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Five children sit together around a pale-green table, holding pencils. In the middle of the table is a large, blank sheet of paper with pink sticky notes on it--ready to be drawn on.

Children from the neighborhood attend an afterschool language program at the New Medina. Photo courtesy of The New Medina

  • Center Partners with The New Medina to Elevate Tunisian Creativity and Culture

    In a new collaboration, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is partnering with The New Medina, based in Sousse, Tunisia, to elevate stories of Tunisian creativity, heritage, and innovation. The partnership focuses on storytelling and exchange, kicking off with a series of five multimedia pieces about Tunisian cultural heritage in Folklife Magazine.

    In response to the continued crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, the series—titled “Tunisia Is Life”—invites makers, tradition bearers, creatives, and artists to respond to the prompt: “how I used culture to respond to one of the most challenging moments in modern history.” The forthcoming articles will also reflect on the changing position of makers in Tunisia over the past decade, amid a national process of redefining the country and its political structure.

    “In this moment of challenge and possibility, Tunisia Is Life reminds us of the creative innovation that exists globally and of creatives who embrace heritage to evolve society,” said Mark Gonzales, New Medina co-founder. “Perhaps our stories will be a catalyst for more to ask: what can America learn from Africa? And what can Tunisia teach the world?”

    “Weaving together stories that highlight Tunisian artisans’ ability to be proactive, agile, and resilient, the series will showcase solutions in a moment of crisis when culture and sustainability are intertwined,” said Halle Butvin, the Center’s director of special projects. From the artisan collective that adopted a 2,000-year-old approach to weaving so they were able to continue production, to an artist’s innovative, digital approach to redefining what a gallery is, readers will gain unique insight into the intricacies of creative Tunisian daily life.

    Developed as part of Folklife Magazine’songoing series “Chronicling Culture in Crisis,” the articles will be published in late spring and early summer. The selected authors will also participate in a residency at The New Medina’s Residency Center for Global Belonging in Sousse. As part of the 2021 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, New Medina co-founders Mark Gonzales and Soraya Hosni will participate in the “Placemaking, Collective Care, and Culture: A Conversation with Global Practitioners” Story Circle on June 26 at noon ET.

    About The New Medina

    On the northern coast of Africa, in the region that gave the continent its name (Ifrikiyah), sits The New Medina, a network of purpose-driven spaces in the medina of Sousse, Tunisia—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—including a culinary lab, heritage start-ups, and a global residency center.

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