Writing and Creativeness Between Prohibition and Surveillance

Writing and Creativeness Between Prohibition and Surveillance: A Seminar in The Culture House Ibn Rachiq.

On June 9, 2012, by the invitation of The Free Tunisian writers’ League, a seminar under the title “Writing and Creativeness Between Prohibition and Surveillance” took center stage at The Culture House Ibn Rachiq at 5 o’clock in the evening.

The seminar was organised to study the status quo of the writer and the book. Most of the interventions centered round the phenomenon of prohibition between auto-censorship and the censorship of the other and the authority which can restrain the writer’s role in creativeness so that the intellectual oscillates between freedom of expression and serving the change. After the political changes writers must be entitled to a freedom of expression that guarantees a creative vision that touches upon a reality that oscillates between art and ideology.

The Text of the Revolution:

Among the objectives of this seminar was to answer the question of “what text do we want after the revolution?” and to draw the attention to the rights of the author and the creator in order to enhance the cultural material which for its sake cultural rights and guaranteeing creators’ future must be constitutionalised. The audience discussed issues pertaining to our cultural status quo touching upon features of an artistic and aesthetic vision that gives priority to the book and bets on it to enhance the society’s public taste, and draws a strategy that aspires to the best, in which the book is respected, and gives more interest to the pioneers of the language of dhad (the Arabic language).

Many writers and intellectuals attended the seminar that was run by writer Mohamed Jaballi who reminded of the commitment of The Free Writers’ League to its fixed principles, like resisting censorship and surveillance. He also pointed to the specialisation of the League in this field that was among its priorities in resisting despotism inflicted on the creators and their texts, and the League’s engagement in many battles against injustice. Among its battles that lasted for many years, he mentioned the resistance of the phenomenon of prohibition as the League invited writers of banned books and lifted the blockade on them years ago. Besides, he pointed to the expansion of the concept of prohibition between auto-censorship and the censorship of the other and the authority.

Freedom of Creation:

After this background, writer Abderrahmane Abid opened the door of testimonies with an intervention in which he reminded of the fact that his book was the first to be banned in the era of Ben Ali. He also reminded of the machineries of prohibition that affected an important number of his books. Then Fadhila Chebbi intervened and thanked The League because it lifted the blockade on her novel Justice that was confiscated in the printery without justification and reminded of the siege and marginalisation from which she had suffered. She pointed to an issue of priority which is the incorporation of the creative rights in the next constitution. Abdeljabbar Maddouri spoke about the years of prohibition, writing on walls, and the manner of searching ways of resistance. Lazhar Sahraoui, the writer of Two Faces of One Corpse that was an awarded novel in the East and banned in Tunisia, called for the need for the continuation of resisting all what might impede the freedom of creation.

Professor Jalloul Azzouna also spoke about the phenomenon and the updated list of banned books. He reminded of the struggle of The League in this regard. He mentioned the arbitrariness of the phenomenon of prohibition which affected even books that praised the authority. He also spoke about those whose books were banned times ago, and who turned into RCDists (RCD: Former ruling party) and supplicants (those who called ousted president Ben Ali to run for the 2014 elections). He spoke about his book The Identification of Literature with Freedom that was banned, despite that its texts were published in supplements and magazines. Sadek Charaf spoke about Dar Al Akhilla and about his book I am an Opposer that was published in 2007.

Salem Ben Yahia spoke about the collective experience of al Nawras newsletter and the manner of putting an end to the surveillance with personal means and machineries.

A number of writers also intervened in the seminar. Among them, we can cite Allala Houachi, Adel Maizi, and Kahena Abbas.

Originally appeared in the Tunisian daily Essahafa 14/06/2012 by Hafedh Al Alayani.

You can read the original text in Arabic here.

Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.

About aliznaidi

Ali Znaidi lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He graduated with a BA in Anglo-American Studies in 2002. He teaches English at Tunisian public secondary schools. He writes poetry and has an interest in literature, languages, and literary translations. His work has appeared here and there and is scheduled to appear elsewhere . At moments of revelation, he smokes and drinks green tea with mint while pondering.
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