The traditional architecture in the Medina Atiga may be what attracts you initially, but it is the 150 street artists who will keep you wandering through the maze of tiny streets. The outdoor curation of Djerba by Mehdi Ben Cheikh, a bi-national with a gallery in Paris, happened over the last decade among the sun-blasted domes, arches, and towers here.
“Djerba was exceptionally well placed for an operation with worldwide impact.” says the visionary Cheihk in the newly released Part 2 of Djerbahood, “On this, the southernmost island of the Mediterranean, the climate is pleasant and temperate for more than half the year.”
In this village of Erriadh on the Tunisian island of Djerba, you are twenty-five kilometers from the airport, adjacent to a long shoreline of fine white sand, and officially walking inside a UNESCO World Heritage site. It also helps that here you’ll find palm trees, olive trees, figs, pomegranate, carob, apple, and apricot trees, crystal clear water, and a fairly mild climate.
“From my very first contact with the village and its inhabitants, I was persuaded that I was in the ideal place to launch an operation of this kind,” he says. “…The Djerbahood adventure had just begun.”
But aside from the hundreds of artworks in this outdoor museum, the new faces coming here also have infused the traditional community, businesses, and small industries. Mr. Cheihk spends some time detailing a tile business that has recreated itself with interesting new patterns and motifs and speaks of the newly engaged folks from the neighborhood who are proud of the artworks and ask for more when the originals have deteriorated.
It is an unusual project bringing street artists and muralists from 30 countries around the world, and the results have been enriching in culture and relationships. The unique atmosphere encourages unconventional artistic experiences, he says, stretching and blending new influences with the traditions of the area. It has become a laboratory of sorts where international meets contemporary.
Djerbahood 2. Ediions Albin Michel. Galerie Itinerrance. 2022