Graffiti artist claims censorship at Tunis Arts Spring

Tunisian graffiti artist Elektro Jaye was recently censored at the Tunis Pintemps des Arts (Spring of Arts), a modern contemporary art fair which exhibited more than 500 art works this year.

“One of the fair’s organisers Luca Luccattini literally told me that the state had put pressure on him to remove my posters”, Elektro Jaye told Index.

Lucattini, the fair’s director, told that one piece by the artist has been taken down, but for administrative reasons rather than pressure from authorities.

The artwork in question (on the far left) features the star and crescent from Tunisia’s flag, along with the Christian cross and the Star of David.  The images are combined with the phrase “La République Islaïque  de Tunisie”, which translates as “The Islaic Republic of Tunisia”. Islaic is a play on words, “Is” being taken from “Islam” and “laic” from the French word for secularism, “laïque”.

“The idea suggested here is that the religious should not interfere with the state’s decisions, nothing more! In my posters there is only a message of peace, and tolerance,” says Elektro Jaye.

Tunisia has had a heated debate about secularism and Islamism, dominating political discussions in the months following the fall of Ben Ali. Many Tunisian artists did not hide their desire for a secular state, and have used their work to express their view that religion should be kept aside.

While Elektro Jaye was unable to display his work at the art fair, he eventually succeeded in having his work displayed.

“Aicha Gorgi suggested that I display my works in her gallery. Some scandalmongers have been suggesting that this was just a marketing ploy. This is totally wrong.”