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Dances With Spirits

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Published at Brownbook Magazine Though it’s not necessarily considered Tunisian, stambeli can only be found in Tunisia.

A ritual dance belonging to Tunisia’s Sub-Saharan community, stambeli can occasionally be seen performed on the streets of Tunis, when members of the community dress up in masks and costumes to wander the medina as they sing, dance and play the shqashiq.

Despite its gradual demise, there remains a few dedicated practitioners of the tradition, like at Dar Barnu – the last surviving house where those of Bornu origin continue to congregate in Tunis. Here, Belhassen Barnawi, the only son of Abdul Majid Barnawi – the late head of Dar Barnu – continues to perform stambeli as a musician and singer. According to Barnawi, the word ‘stambeli’ is rooted in the Sub-Saharan term ‘sambeli’, and refers to the spirit possession ceremonies that continue to be performed in parts of Nigeria and Mali. The ritual made its way to Tunis during the Ottoman Empire. Many Sub-Saharans arrived …

Hard times for Tunisia

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Published at the German Magazine D+C Development and Cooperation

If the nation looses too many of its marginalised youth to Islamist extremism, it cannot gain stability. Security measures alone will not do, because economic development and social equity matter just as much.  On 18 March, the international community was shocked by the terror attack at Bardo Museum in Tunis. 21 people, mostly European tourists, were killed. On 26 June, the international community stood shocked again with the tragedy of Sousse, where a fanatic murdered 38 tourists. This attack occurred in the holy month of Ramadan. Sadly, terrorism has been haunting Tunisia since early 2013.  Attacks occurred during Ramadan in 2014 and 2013 too. The Islamist hardliners want Tunisia’s young democracy to fail. After the revolution toppled the Ben Ali dictatorship in 2011, I think terrorism started with the assassination of the opposition leader Chokri Belaid in February 2013. A few months later, Mohamed Brahmi, another le…

People Powered Accountability Discussion at the AfDB Annual Meetings #AfDB2015

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The Forum for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has been just an idea few years ago. However, last week, during its 2015 Annual Meetings in Abidjan, the African Development Bank hosted a full day of panels and discussions dedicated to CSOs. The CSO Forum is aiming at promoting closer cooperation and engagement among CSOs, the Bank, and regional member countries in order to optimize development results and sustain development impact.