Last week in Tunis during the artistic event “Le Printemps des Arts” (the Spring of Arts), Salafi Islamists, a fundamentalist group, destroyed or damaged some art works that they deemed blasphemous. The government seems reluctant to get involved, claiming that it will defend the freedom of creation but condemning some work of arts as showing aggression towards sacred values. This has sparked clashes with the police in the cradle city of the Arab Spring, while in Paris Tunisian artists, organisations and political associations called for a demonstration in front of the Tunisian embassy on Friday 15th June in protest of the event and in defence of freedom, thought and diversity.
Amongst the works of art considered insulting to Islam by the fundamentalists is Ring by Faten Gaddes, an installation consisting of a boxing ring, with portraits of Jewish and Christian Tunisian women on punching balls. This has been demantled and removed. Meanwhile, artist Moufida Fedhila received death threats on her mobile phone and via Facebook.
As we have already seen with Art Dubai, this is not the first incident in the aftermath of the Arab Spring where art is attacked for what it is: a symbol of democracy and free speech.
Photo: Patrick Kovarik, in Libération