Unveiling Tunis: Mural Celebrates ‘Invisible’ Talents

Tunisians react as they attend the inauguration of “1001 Bricks Fresco”, a participatory artwork by more than 500 inhabitants of Tunis led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, illustrating the diversity of the city, with the bas relief installed on the edge of the medina, the old town listed by UNESCO, in the capital's El-Hafsia district on June 7, 2024. (Fethi Belaid / AFP)
Tunisians react as they attend the inauguration of “1001 Bricks Fresco”, a participatory artwork by more than 500 inhabitants of Tunis led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, illustrating the diversity of the city, with the bas relief installed on the edge of the medina, the old town listed by UNESCO, in the capital's El-Hafsia district on June 7, 2024. (Fethi Belaid / AFP)
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Unveiling Tunis: Mural Celebrates ‘Invisible’ Talents

Tunisians react as they attend the inauguration of “1001 Bricks Fresco”, a participatory artwork by more than 500 inhabitants of Tunis led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, illustrating the diversity of the city, with the bas relief installed on the edge of the medina, the old town listed by UNESCO, in the capital's El-Hafsia district on June 7, 2024. (Fethi Belaid / AFP)
Tunisians react as they attend the inauguration of “1001 Bricks Fresco”, a participatory artwork by more than 500 inhabitants of Tunis led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, illustrating the diversity of the city, with the bas relief installed on the edge of the medina, the old town listed by UNESCO, in the capital's El-Hafsia district on June 7, 2024. (Fethi Belaid / AFP)

In the old medina of Tunis, a wall installation titled "1001 Bricks" showcases the talents of "invisible" creators, including art students, people with disabilities and school dropouts.

Led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, the project took shape over a year through workshops that culminated in a large bas-relief made of carved and painted clay bricks, reimagining the cityscape.

The massive artwork now graces a square in the UNESCO-listed old town of the Tunisian capital.

Its main creators are "the invisible, all these people who are on the margins of society, who have disabilities" and whom "we tend keep in the shadows and not really acknowledge", said Francey, 68.

Despite challenges, the project engaged a wide spectrum of 550 participants including art professionals, students and members of AGIM, an association for people with motor disorders.

Mohamed Boulila, an AGIM trainer, said all those who contributed to the project left a personal touch.

"We have the power to do things despite everything and show society that we shouldn't only be considered disabled," Boulila, who also lives with a disability, said during a workshop.

Swiss artist Anne Francey instructs a group of young people with disabilities during a session of collaborative work of art at an institute that offers educational, artistic and social programs in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, on February 22, 2024. (Fethi Belaid / AFP)

- 'Metaphorical city' -

Samia Souid, 56, a longtime teacher at AGIM, said the project had a positive impact on youths.

"Children who cannot speak expressed their feelings and their ideas" through the project, she said.

Each group of creators "imagined a metaphorical city", with AGIM participants focusing on a city of challenges, producing sculptures akin to contemporary art.

Supported by a Swiss foundation, the project utilized clay bricks for their availability and wide use in Tunisian construction.

The initiative follows Francey's 2019 project "1001 Hands", inspired by the "One Thousand and One Nights" fairytale, emphasizing stories that intersect endlessly, she said.

Francey noted the rarity and difficulty, on a global scale, of such a "participatory art project", since it challenges the tradition of top-down artworks.

The installation helped blend the creations of "people of all social status", from architecture students to youths in reintegration -- people facing unemployment, substance abuse and other forms of social invisibility.

It is "a way of coming together around a constructive project that makes us dream of a harmonious society despite the hardships the country is going through", she said.

Artistic bricks are displayed at the inauguration of the “1001 Bricks Fresco”, a participatory artwork by more than 500 inhabitants of Tunis led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, illustrating the diversity of the city, with the bas relief installed on the edge of the medina, the old town listed by UNESCO, in the capital's El-Hafsia district on June 7, 2024. (Fethi Belaid / AFP)

- 'Commitment' -

Beyond that, the mural is a statement on public space, as the square it occupies has endured years of neglect, serving as a garbage dump and parking lot until recent renovations.

Raouf Haddad, a 42-year-old porter in the commercial neighborhood of Hafsia, said he checks in on the artwork every day and helps whenever needed.

"The entire medina should have initiatives like this," he said.

"There are collapsing roofs and walls, alleys devoid of public lighting where people cannot pass."

He hopes the square will one day become like Batman Alley -- a once-neglected passageway in Brazil's Sao Paulo which artists turned into a tourist attraction with a myriad of graffiti tags.

For now, however, what matters most is that "1001 Bricks will lead to new projects" in a neighborhood full of "abandoned and unexploited public spaces", said Firas Khlifi, a 28-year-old project manager working on children's awareness on global warming in the neighborhood.

The installation "will bring more animation because there are several festivals" in the medina each year likely to use the square for artistic performances and exhibitions, said Khlifi.

"With families there and children playing, it will increase the community's commitment and belonging to the project."



Man Kills Grizzly Bear in Montana after it Attacks

FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)
FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)
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Man Kills Grizzly Bear in Montana after it Attacks

FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)
FILE - US Highway 89 is shown near Gardiner, Mo., on July 15, 2020. (Brett French/Billings Gazette via AP)

A 72-year-old man picking huckleberries in Montana shot and killed a grizzly bear after it attacked in a surprise encounter and injured him badly enough that he had to be hospitalized, authorities said Friday.
The man was alone on national forest land when the adult female charged him Thursday. He suffered significant injuries before killing the bear with a handgun, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials said.
The bear was likely reacting defensively to protect cubs, agency spokesperson Dillon Tabish said.
Wildlife workers set out game cameras in the area to try to confirm the presence of any cubs. If cubs are found, it's uncertain if they would be captured because it is difficult to find facilities qualified to take them, The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
“Depending on the age, we might leave them in the wild because they have a better chance of survival, rather than have to euthanize them,” Tabish said.
The attack happened on the Flathead National Forest about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of Columbia Falls, a northwestern Montana city of about 5,500 people, according to the state wildlife agency.
The victim's name and further details on his condition were not released.
Meanwhile, Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff shot and killed an adult female grizzly Thursday after it had become accustomed to seeking out food from people and breaking into houses in and around Gardiner, a town of about 800 people just north of Yellowstone National Park.
Pet food, garbage and barbeque grills left outside and accessible to bears contributed to the problem, according to a department statement. No people were hurt by the bear before it was shot in the Yellowstone River.
Wildlife managers sometimes capture and move grizzly bears that are known to cause problems for people. But they will kill ones involved in predatory attacks on people or if they are deemed likely to keep causing problems regardless of being moved.