Yesterday`s first Tunis Creative Commons Salon was one of the most coherent I`ve ever seen. After assisting to a 2 hours and half performance of different artists and activists working in different fields (from music to comics to cyber activism and blogging) one could feel like having met with Tunisia`s freedom of expression “hard core”movement. Each artist and activist, in his/her own field – whether visual art or blogging,etc- was fighting for two very simple things: expressing thoughts freely and have the right to access information and knowledge in an open, transparent way.
Tunisian rap group Armada Bizerta -who is now a regular in Creative Commons` meetings, having performed at the “Sharing the Spring” concert in Tunis last July and at the CC global meeting in Warsaw in September 2011- opened the Salon with an unplugged set accompanied by the multi-talented Kerim Bouzoita (who is a blogger, a scholar, a film maker, a musician). Armada Bizerta`s rap shows how much politics matter for this new generation of Tunisians, and how the revolution is an ongoing process which did not stop on January 14th, when Ben Ali left. “I say NO!”, one of the group`s latest song, takes inspiration from recent protests against Qatar`s intervention in Tunisia`s domestic affairs and the Gulf country`s support to religious parties in a country that, as Armada shouts in its rap, “has not made the revolution to find itself ruled by a foreigner”. “La wizara qatarya fel aradi at-tunsya” (no to Qatari presence on Tunisian lands), shouted Armada in a very powerful unplugged rap that rocked the crowd at the CC Salon.
Then Nadia Willis (who also hosted the Salon in the beautiful boutique and art gallery Arty Show), from Yaka comics collective, explained how the comics-makers, illustrators, visual artists in Tunis have organized themselves in different collectives after the revolution to boost freedom of expression and protect it. She smiled when recalled that, after Ben Ali`s departure, the artists enjoyed themselves a great deal by doing graffiti and illustrations in apartments that were former property of Leila Trabelsi`s, a symbolic act where the citizens have finally taken back what was stolen by dictatorship.
Nawaat`s Sami Ben Gharbeia`showed how the web platform worked before, during and after the revolution. He showed stuff from the first online demonstration against Ben Ali, “yezzi fock”, to the collection of pictures that have spotted the presidential airplane landing in different European airports to take Leila Ben Ali go shopping without any excuse of being on an official visit. Nawaat`s strategy before the revolution has been to show the average Tunisian citizen -with a simple language and tangible examples- that he was not living in the Tunisian “postcard” that Ben Ali was selling out to the West. Once the revolution erupted, Nawaat`s role was focused on curating news and videos, translating, tagging and archiving them, in order to give the Pan-Arab and international media professional news material to work on, in order to produce news items and updates on what was happening in Tunisia between December 2010 and January 2011. And now that Ben Ali is gone, Nawaat finally has a legal status: it became an association, opened an awesome office near the Casbah in Tunis and is doing plenty of activities, including hosting the hackspace curated by Chamseddine Ben Jomaa and Ali Hentati.
Chamseddine, alias Kangolya, another symbol of Tunisian activism, presented the hackspace to the CC Salon crowd and beautifully explained the meaning of the opengov movement tracking it back to ancient Greece.
The newly born association of Tunisian bloggers illustrated how they are now getting together, organizing themselves and trying to give themselves editorial rules, too. Blogging has been for years the only counter-voice to an official press which was totally submitted to the regime, therefore bloggers have developed incredibly professional skills and a “grassroot” ethics of cross-checking sources, quoting and linking them, etc. They probably can teach the official press and “professional” journalists how to re-organize themselves, now that the former dictator is gone.
CC Salon Tunis was able to offer an overview of all these experiences that are related one to another by the will of these folks to advocate for transparency, openness, freedom of expression, creativity. These light talks were punctuated by the music –Armada, Saloua ben Salah, Undergaa, Kerim Bouzoita-. A film on the former Tunisian cyber police, “Memory at risk”, directed by Kerim Bouzoita and licensed under CC, was also shown.
The energy flowing at Arty show gallery yesterday was a tangible sign that a new Tunisia is coming out, and will rock the world.