In Tunisia, hope for a bright future

“Right after the revolution, in 2012, I returned to Tunisia to see my family,” Inès Manai wrote in an email earlier this month of the photo report posted here. “When I was walking in the streets of Tunis, I saw an evolution. The girls I remembered confined to their houses or apartments were now on the terraces of certain cafes. They proudly smoked their cigarettes – which is a very controversial act for a woman there – wearing sexy clothes, as they wanted to claim: “I own my own body now and religion has nothing to do with the law anymore. . It was a new start.

The Paris-based photographer returned earlier this year to visit her extended family and to study how the country has changed in the years since the Arab Spring as it dismantled its autocratic government, adopted a new constitution and began a series of attempts. forge a new democracy. The trip was also an opportunity for Manai to witness the rise of Tunisian youth culture as it reconnects with its complicated history. Young Tunisians, active on social networks and influenced by global dynamics and what Manai calls the “Western way of life and thought”, make choices (“but also concessions”) between their culture and their religion, and are open to the “globalized world, as well as respectful of their Maghreb roots and all the values ​​that go with it. For some, “religion has become a cultural heritage more than a practice of faith”, for others, when one considers a system of values ​​which has been instilled in them by the generations, there is no risk. of abandonment. “I think when you are a Muslim it takes a long time to live your religion fully like you are supposed to, but also to live your life, enjoy it and do the work you want to do,” Manai writes. . It is a process which “crosses the winding path of self-acceptance, you have to accept where you come from, but also ask yourself if you are ready to live religion fully, or to consider it as a cultural and spiritual heritage “.

There has been growing pains, including reports of rising unemployment and corruption, significant terrorist attacks and a continuing insurgency, some of which is reflected in photos of Manai, such as those in the museum. National Bardo, which bears the lingering scars of the terrorist attack there in 2015. But above all, they are images of a people proud of their country, which is making great strides towards a better future. “The history of the Tunisian people is deeply linked to its territory and its built landscape”, wrote Manai, “They are inseparable”.

About Wesley V. Finley

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