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Culture as salvation

Kulturakademie Libyen 2017
Goethe-Institut Tunis / Judith Mirschberger

The Libyan cultural scene has been seriously weakened since the 2011 war. At the Cultural Academy Libya 2017, local actors learned the basics of cultural management, enabling them to ensure that their projects have a solid basis at both the content and economic level.


Culture was practically his saviour, explains Mohamed Essul. It saved him from the fate of so many of his generation: entering into the shadowy world of violence and earning his bread with one of the innumerable militias. Instead, since 2011 the 29 year-old has been organising cultural events in his home city, Tripoli. Now, his dream is to renovate his grandfather’s house and create a cultural residence there. He found the ideal partner in the Tunisian fund-raising expert Shiran Ben Abderrazak, himself a graduate of the Cultural Academy Tunisia 2015. Ben Aberrazak applied to the programme in 2015 with a similar project, which he has since then successfully implemented with Dar Eyquem.

Dialogue is possible

The creation of synergies and the strengthening of networks is more than just a positive spin-off of the Cultural Academy Libya. After all, without the training programme, the twelve participants (from very politically divided regions of the country) would have been highly unlikely to meet each other. “The workshop confirmed my belief that dialogue is possible despite all the differences”, remarks Mohamed Essul. Friendships and a solid network arose from the two-week basic course in Tunis and the one-week visit of cultural projects in Berlin. Although the participants stem from very varied areas, such as urban planning, theatre, cultural work with young people or literature, they were able to find much common ground.

“The challenges are the same for everyone”, comments the photographer Majdi Elnakua. The participants all agree that the greatest difficulty lies in the unstable security situation, which has a negative effect on projects.  “We can’t invite foreign experts any more, and that has had a big influence on our work”, explains the architect Razan Alsennussi. Through her NGO Seen, Reem Alfurjani raises awareness among the inhabitants of the old town of Tripoli for the conservation of their cultural heritage. She believes that the situation has improved slightly. “In the last few months we’ve had more and more exhibitions and events, and people are confident enough to leave their houses, and also to visit the old town”, she reports. She hopes that the upturn will be maintained.

Transfer of knowledge for greater durability

In Benghazi, in the western part of the country, the situation is even more difficult. Hosam Elthinni, manager of the Tanarout Cultural Centre, has been working for years to provide children and young people with a safe space where they can for example learn musical instruments or calligraphy.  “The programme developed me to a huge extent. I myself had barely any experience”, says the 19-year old Faraj Essileni, Co-ordinator and Head of Administration at the Tanarout.  “I would love to pass on this knowledge to other young people when more cultural structures are available in Benghazi. Hopefully that’ll be soon!” As well as modules on project/time management and digital communication, presentation techniques and fund-raising were also important elements of the foundation course of the Cultural Academy. The participants need to correctly plan their projects and achieve a solid financial basis for them in order to ensure their success and durability. During their visits of cultural projects in Tunis, and above all during the week-long programme in Berlin, the participants also had the opportunity to meet international cultural creators and secure long-term contacts.
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