Join the Revolution

With Join the Revolution, Action Zoo Humain sets out in search of the ‘truth’ of the revolution.  The Tunesian Revolution forms the starting point of Join the Revolution; it acts as an impetus to formulate questions about the present, but mainly to actively think about the future.

Five years after Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, thereby provoking the Tunisian revolution, we raise the question: ‘How can we as artists today support the fledgling democracy in Tunisia?’

Together with Mourade Zeguendi and Marijke Pinoy, Chokri and Zouzou Ben Chikha explore how the Tunisian revolution can help us – here in Belgium and Europe – ­move beyond the impasse. What can our function be and what can we learn from their revolution? The crowdfunding action Artiesten Zonder Grenzen (Artists Without Borders) is an ideal occasion to reflect upon what engagement can mean in turbulent times and what the role of art is in this context. Join the Revolution raises questions about power relations and (committed) artisthood.

Tunisia may have received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015, but the island of democracy in North Africa has largely been left to its fate. Despite the international community’s encouraging pat on the back, tourists, investors and even the Star Wars film crew have stayed away from Tunisia. Tunisia, where the roots of the Ben Chikha’s lie, is often seen as the link between the Arab and the Western world. Because of its rich cultural and historical past, Tunisia has managed, time and again, to reinvent its identity throughout the course of history. As such, the country has always been a thorn in the side of fundamentalist forces, as is made all too clear by the recent attacks in the Bardo Museum (March 2015) and at the beach of Souse (June 2015).

The performance is inspired by Dido & Aeneas, the disconcerting and timeless opera by Henry Purcell, set in Carthage. In the tragic love between the Queen of Carthage and the prince that fled the burning Troy whose descendants will establish Rome, they saw unexpected reflections of the present:

"There is a parallel between the Tunisian revolution and Purcell’s opera ‘Dido & Aeneas’. The resemblance is so striking in our view, that one would think Purcell had predicted the Tunisian Spring, like a dream that comes true for so many centuries later. Everything is there: the fire, the passion, the lies and deception, the suicide, the hope!"

The performance flirts with the boundaries between propaganda, science and (artistic) engagement. For the creation of Join the Revolution, Chokri and Zouzou, together with Mohammed Ikoubaân (Moussem), travelled to Tunisia in May 2015. There they met with various artists and cultural organizations who were active during the period before and after the revolution. Each provided their unique perspective on the course of the revolution. In October 2015, Action Zoo Humain was invited to the Journées Théâtrales de Carthage, one of the largest international theatre festivals in the Arab world. The interaction with the Tunisian artists during the festival and their vision of the Arab Spring were important stepping-stones in the making of the performance Join the Revolution.