Dramatic mobile phone footage, firsthand accounts on social media and other digital content, often made by protesters dodging censorship, have helped immortalise Tunisia’s 2011 revolution in a new exhibition.
With videos of angry protesters in clouds of tear gas and an audio recording ending with the cry “Ben Ali has fled”, the multimedia exhibits chart the 29-day uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in what is known as one of the first Facebook revolutions.
“Work, freedom and dignity!” The slogans that were to trigger uprisings across the Arab world meet visitors to the famed Bardo Museum in Tunis on an audio recording of protesters shouting.
Nearby, a TV plays an interview with the mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, filmed the day the young street vendor set himself alight in the town of Sidi Bouzid in December 2010.
His death sparked riots in protest at unemployment and the cost of living.
His mother’s interview was broadcast by foreign satellite channels, adding momentum to the demonstrations which eventually forced Ben Ali to flee with his family to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011.
One visitor to the “Before the 14th” exhibition, 22-year-old student Hassen Tahri, was in high school when the uprising broke out.
“I was very young at the time and I don’t remember much, but with this exhibition, we can reconstruct the sequence of events,” he said.
“It reminds us of January 13 and 14, when we didn’t know what would happen, especially after (Ben Ali) fled.”
Saving the historical record
The creators of the exhibition aim to bring together a digital record of the days leading up to Ben Ali’s fall.
A storm of images and videos posted online were instrumental in turning a street vendor’s death into a full-blown uprising — but many were only saved as posts on social media.
That worried activists and researchers, who feared that the online historical record was starting to be deleted.
In response, they set up a collective of NGOs and worked with institutions including Tunisia’s National Library to preserve the material.
They brought together photos, videos, blog posts, poems, statements and even Facebook statuses, along with information on their locations, dates and the people who posted them.
The result of four years of work, the archive now holds nearly 2,000 photos and videos, mostly taken by protesters themselves.
It is preserved for posterity at Tunisia’s National Archives.
The exhibition, which will also go on show in the southern French city of Marseille later this year, includes material on protests dating back as far as 2008, through to the mass protests of early 2011.
“It’s important for young people to understand exactly what happened,” said Hiba Jebali, a 21-year-old student visiting the exhibition.
“They are the future of the country.”
Kmar Ben Dana, a historian who took part in the research, said it had been challenging to verify digital content created by people who had braved Ben Ali’s censorship.
“It’s unprecedented, because it’s made up of digital material,” she said.
Tunisia’s democratic transition has been held up as a success story in a region since rocked by uprisings and wars.
But unemployment in the North African country remains high and Tunisia has faced a deadly jihadist insurgency.
The exhibition venue itself was the site of a massacre in 2015 when two jihadist gunmen opened fire, killing 22 people.
And eight years after Ben Ali’s departure, many in Tunisia say the hopes of the revolution have been unfulfilled.
In the face of insecurity and the high cost of living, some even say they now miss the rule of Ben Ali.
But Ben Dana hopes that as well as being a record for historians, the archive can preserve the gains of the revolution.
“We hope it (the exhibition) will help to show that the revolution was an extremely positive, extremely liberating event,” she said.
And it will help in the future “to write history based on these archives”, she added.
Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality
Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.
The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain.
The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.
Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.
But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.
Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.
One Twitter user asked:
“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”
A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.
“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.
Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.
“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.
His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.
“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.
General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”
The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.
Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.
Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.
The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.
Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb
Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb.
A car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff on Saturday, a security official said.
“Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb” in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened as a UN convoy was passing through the area.
Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was hit by years of violence targeting diplomatic offices and security forces after his fall.
An attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In 2017, military strongman Khalifa Haftar drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out of Benghazi after a three-year battle.
Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, went on to seize Derna, the last city in eastern Libya outside his control.
But bombings and kidnappings have continued.
A May 2018 attack left seven people dead and last month, a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.
A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.
Haftar controls most of eastern Libya, and early this year he ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to purge the south of what he called “terrorist groups and criminals”.
On the heels of that campaign, his LNA launched in April an offensive to take the Libyan capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.
The LNA on Saturday announced a truce around Tripoli for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire called for by the UN.
Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt
The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year
Egypt displayed on Sunday the gilded coffin of Tutankhamun, under restoration for the first time since the boy king’s tomb was discovered in 1922. The restoration process began in mid-July after the three-tiered coffin was transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo from the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, southern Egypt.
“We are showing you a unique historical artefact, not just for Egypt but for the world,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told a press conference at the new museum, which overlooks the famed Giza Pyramids.
The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year when Egypt’s new mega-museum is opened to the public. The restoration is expected to take around eight months.
The outer gilded wood coffin stands at 2.23 metres (7.3 feet) and is decorated with a depiction of the boy king holding the pharaonic symbols the flail and crook, according to the ministry. In the last century, the coffin has “developed cracks in its gilded layers of plaster, especially those of the lid and base”.
Famed British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the 18th dynasty king in Luxor in 1922. Sunday’s announcement comes after the controversy the Pharoah courted in early July when a 3,000-year-old Tutankhamun artefact was sold in London for $6 million.
Furious Egyptian officials condemned the sale and asked the international police agency Interpol to trace the artefact which it deems looted.
Nigeria’s state oil firm awards crude oil swap deals to 15 firms
Zambia rejects donor aid amid its worst drought
Total South Africa to buy Anadarko’s Africa assets
Sudanese ex-President Bashir admits receiving $90 million from Saudi royal
Ugandan police confirm the death of 19 people in fuel truck blast
Rwanda’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival and the celebration of humanity
An app is helping reunite South Sudan’s ‘lost’ children with their families
Former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh accused of ordering migrant slaughter
How technology is helping Kenya win the war against poaching
Standing Strong for Albinism in Africa
Africa’s giraffes threatened with ‘silent extinction’
Nigeria’s school for “Almajiri” graduates class of 2019
Africa in 60 – August 15, 2019
The burden of South Africa’s unidentified bodies
Google launches “Google Maps” with a Nigerian accent
East Africa Politics News23 hours ago
Burundi’s opposition party confirms vandalism of its 18 offices
News1 day ago
Teenager with albinism found dismembered in Burundi
Lifestyle News10 hours ago
Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Central Africa News2 days ago
Measles is a bigger threat in DR Congo than Ebola – NGO
North Africa Politics9 hours ago
Libyan Navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body
Politics10 hours ago
Cojep movement elects acquitted war criminal Ble Goude as President
News7 hours ago
Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo city
Top Story7 hours ago
Sudan’s new sovereign council faces delayed unveiling