After organizing a press conference on June 19, where representatives from various media broadcasters were invited, Black is a Value project began performing on the streets of Tunisia to highlight issues of racism faced by black Tunisian community. Through the technique of street theater, Black is a Value aims to support black Tunisians preserve their cultural heritage, reject racist practices linked to social behavior, enhance the elimination of all practices and forms of discrimination on the basis of color, and promote the principle of mutual respect and coexistence among all groups of the Tunisian society. The project’s performance tour included performing in Festival International du Film Amateur de Kélibia, Tabarka Beach and Bizerte so far. A group of Danseurs Citoyens’ members, the implementing organization of Black is a Value project, spoke to the Drama, Diversity and Development project in a recent interview about their experience working with the project and performing on the streets.
What does the project symbolize for you?
Black is a Value means a lot to us on many levels: As an organization, this project is of great importance as it helped us figure out our capabilities to conduct bigger projects. On the other hand, and more importantly, this project helped our organization achieve one of our main goals of fighting against racial discrimination. It also gave us the opportunity to try out the art form of dance theater, which is rarely employed in the street arts in Tunis. Throughout this project, we were able to evaluate the level of comprehension and consciousness of racism in the Tunisian society. In addition, we were able to watch 30 young artists, who also artistically contributed to the project, evolve throughout these 11 months that we worked together. These young artists took the project as an opportunity to grow as human beings and learn the foundations of the Human Rights.
Do you have a favorite part or scene of the project? If yes, which one and why?
The part of the project that was the most outstanding for us is when we arranged what we called the ‘residency for the creation process’. That was the first time our artists isolated themselves in the heart of nature for two weeks to think about the project. This opportunity created a new dynamic and provided our artists with the creative richness to develop their ideas. In the play itself, we have several favorite moments, but to be honest, we love all of the scenes as they were created meticulously and with persistence. If we were to pick one, the scene right in the beginning of the show is the closest to our hearts as it creates a moment of concentration and attraction in the public.
What’s the main goal you wanted to reach with this project?
From the beginning of the project, we worked to attain two goals: The first was to reach a high artistic level with the young artists taking part in the project while working to promote it in big cultural events in and outside of Tunisia. And the second goal was to reinforce the values of coexistence and tolerance in accepting everyone and especially the Black minority in Tunisia.
What were the reactions of the audience?
Quite to our surprise, the audience attending our performances were always attentive and taken in by the show. We mostly received positive feedback after each performance, which we believe is due to the art form and artistic characteristics we employed. This obviously played a huge role in influencing how our audience received the show as it provided an easy reception of the content. Our artistic director, Bahri Ben Yahmed, remembers a commentary of a member of the audience in Jendouba who thanked us for respecting the audience’s artistic understanding. This is a proof of the audience’s satisfaction with the artistic level employed. Some members of the audience even approached us after the show to support the cause, especially in Kelibia and Bizerte.
Looking back after having reached the final stage of your project, what were the difficulties you encountered in the process?
We encountered few problems regarding our methodology and strategy of procedure during our performance tour, which encouraged us to carefully consider the special needs of both our audiences in the different regions we performed at and the show itself. Our biggest challenge was planning the whole tour, as we did the shows respectively and had to move from one location to another. The regions that we were performing at were far from each other, which made it more exhausting for our dancers and team members during the trip. It was also a big challenge to do 12 shows in two weeks, which is something our young artists weren’t used to.