Desert Roses for Sale

Miriam Stanke

2017 - Ongoing


Tunisia has become the source of hope after the once celebrated Arab Spring made its way from the Maghreb country into the Arab world. More than 8 years ago Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after revolutionary tumults began. The uproar would lead to profound political and social change in at least 6 nations, also paving the way for anarchy, factionalism and a civil war.

Although a new constitution was enacted, unique among Arab nations, guaranteeing freedom of speech as well as equality of men and women, the country seems in crisis. Since the break-down of the tourism sector after two severe terrorist attacks in 2015 an important source of income was breaking away for many Tunisians. This is not just visible in people but also in the landscape through abandoned buildings and collapsing tourist attractions. Budget tourism is heavily declining. 'Desert Roses for Sale' captures this downturn as well as the attempt of many Tunisians to fill the post-revolutionary void.

The beginning of the Arab Spring was unintentionally initiated by a working class man who couldn’t stand his lack of prospects, a man who was desperate about a system with no future. The creative momentum of victory following the first uprisings would build a consensus and bond between classes and people, also spreading hope to the hopeless. However, this bond based on rationality didn’t last long and different interests start to reappear.

The country is not just what we as the West want to see in it. What has remained of the celebrated Arab Spring? What happened to the people, the working class, the students, the women, the youth, those who demanded their rights to freedom, dignity and to work? And what is our role thereby?

Eventually attempts to become an open-minded country cannot overlook existing problems - low margins of budget tourism, a high unemployment rate, a stagnated economy, corruption and decades of autocratic leadership. The project aims to explore post Arab-Spring Tunisia and its fractured notions of identity. It thereby also questions sources of radicalization and rebellion as well as our idea of freedom.

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  • Gift shop on the road to Nefta

  • Ahmed in a hotel, Tunis

  • Oasis of Tozeur

  • Bardo Museum, Tunis

  • Fawzi at a viewpoint near Nefta, close to the Algerian border

  • Gift shop near Hammamet

  • A dog protecting her puppies locked in a backyard on the road to Tozeur

  • Young tourism students, Sousse

  • Behind the scenes, bread baking and tea preparations for tourists, Ong Jmel

  • Hussein, painter at hotel complex, Sousse

  • Hotel complex, Tozeur

  • Ahmed with a desert fox at the Star Wars film set, Ong Jmel

  • Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis

  • Young Tunisians at a rave in the desert, Tozeur

  • Desert roses for sale, Nefta

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