Caravans – a modern way to create art and cultural spaces in outlying areas
While capital cities and major urban centres are often flourishing hubs for arts and culture, access to culture remains limited in rural areas in the South Mediterranean region.
Over the last few decades, conflict and political instability have been the main reasons why numerous cultural centres and cinemas in outlying areas have closed their doors. This, in addition to the rural exodus, which has resulted in the displacement of cultural activities and arts towards the cities, has left thousands of citizens in rural or remote areas without any opportunity to access culture.
Lebanon also experienced this phenomenon during and after the civil war. In recent years, awareness of the issue and of the need to create “art spaces” in these remote places has increased.
One of the initiatives attempting to respond to this need is the “Arts Bus Caravan”, a project featuring a bus that brings cultural activities to a number of villages in Lebanon, and which will be a mobile stage where art can be expressed and shared in different forms.
The aim of the Tiro Association for Arts, which launched the Arts Bus Caravan, is to create a network of cultural relationships amongst the populations of the villages of Lebanon, as well as spaces where artists from the international community can share different levels of experience with local artists.
Kassem Istanbouli, an actor and director who is committed to reopening those cinemas and cultural spaces that were shut down because of war, and to bringing the performing arts back to the south of Lebanon, manages the Arts Bus Caravan project.
The Tiro Association for Arts is an independent Lebanese association that has, since 2014, been working to open up spaces where performing arts and creativity in various artistic fields can be expressed and shared by different communities.
After its experience with the Istanbouli Theatre, the Al Hamra Cinema and the Stars Cinema, the association reopened the Rivoli Cinema in Tyre, south Lebanon, which had been closed for 29 years. The inauguration took place during the Tiro Art Festival at the end of October 2018. The festival was supported by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism and the Drosos Foundation, and brought together theatrical performances, music concerts and short films.
Another similar initiative in Lebanon is “The Caravan”, a project supported by the Med Culture programme. The objective is to construct and tour a participatory street performance built collaboratively by professional theatre-makers and refugee artists, in an effort to incorporate recorded interviews conducted with Syrian refugees living in Lebanon.
In Tunisia, initiatives bringing art to outlying areas are also being developed, such as the “K’Art-Na” project, which consists of a bus tour of theatre performances covering various geographical areas in southern Tunisia in an attempt to raise awareness about discrimination against black Tunisians. K’Art-Na’s bus will be converted into a fully equipped stage so as to become an encouraging and welcoming environment that will reach out to the public and involve them in performances and workshops in order to create communication, dialogue and interaction.
By bringing together and training different artists from diverse backgrounds, the K’Art-Na project intends to create a new, mobile artistic group, and to demonstrate that performances can stimulate a dialogue about the issue of racism and raise awareness within the southern Tunisian community. K’Art-Na is also supported by the Med Culture programme.
Content produced in partnership with Cineuropa.