Unveiling Tunis: mural celebrates ‘invisible’ talents

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A group of young people with disabilities participate in the creation of a collaborative work of art at an institute that offers educational, artistic and social programs in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
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A group of young people with disabilities participate in the creation of a collaborative work of art at an institute that offers educational, artistic and social programs in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Swiss artist Anne Francey instructs a group of young people with disabilities during a session of collaborative work of art at an institute that offers educational, artistic and social programs in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Artistic bricks are displayed at the inauguration of the '1001 Bricks Fresco', a participatory artwork by more than 500 inhabitants of Tunis led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, illustrating the diversity of the city, with the bas relief installed on the edge of the medina, the old town listed by UNESCO, in the capital's El-Hafsia district on June 7, 2024. (AFP)
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A group of young people with disabilities participate in the creation of a collaborative work of art at an institute that offers educational, artistic and social programs in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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Unveiling Tunis: mural celebrates ‘invisible’ talents

  • Supported by a Swiss foundation, the project utilized clay bricks for their availability and wide use in Tunisian construction

TUNIS: In the old medina of Tunis, a wall installation titled “1001 Bricks” showcases the talents of “invisible” creators, including art students, people with disabilities and school dropouts.
Led by Swiss artist Anne Francey, the project took shape over a year through workshops that culminated in a large bas-relief made of carved and painted clay bricks, reimagining the cityscape.
The massive artwork now graces a square in the UNESCO-listed old town of the Tunisian capital.
Its main creators are “the invisible, all these people who are on the margins of society, who have disabilities” and whom “we tend keep in the shadows and not really acknowledge,” said Francey, 68.
Despite challenges, the project engaged a wide spectrum of 550 participants including art professionals, students and members of AGIM, an association for people with motor disorders.
Mohamed Boulila, an AGIM trainer, said all those who contributed to the project left a personal touch.
“We have the power to do things despite everything and show society that we shouldn’t only be considered disabled,” Boulila, who also lives with a disability, said during a workshop.

Samia Souid, 56, a longtime teacher at AGIM, said the project had a positive impact on youths.
“Children who cannot speak expressed their feelings and their ideas” through the project, she said.
Each group of creators “imagined a metaphorical city,” with AGIM participants focusing on a city of challenges, producing sculptures akin to contemporary art.
Supported by a Swiss foundation, the project utilized clay bricks for their availability and wide use in Tunisian construction.
The initiative follows Francey’s 2019 project “1001 Hands,” inspired by the “One Thousand and One Nights” fairytale, emphasising stories that intersect endlessly, she said.
Francey noted the rarity and difficulty, on a global scale, of such a “participatory art project,” since it challenges the tradition of top-down artworks.
The installation helped blend the creations of “people of all social status,” from architecture students to youths in reintegration — people facing unemployment, substance abuse and other forms of social invisibility.
It is “a way of coming together around a constructive project that makes us dream of a harmonious society despite the hardships the country is going through,” she said.

Beyond that, the mural is a statement on public space, as the square it occupies has endured years of neglect, serving as a garbage dump and parking lot until recent renovations.
Raouf Haddad, a 42-year-old porter in the commercial neighborhood of Hafsia, said he checks in on the artwork every day and helps whenever needed.
“The entire medina should have initiatives like this,” he said.
“There are collapsing roofs and walls, alleys devoid of public lighting where people cannot pass.”
He hopes the square will one day become like Batman Alley — a once-neglected passageway in Brazil’s Sao Paulo which artists turned into a tourist attraction with a myriad of graffiti tags.
For now, however, what matters most is that “1001 Bricks will lead to new projects” in a neighborhood full of “abandoned and unexploited public spaces,” said Firas Khlifi, a 28-year-old project manager working on children’s awareness on global warming in the neighborhood.
The installation “will bring more animation because there are several festivals” in the medina each year likely to use the square for artistic performances and exhibitions, said Khlifi.
“With families there and children playing, it will increase the community’s commitment and belonging to the project.”
 

 


NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star

Updated 25 July 2024
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NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star

  • The planet is roughly the same diameter as Jupiter, but with six times the mass
  • One big difference: It takes this planet more than a century, possibly as long as 250 years, to go around its star

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A super Jupiter has been spotted around a neighboring star by the Webb Space Telescope — and it has a super orbit.
The planet is roughly the same diameter as Jupiter, but with six times the mass. Its atmosphere is also rich in hydrogen like Jupiter’s.
One big difference: It takes this planet more than a century, possibly as long as 250 years, to go around its star. It’s 15 times the distance from its star than Earth is to the sun.
Scientists had long suspected a big planet circled this star 12 light-years away, but not this massive or far from its star. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. These new observations show the planet orbits the star Epsilon Indi A, part of a three-star system.
An international team led by Max Planck Institute for Astronomy’s Elisabeth Matthews in Germany collected the images last year and published the findings Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Astronomers directly observed the incredibly old and cold gas giant — a rare and tricky feat — by masking the star through use of a special shading device on Webb. By blocking the starlight, the planet stood out as a pinpoint of infrared light.
The planet and star clock in at 3.5 billion years old, 1 billion years younger than our own solar system, but still considered old and brighter than expected, according to Matthews.
The star is so close and bright to our own solar system that it’s visible with the naked eye in the Southern Hemisphere.
Don’t bet on life, though.
“This is a gas giant with no hard surface or liquid water oceans,” Matthews said in an email.
It’s unlikely this solar system sports more gas giants, she said, but small rocky worlds could be lurking there.
Worlds similar to Jupiter can help scientists understand “how these planets evolve over giga-year timescales,” she said.
The first planets outside our solar system — dubbed exoplanets — were confirmed in the early 1990s. NASA’s tally now stands at 5,690 as of mid-July. The vast majority were detected via the transit method, in which a fleeting dip in starlight, repeated at regular intervals, indicates an orbiting planet.
Telescopes in space and also on the ground are on the hunt for even more, especially planets that might be similar to Earth.
Launched in 2021, NASA and the European Space Agency’s Webb telescope is the biggest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever placed in space.
 


Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Updated 22 July 2024
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Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

  • The returned artifacts numbering around 60 were part of a larger haul of 250 antiquities that German authorities had seized from Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen in 1997

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.
Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkiye invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.
Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”
Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.
Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.
Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.
The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.


Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Updated 22 July 2024
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Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

OUM EL BOUAGHI: Around 300 pink flamingo chicks were rescued by volunteers in eastern Algeria after the salt lake where they hatched dried up following years of high temperatures and drought.
Thousands of flamingos migrate each year to nest in Lake Tinsilt, located around 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers.
It is one of the largest wetlands in the country, with an area of more than 20 square kilometers.
“Barely a month ago there was water here,” volunteer Mourad Ajroud told AFP on Friday, pointing to what is now a vast expanse of cracked earth littered with the carcasses of dead birds.
The disappearance of the lake, which locals and Algerian media attribute to high temperatures and a years-long drought, has driven the adult flamingos away.
They left behind their unhatched eggs and defenseless chicks, dozens of which have died from hunger, thirst, poaching and wolf attacks.
A group of volunteers provided their cars and trucks to transfer 283 pink flamingos about 50 kilometers away to Lake Mahidiya, about 50 kilometers away.
The wetland near Ain Mlila remains flush thanks to a steady flow of water from nearby rivers and lakes.
The rescue operation was initiated by local amateur photographer Tarek Kawajlia, who documents the wildlife in his area, and noticed the decrease in the size of the lake and the flight of birds.
The volunteers carry out “morning and evening patrols to follow the chicks until they recover and are able to fly, so that they can return next year to the sabkha (marsh) and life can resume its normal course,” Kawajlia told AFP.
Ajroud, 53, said the group was not able to save all the birds.
“We couldn’t transport them all,” he said sadly, as another volunteer takes an injured bird to a veterinary clinic.
A few hours after the chicks were released at their new habitat, some adult birds joined them.
“The operation was successful and the parents found their little ones in a magnificent scene,” Kawajlia said in a comment on one of his photos posted to Facebook.
Lake Tinsilt is one of the around 50 bodies of water in Algeria declared wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar international environment treaty to protect wetlands.
Last year, about a hundred pink flamingos died at Lake Telamine in western Algeria’s Oran province due to wastewater pollution, according to environmental activists.


Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Updated 22 July 2024
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Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

  • Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle

LONDON: A Brazilian conceptual artist swapped a historic British coin for a fake in the British Museum to highlight the large number of foreign objects it holds.
Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle.
He asked for an English Civil War-era silver coin because “It is one of the few British things in the British Museum” and then created a diversion while he swapped it for the fake.
Sartuzi told Reuters he deposited the original coin in the museum’s collection box on the way out. The Art Newspaper first reported his act, which he recounted in a video made for his master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The British Museum said it would inform police about the incident, which took place in June.
“This is a disappointing and derivative act that abuses a volunteer led service aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to handle real items and engage with history,” a museum spokesperson said when asked for comment.
Sartuzi said institutions such as the British museum and France’s Louvre view themselves as the “holders of the treasures of humanity. The problem is that these institutions are the basis of imperialist cultures that looted a lot of these objects from the global south and world.”
The British Museum has been under scrutiny over the way it acquired some of the artefacts it holds, with some countries asking for pieces to be returned. Examples include the Parthenon Sculptures and Nigeria’s bronzes looted by British troops in 1897. It did not respond to Sartuzi’s allegations.
Sartuzi, who has exhibited in Brazil, Portugal and London, said he had sought advice from an art lawyer before swapping the coin.
The Museum dismissed an employee a year ago and ordered a review of security after it discovered hundreds of items had been stolen from its collection or were missing.


A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2024
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A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

  • The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said

HUMBOLDT, Tennessee: A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone.
A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor said.
The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said. After the child died, “the juvenile cleaned up the victim and repositioned her body,” Agee said.
A relative told WREG-TV in Memphis that the girls had been arguing over an iPhone after coming from out of town to stay with their grandmother.
The girl was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence after authorities obtained the video on Wednesday.
“I consider this to be one of the most disturbing violent acts committed by either an adult or juvenile that my office has prosecuted,” Agee wrote in the statement.
He said he would petition a judge to prosecute the girl, who turns 13 later this month, in adult court, which would allow for “a lengthier sentence, whether that will be through incarceration or supervision with court-ordered conditions.”