Kenza Fourati: Pride probably. No one ever talks about my tiny country. Yet it is shaking the face of the world. And I’m not talking only about the Arab spring. When I walked around the Occupy Wall Street movements I noticed several slogans inspired by the Tunisian uprising. After revoking censorship, when the word became suddenly free, creativity erupted. New York is the conjuncture for artists. I have the duty to help building the bridge and exposing both of my worlds.
The strongest weapon ever created is the Internet. There is no real geography anymore, just cultures to share. So I decided to launch a fashion blog this month that will also promote art and culture here and there.
Tunisia is at an edge, it’s sculpting its destiny, its history; with the fundamentalists trying to establish dogmas everywhere. I want to expose people to new cultures, photography, etc.
There are so many, but recently I met this young Graffiti artist called MeenOne, who is truly fascinating. First by the way he looks; he has dreadlocks. In Tunisia it is really rare to allow yourself to look “marginal”. People aren’t used to it and you are confronted constantly with harsh comments. Authorities will arrest you for questioning and so on. The irony is that it used to be people with long beards who looked suspicious. Then there is also the fact that he (MeenOne) grew up in a poor region of the country ruled by the extremists. Actually, his brother is a Salafist (Jihadist movement). MeenOne used to tag all over the country wearing a mask and after the revolution he showed his face, then he showed his work in an exhibit last June. The exhibit was considered an insult to the sacred. Some fundamentalists called for his death and it was his Salafist brother and the neighborhood he grew up in that ended up protecting him. I didn’t know him personally at that time, but I was stunned by what happened. For me, freedom is sacred above everything, and so is art. So, I started looking for an artist to work on an “Art is Sacred” theme for my website and my clothing line and came across MeenOne, and I found him to be extremely talented. I had no idea he was involved in the exhibit scandal at the time. I had already become obsessed with Graffiti when I went to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and discovered Pamela Castro’s work.
First through my online platform, and later on I hope to bring it to another level and allow some awesome art to be physically shown here.
When the turmoil intensified I asked my family for their permission to start publishing articles and videos connected to the subject and they allowed me to do it. They really are the brave ones because the danger was really for them. I got even more involved when my friend, who is an activist, got arrested and disappeared. His wife reached out to me and it was right at the beginning, on January 6th, 2011. I decided to stop everything that I was doing and only focus on the history that was being made in my country.
I felt infinitely proud. But I felt a kind of pride I had never felt before. Pride is a very individualist feeling, but back then it was a completely selfless collectively shared feeling of pride. I am quite moved and amazed by it. This revolution belongs to all of us. We are the revolution.
At the time, yes I was afraid of the political backlash my family could suffer. There was no question of religion at the time, but that problem came later and is actually very current today.
Democracy is still unfolding. We are navigating through what is accepted and what is not, and having fundamentalists in power doesn’t help.
Yes, it sure is now, but it never used to be. I am extremely controversial in the country as its been getting more and more conservative.
Last year I shot a cover for a magazine wearing a bikini and my body was covered by a Victor Hugo poem. I loved the idea and the poem preaching love and tolerance, but the magazine edited it in an aggressively provocative way and it delivered the wrong message. So yes, that would be the only thing I would do differently. I was too naive back then.
First of all I am manufacturing my entire collection locally. People may not know that, but many of the great fashion houses like Giorgio Armani and Zadig & Voltaire make their products in Tunisia. So I will be using those same factories. The quality of my product is very important and my main concern. I will also be launching my first collection during Tunis Fashion Week in April of 2013.