consider the danger of “harka”)

At the first opportunity: 3 months later, Medusa’s boat succeeded in crossing the border . This time in a transportable version (on a cardboard box), and loaded with all its passengers. They were warmly welcomed by the inhabitants of the district, who even welcomed one of the travelers at their home.

The Medusa boat continued its journey. It arrived in Switzerland one year later, with one less traveler  (he is shown here in black).

A month later it finally arrived in Italy.    At this participatory performance, I distributed postcards with the same image to be colored and spread.

« The jellyfish boat » continues its journey, probably somewhere at sea. Perhaps it will soon dock at the American continent.

Traversée – ACT II : Blue Iftar

Blue Iftar
Central Tunis, Tunis (Tunisia)
Producted by Central Tunis 
Partner : Maison de l'image & Mobdiun creative youth
(c) photo : Khaoula Barnat
Collective and immersive performance in collaboration with Hamdi
 Mejdoub & Bahri Ben Yahmed, 180 min, 2019.
PRESS: link 1:
link 2:

The second part, discussed here, is entitled « Blue Iftar », which i imagined as an immersive and participatory performance. This performance took place  on June second twenty nineteen, on the one year anniversary of the sinking of the migrant boat in Kerkennah.  We announced, with Central Tunis, the gallery that produced this performance, a surprise iftar (the breaking of fast dinner during Ramadan) with me.  People had then paid for a dinner and found themselves part of an unexpected walk through the streets of Tunis that began an hour and a half before the actual Iftar time. Over one hundred people were taken on this mystery walk.

What they didn’t know was that this walk was a detailed account of a migrant’s journey across the Mediterranean to Europe. To materialize this journey, I had noted six points on a map: from the haraka’s home to the « ch9af » (the final boat). I wanted to physically engage the audience’s body, hungry from the ordeal of fasting, in a walk that would cross six places in downtown Tunis. Again, the intention was not to tell the death of the one hundred and forty travelers, but to celebrate the life, the rebirth of the sixty- eight survivors, without removing the emotional and political weight of the situation.

Traversée – ACT III : Crossing

Just like the fresco, this performance traveled across the Mediterranean and was replayed in a different version.

A few months later, I was invited to the « Open Art Week » in Perugia, Italy. I saw an opportunity to reverse the roles, with a lighter version of « Blue Iftar », where the Italian public could become a migrant for a performance.

Curated by Gaia Toschi
Open Art Week 
12/10/2019 Perugia (Italy)
(c) photo: Valeria Pierini
Collective and immersive performance, 120 min, Perugia, 2019.

The city of Perugia is a historical city, known for its landmarks. I therefore imagined a fake guided tour of the city that would take the participants through a city walk in six different places. The imagined text was inspired by the real history of each place. To these stories was added the tale of a group of travelers from an ancient time, who dreamed of making a great journey, moving from one point to another. A spiritual journey to conquer a better future … The coveted land was almost a mirage, a land unattainable (a parallel with the Eldorado that is Europe for the Harakkas). The performance ended with an ultimate test to unsettle them, challenge what they feel and experience, as individuals and part of a larger group. They find me in front of a huge cooking pot filled with fish soup, that I invite them to consume in silence, before inviting them to draw the mural  together. 


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