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Two women sit on the ground outdoors. On the right, one wears a white head scarf and smiles at a blonde women to her left. Together, they hold a large, round clay mill used to grind couscous. It is placed atop a lambskin rug.

Halle Butvin learns the traditional process of making couscous at the Musee Dar Khadija in Matmata, a small museum of Amazigh cultural heritage, located in a troglodyte dwelling.

Photo credit Raafet Khiari

  • Center Co-Hosts Intangible Cultural Heritage Symposium in Tunisia

    The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the USAID Visit Tunisia Activity are collaborating with the Agency for Heritage Development and Cultural Promotion and the Museum Development Division of the National Heritage Institute in Tunisia to host an intangible cultural heritage symposium September 10 through 12, 2022. Scholars interested in participating can respond to the call, which is open until August 22.

    The symposium lays critical groundwork as the first activation of Tunisia’s Living Culture, a year-long project implemented by the Center, applying our research and community-based approach to develop cultural heritage tourism experiences. It also emphasizes Tunisia’s commitments to the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) and will bring together Tunisian scholars and cultural heritage professionals to highlight and examine intangible cultural heritage within USAID Visit Tunisia Activity’s six focus regions: Tabarka–Aïn Draham, Kairouan, Gabes, Tozeur, Kebili–Douz, and Tataouine.

    The organizers hope to promote safeguarding cultural heritage practices in these regions while emphasizing the importance of community-based cultural heritage representation in tourism development. Scholars will present on topics such as oral traditions and expressions; performing arts; social practices, rituals, and festive events; knowledge and practices related to the environment; traditional craftsmanship; and foodways. The outcomes of the symposium will highlight Tunisia’s distinctive cultural practices and inform the Center’s further work with communities on cultural heritage tourism product development. In November, director of special projects Halle Butvin will lead training workshops for local scholars and tradition bearers to develop concepts for new tourism experiences.

    “Tunisia’s vibrant intangible cultural heritage—gastronomy, craft, music, dance, and storytelling—is underdeveloped and often missing from the tourist experience,” Butvin says. “Tunisia’s Living Culture will support tradition bearers and their communities to create tourism experiences, where they can share cultural practices with visitors and directly benefit from tourism revenues.”

    About USAID Visit Tunisia

    The USAID Visit Tunisia Activity works with public and private sector partners to enhance and diversify the tourism industry, by improving international marketing and quality standards, driving investment, delivering technical assistance to promising tourism businesses, and helping develop innovative tourism products and experiences.

    Bolstering Tunisia’s sustainable tourism markets, particularly in underserved regions, and expanding opportunities for women and youth in the industry, are central themes of our work. Visit Tunisia delivers assistance through four strategic lenses—marketing and communications, product development, enabling environment, and investment and innovation—to build a more competitive tourism industry.

    About the Cultural Sustainability Program

    The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Cultural Sustainability program works with communities to bolster efforts to preserve and practice living cultural heritage in the face of social, economic, and political challenges. Through its work, the program works to understand and mitigate threats to cultural sustainability, scale our impact through partnerships, convenings, and thought leadership, and transform public understanding of cultural diversity.


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