Tunisia’s ancient crafts given new twist in contemporary exhibit

Tunisia’s ancient crafts given new twist in contemporary exhibit
Photo: Lamia Bousnina Gallery / Courtesy: Agnese Bedini, DSL Studio for Lamia Bousnina Gallery

The ancient port city of Carthage, now a district of modern Tunis, Tunisia, is rich in history. Founded in the 9th century BC by Phoenician settlers from Tyre (now Lebanon), it became a major hub during the Roman era. 

Today, artifacts and mosaics from Roman villas can be viewed at the National Museum of Bardo in Tunis. Those ancient works inspired the 'Carthagisme' exhibition at Lamia Bousnina Gallery in Tunis.  Curated by Milan-based Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, the show highlights Carthage's diverse cultural influences.

“It’s been subject to so many different influences and layers of civilisations. The Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Ottomans and even the Crusades. It’s created a very hybrid society,” he told Wallpaper magazine. 

Bellavance-Lecompte collaborated with six international designers to reinterpret the crafts and culture of Tunisia. They include Palestinian brothers Elias and Yousef Anastas, Louis Barthélemy based in Morocco, Chris Wolston who resides in Medellin and New York, Lebanon based ceramicist Mary-Lynn Massoud, and Georges Mohasseb, also from Beirut. 

Each artist was paired with a local artisan who was tasked with making the work of art. The result is a collaboration showcasing contemporary Tunisian craft, such as Kais Gharbya's palm wood creations and Berber women's hand-built ceramics. The exhibition also features innovative designs like the Anastas brothers' stone table and Barthélemy and Wolston's textile art, all reflecting Tunisia's rich heritage.

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