The small Tunisian village of Erriadh has remained unknown until last summer, when it has been transformed into a uniquely amazing open-air museum, called Djerbahood.
From June 2014, 150 artists from more than 30 nations reached Erriadh and worked for realizing murals and graffiti on the walls of houses and shops. In September the village welcomed Djerbahood, an extraordinary neighbourhood which is also to become the most interesting museum of street art.
In spite of its being located in a popular touristic island, Erriadh has never been part of the touristic destinations within Djerba. As a result, no opulence nor modernization have touched it in significant ways. Erriadh has retained its authenticity and presents itself as a very traditional Mediterranean place. Small houses and buildings are painted in white or left in the original colour ochre. Life goes on at a slow pace and everything seems old and dusty. But with the advent of Djerbahood the new has entered the village. And something magical has happened: tradition and contemporaneity showed themselves to be not two opposite poles but rather two ways of life that can coexist in perfect harmony.
Envisioned by Parisian Galerie Itinerrance, Djerbahood is a project born against cultural obscurantism and to promote freedom of expression and sense of community. Its realization meant that the artists involved had to ask permission to use the walls and to win the resistance of the locals. Luckily, after the cultural revolution of 2011 Tunisians became more open to embrace street art and soon the initial skepticism disappeared, up to the point that more inhabitants offered their walls to be decorated and helped with the work. Of course, artists from their part were very respectful of the specificity of the place.
Djerbahood is a place that does not bear any binary opposition: the contemporary here integrates peacefully with the traditional; what is more, any division between Oriental and Occidental becomes pointless. Artists from all over the world responded to the place and the local culture, enriching their creative expression through confrontation, while the traditional village embraced joyfully the colourful explosion of many different visual universes. They now can pick their favourite ones.
I am not surprised to find two favourites of mine at work here: Monica Canilao and INTI.
But my favourite work is probably the one by Lebanese Yazan Halwani:
The little girl portraied on the door seems to hold something in her hands. I like to imagine that it is a little bird that even if tenderly trapped in those gentle hands can still sing a birdsong, made visible by the arabesques running on the wall. Its freedom of expression still intact.
To know more about Djerbahood you can visit the official website here and also watch the web-series Welcome to Djerbahood, produced by Image&Compagnie and ARTE France.
So, are you ready for picking your favourite wall during a more-than-touristic trip to Djerbahood?