Our colleague Hajer Barouni ( barouni_hajer(at)yahoo(dot)fr ) from Tunisia shares with us a keen interest in art from waste. Thanks to her we connected with SADIKA, whose recycled glass objects are exhibited in the Gallery under DESIGN, and now she brings to us the photographic workshop run under the direction of the German GOETHE INSTITUT in Tunisia, in the Spring of 2014.
The German photographer Andre’ Lützen assisted five young Tunesian artists in their effort to capture on camera the different aspects and dimensions of environmental pollution caused by waste in Tunisia.
Hajer describes the background of the project and the project itself, providing details about the artists and translating their thoughts from French into English, as the authentic testimonials of their experimentations.
We trust that you will find this exhibition inspiring. Please contact us should you come across interesting projects suitable for our website.
Cristina van der Westhuyzen & Rainer Stegmann
By Hajer Barouni
Plastic bags carried by the wind or clinging to trees and shrubs, bottle pickers and their bicycles, carts, donkeys or motorcycles fully charged, piles of garbage that people burn in front of their homes or in the street, it is now part of daily impressions of Tunisia. The level of waste pollution has increased steadily since 2011, increasing influence of the quality of life of Tunisians in cities as well as in the countryside.
"Too much visible" wants to shake minds, educate and encourage. It is a photographic reflection on the theme of pollution by garbage that offers a new approach to the problem while telling a piece of the Tunisian solid waste reality. Choking citizens by garbage for almost three years cannot be ignored. The photographers did not simply take pictures of rubbish heaps. They went on their trail when they are collected and sorted, for example.
In the framework of a photographic workshop in spring 2014 by the Goethe Institute, under the direction of German photographer André Lützen from Hamburg, five young Tunisian artists have completed a project around this theme. Different point of views, same rigor and poignant photographic testimonials. The exhibition of their work was the 17 to 31 October 2014 at the House of Arts in Tunis.
Tarek Marzougui, Mejdi Bakri, Moez Ben Ismail, Rahma Megarech and Wejden Jerbi have each offered his perspective embracing the life of dustmen in the Medina of Tunis, how to manage garbage, the waste’s post-life, testimonies of" architectural "waste forming buildings without the function, and finally an introspection of our household waste.
1. WEJDENE JERBI
WEJDENE JERBI: Visual artist. PhD student co-supervised in the specialty Theory of Art which focuses on storytelling in contemporary art. University teacher and member of several art associations. (wejdenejerbi(at)hotmail(dot)fr)
People are what they throw. There is this very personal component of waste. Everyone knows them, each one produces waste, we all have garbage at home. Wejden Jerbi embarks on a soul-searching about its household waste: the arbitrary shapes that they acquire, who we are, and how we can fill our home by waste.
The "Inside-Outside" series makes visible the trash in its original state. It tells the zero state, first, crude and insignificant as a tiny and isolated rest waiting for its transformation, decomposition. Images orchestrated in the banality of everyday life depict the intimate aspect of garbage in our homes. The photographic catches vibrate in two notes: the circle and the straight line. The circle is vicious and condemned to perpetual repetition. The straight lines separate and "draw a line" on something passed, break with what was to what is. To tell his story, the photographer turns into a detective in search of traces and fingerprints. Despite its common character and discretion, the trash exists, lives, it has a beginning and an end, it has a history. The rest is organic or artifact as a work of art. "Inside-Outside" is outside the scope of an idea, the margin of aesthetics and the visual of banality.
2. "The Black Wall" by MOEZ BEN ISMAIL
MOEZ BEN ISMAIL: Engineer, National Engineering School of Monastir. Freelance graphic designer. (benismail.moez(at)gmail(dot)com)
What's up with all these plastic bags, these bottles, the small and large trash once they have been collected and packed in barrels? 10km from Tunis, all this waste is put together in order to be sorted again. Moez Ben Ismail went in search of the final repository. His first attempts to get closer from waste were quickly curtailed. The discharge of Borj Chekir is surrounded by a wall that separates the waste of their authors. Forbidden entrance. So the visit of the discharge turns into a trip down the wall that separates us from our waste: rubbish pickers, farmers, shepherds and guardians. Each waste of a person is the daily bread of another one.
"Unbearable odors, air poisoned, contaminated water, land raped, lives ruined by the disease and especially an uncertain future. The words that sum up the drama experienced by people in the forgotten city of El Attar located just 10km from the city center Tunis. It said that the landfill Borj Chekir, in which are collected, and without sorting it, many types of waste in Tunis (hazardous waste, hospital, household and hard) even took the lives of some people, drowned in pools of leachate, the residual liquid from waste, in huge amounts out of control. I wished to enter the discharge to document the lives of "barbecha" (scavengers), people from elsewhere who have made it their home. They sort blindly piles of garbage stacked to recover pieces of paper, glass or metal they sell to survive. The quest was not as easy as these people are no longer willing to be filmed or photographed to prevent their situation from changing for the worse or from being abused by the press. The wall is the last rampart between the landfill and the city, a symbol that has entered the lives of helpless people to make them remember what it is hidden behind, the source of their worries. This series of photos aims at taking the viewer for a certainly unpleasant and heavy ride along the wall, sometimes looking through cracks or demolished parts. An oppressive atmosphere and not really appealing one, sometimes shocking when we face the mountain of waste where we can see the silhouettes of people rummaging around under the gaze of different species of birds attracted to the garbage. The ”black wall” attempts to look at the topic of waste in an extreme view which illustrates the impact of pollution in its actual and often forgotten size. The happiness of the city is certainly the misfortune of those people who live with the discharge or those who live there. A situation that environmental activists continue to revoke in offering long-term solutions to save the little hope that remains."
3. RAHMA MEGARECH
But what if the city itself becomes a waste? Rahma Megarech looked for waste architecture, buildings without function, remains of something, the disfigured and distorted history. What are these walls telling us on the relationship of men with themselves?
"There is always a thin thread that connects the light and darkness, love and hate, winter and summer ... This thread may be a question, a thought, a look or even a beam of light. A moment can change a person's life, a street can separate two different worlds and a wall can hide a story. Why do we limit ourselves to the first contact, the first glance or the main façade on the street? This facade can hide the sadness of a century, the wealth of a poor or war traces. Let us see through the open doors, windows, curtains or holes in a wall to discover other truths. Let us be closer while keeping distances, stronger while remaining fragile and harder while remaining sensitive ...”
4. "The Medina... soiled soul" by TAREK MARZOUGUI
TAREK MARZOUGUI: Artist, graduated from the School of Fine Arts of Tunis, specialties Ceramics and Photography and the School of Fine Arts and Ceramics of Castellan in Spain. (fakroun99(at)yahoo(dot)fr)
The photographer Tarek Marzougui visited the Medina of Tunis, tourist attraction and pride of the capital. He has not left enchanted by the charm and history of the old town but focused on how to manage waste. The result is photos of a strange beauty in which garbage is sometimes invaders, sometimes well integrated participants in the action.
“When I started working on the topic of trash, "ZEBLA", at the Medina, I found it difficult to get rid of the clichés of the photograph of the medina, which often show pictures of architectural standard elements ...In all major cities of Tunisia, the medina has always preserved the soul of our identity and our history ...it was a religious, commercial and historic center, it was able to maintain its liveliness and energy, it has also evolved with people who lived there ... A large dynamic was created in the relationship between humans and their neighborhoods their houses, souks ....
In this series of photos, I tried to emphasize the close relationship between these three elements, the Medina, Humans and Waste, a relationship that does not seem to be in the best states lately due to lack of awareness and the insufficient waste management. It is certain that the citizen is guilty of the state of the "Medina"; he is smothered and besieged by its own waste; he is affected in its health and well-being and quality of life. But he is also affected in his soul and identity - because the soul of the Medina, it's himself ...”
5. "Night Team" by MEJDI BEKRI
MEJDI BEKRI: Photographer who works between Tunisia and Germany, graduated in Plastic Art, Photography specialty, at the School of Fine Arts in Nabeul. (contact(at)mejdibekri(dot)de)
The garbage collectors come only partially to master the problem: that’s the fact that the photographer Mejdi Bakri came to us with in his photo project in which he accompanied for several days the garbage collectors of the Bab Bhar area in their work. His portraits show the dangerous and exhausting conditions under which these men, marginalized by society, work.
The garbage collection services in Tunisia has a lot of work. In Tunis, 14 departments are dealing day and night of the garbage collection. The garbage collector positions proposed by the governor are poorly paid and subject to numerous risks. Scavengers working without gloves and pick up the waste deposited in the streets manually using cartons. They charge it on small carts and bring them to collection points where other garbage collectors load them onto trucks for transport to collection points in their department. Equipment and vehicles is not maintained and they constantly run out of brooms. Many trips are made on foot and the work is done manually. In the absence of bins, each bin bag is raised individually. Hospital waste, food scraps and other waste are collected together, which increases the risk of infections. Work clothes scavengers do not protect enough of the cold and are of bad quality.
For some workers, a garbage collector position is the solution of last chance. Many are sick, have not completed their schooling, are not qualified for other positions or need a job because they are the only ones in the family to earn money.
In 2012, they observed a strike several weeks to demand better wages. Finally, their salaries were increased. The minimum wage in Tunisia is now 350 dinars, about 175 euros. A garbage collector of the 1st category currently earns about 290 dinars. To get this salary a garbage collector works at least 10 hours per day.
Under this heading the Goethe Institute shows five series of pictures created by five young Tunisian photographers led by German photographer Andreas Lützen, presenting images on the theme of waste in a narrative form. What remains are the moments of reality determined by the eye of the photographer, as many subjective and individual views. Waste are transformed, collected, processed, recycled. Photographic narratives confront us with our own experience, we are asking questions, contradicting, imagining further action.