Tunis, June 2014 / by Scott Ordway

I am in Tunis this week, working with the Tunisian-Algerian writer Meryem Belkaïd (Slate, Huffington Post) on a new project called Spring. It's in the early stages of development, but will ultimately be an evening-length exploration of the Arab Spring and its ramifications through text and music. We've spent the week meeting with performing artists and other Tunisians who were active during the 2011 revolution and continue to play a vital role in the cultural and political life of the country.

This is a complex place with a complex history, and I'm learning that even the best-intentioned western narratives about the revolution and its aftermath are miserably imprecise. Three years after Ben Ali fled his opulent palace here for exile in Saudi Arabia (having been refused by the French), the cultural and infrastructural landscapes of this country reflect French colonial rule, twentieth-century dictatorship, and resurgent Islamism. These intertwined histories behave like massive bodies in space, each exerting its own gravitational pull, but each influenced by the others as well.

With critical support from Bates College, Meryem and I are in Tunis designing the formal architecture of an intercultural dramatic work that explores these issues. Meryem's text, which combines original narrative in English with source material in French and Arabic, reflects another major influence on the region: the Anglophone international community which includes the American government, the UN, and the byzantine network of NGOs that are productively and counter-productively active throughout North Africa and the Arab world more broadly. More on this project as it develops.

Click on the image above to see more pictures.