Imagine yourself walking in the middle of an isolated village in a small African island, and suddenly you find yourself lost in a gigantic open space museum surrounded by astounding artworks and unique perspectives that might look like from another world.
This is how narrow streets become corridors with amazing paintings on both sides, gray walls of old uninhabited houses become blank canvas for artists, and the whole village becomes a picturesque space, an enormous public museum, a fascinating art gallery made by artists from 30 different countries.
Djerba is the largest of two islands in Tunisia. It is located in the south, a few kilometers from the sea shore. It has always been a famous touristic destination for many Europeans and it is known for its sunny weather, palm trees, and resorts. The island of Djerba – also known as “Island of Dreams” has welcomed 150 young artists from more than 30 countries to transform one of the oldest villages in Djerba and Tunisia, into a unique street art project that they called “Djerbahood”. The small village of Erriadh, not too far from the touristic zone on the island of Djerba, hosted these artists and offered them its walls and domes to create a massive public street art exhibition in one of the biggest meetings of modern urban street art.
The project “Djerbahood” is the first of its kind in the mediterranean region. It does not only represent the artistry, the style and the creativity that the international artists brought with them, but also the intercultural communication, the interfaith dialogue and the tolerance that the young artists wanted to promote through their art. Mehdi ben Cheikh, the organizer of this project and the founder of the French Galerie Itinerrance, wanted to attract visitors and tourists in a different and original way. He had secured legal authorization from the local authorities as well as the landowners and the inhabitants of the village. “Muslims, Christians and Jews have lived here in peace for the last 2,000 years or so,” said Ben Cheikh to New York Times. “I’m not here to aggravate anyone, but to consolidate this aspect, which I find beautiful, and together with the natural beauty of the village”
The artists who collaborated to change the scenery of the island and give it a new dynamic life were thrilled about the change they made. They were able to adapt to the hot weather, the conservative southern traditions of the island and to the new type of architecture to create something original that has a real meaning, a message of peace and an artistic vision that might not be found in the streets of New York, Paris or London. “The way I communicate with people is to invite them to my world and be part of my experience, and if they can share a little bit of that, it’s already a social exchange.” Says Alexis Diaz, one of the artists from Puerto Rico.
The eccentric works of art that are displayed throughout the tiny village of Erriadh make this quiet barely-known village a touristic attraction for anyone with a passion for unconventional artistry and pioneering artworks. The official preview of the exhibition took place in September of 2014, announcing the opening of one of the mightiest street art scenes. This project is one of the most creative youth-manifestations that bring together visions of changemakers from 30 countries, passing a message of coexistence from a place that nobody has ever heard of before.
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