Sighting: Olfa Riahi

This post is long over due but I had to make sure it was properly done! 
Approximately 3 weeks ago, Tunisian blogger, journalist, business woman and translator Olfa Riahi came to Duke to present a copy of the new Tunisian institution.

If you didn’t know there was a revolutionary movement that started on the 17th of December 2010 where a fruit vendor set himself on fire. This sparked a series of protests that came to be known as the “Jasmine Revolution“.

She was an active participant in the movement and even wrote a petition for the movement, #Sajin52 that requested from the government a national debate/discussion on the passing of a new rule that forbade the use of cannabis in Tunisia. 

She spoke to us in my french class on the different art movements for liberation and civil rights and by the end of the class I was in complete awe. I learnt so much and of course I’ll be sharing it with you guys!

  • Zwewla: meaning “poor person” in Tunisian Arabic was a graffiti movement amongst the artists. It was an “anonymous” movement so they identified themselves by the letter “Z”.
  • #Sajin52: was against “la loi 52” which forbade the consumption of cannabis with a one year jail term + a fine if disobeyed. This law was rejected by many and Olfa Riahi actually wrote the petition to the government!

  • The Art Solution: a dance group who were against the polarization that came with two major political parties in Tunisia (Les mistes et Les laiques). They performed in public places like market squares, public parts etc and encouraged people to dance with them. They aimed to create a sense of community and resist polarization despite the different political beliefs through dance which explains their slogan “je danserai malgré tous” (I will dance in spite of everything). In other words “having different political beliefs doesn’t have to prevent us from living together as one”.
  • One of the most popular and notorious political Arabian caricature artists who went by the alibi “Z” (yes, he was anonymous too) critiqued the Tunisian government hardcore. He is still unknown till today. MINDBLOWN!

Though I couldn’t stay long, I attended the conference where she presented a copy of the new Tunisian institution and a couple of cool books influenced by the revolution to the Duke University Library. I was very inspired by her active participation in the movement and how strong of a person she is. She even got a tattoo during her sejour in the States that said “#freedom, dignity, justice, 17th December 2010” in remembrance of the beginning of the movement.
I couldn’t stay long as I had classes so I couldn’t get enough photos

Here’s a much nicer look at the books she donated to the Duke Library.

From Duke Today by Geoffrey Mock

This was definitely a crash course in Tunisian history 101 but it’s pretty amazing.

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