[Reportage] Debo, a Tunisian creative collective

If the outbreak of Covid-19 cases was right for the celebration of ten years of the Tunisian revolution, if the economic and social situation has deteriorated since 2011, civil society, for its part, has not failed. Born in 2012 in the wake of the revolution, the artistic collective Debo abounds in projects and is talked about far beyond the capital Tunis.

From our special correspondent in Tunis,

From the outside, nothing can imagine what is happening on the first floor of the small building close to the Interior Ministry in Tunis. But right from the door, anyone who understands that he is not in front of an ordinary place. An entrance where colors explode, music crossing the walls. But you have to enter the room to understand what’s going on there: a boil.

A product of the revolution

We are the core of a collective of artists where ideas have flowed for almost ten years. Everywhere 70 people in total, mostly young people. You have to sneak around between the members of the group and the wave of cigarette smoke to find Mohamed, leader and founder of I may. Here we find musicians, technicians, graffiti artists, circus artists, dancers, etc. For “a new world”, as the 39-year-old explains.

In March 2012, there was only a small sound studio here, few Tunisians. Today, the four rooms in the premises are crowded with colors with bombs, musical instruments, works of art of all kinds. Be careful where you put your feet in between all creations

“The energy and atmosphere that emerged during the revolution made it possible to generate lots of collectives in the country,” Mohamed explains. During the Ben Ali era, there was freedom of speech and its associated artistic freedom in society. Rap, an art in which Mohamed excels, was almost forbidden. But as of January 14, 2011, the country was able to enjoy the taste of free speech, and civil society has never let it go. “The artists then had a huge thirst for creation.”

Read also: January 14, 2011 ends the Ben Ali era in Tunisia

Since that day, there have been an abundance of projects within the Debo Collective at any time of the day or night (except since October, the date of the curfew, and then the containment set up by the authorities to fight the coronavirus). The Herkez project, a fusion of mezoued, traditional Tunisian music and hip-hop, “a music that speaks to the people”, has been on the menu for Mohamed for the last few months. . Music that gathers views on their web platform.

The country’s problems are still relevant today

In his lyrics, Mohamed evokes “the problems of young Tunisians and the whole world”. “A young person here has the same problems as a young person in Germany, Australia or elsewhere, it’s the same thing,” he said. But the problems that were inherent in the period before the revolution are still relevant to the collective, such as corruption, poverty. “What has changed is that today we have the right to speak, even if they do not hear,” sums up the founder of Debo. “Yes, we talk a lot, but they can not hear us,” he repeats. For him, general containment to fight against Covid-19, which was imposed on January 14, the day of the revolution, for four days, had no other aim than to prevent demonstrations. And he does not mince his words: “We have a government that is not connected with the people. He is not doing the job he is supposed to do. He is lying to us by saying that it is all the fault of the virus. “

So would Tunisia move towards a new revolution? The answer is no, according to the artist, for whom the government is too prepared to counter any new uprising, even if the resistance still exists, “because it has never stopped”.

To read also: Tunisia: “We are in a period of learning about democracy”

Urban art at the service of the revolution

Another project from the collective, urban art. After painting the wall at the Czech Embassy in Tunis last October, painters from Debo produced a new performance that admirers could experience almost in real time on the Internet: for several days, about fifteen artists from Debo performed. graffiti a sad concrete wall of more than a hundred meters, a stone’s throw from the famous avenue Habib Bourguiba, “for a new world, for resistance, for young people and for solidarity”.

Wednesday night, a few hours before January 14 and shortly before the curfew, many young people gave the final shots of colored bombs to complete this extraordinary work. A dazzling creation to celebrate the ten years of the revolution. Quite a symbol.


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