Art for Freedom

Art for Freedom

When I arrived in the southern region of Tunisia to a small village called Douz, something immediately struck me as odd and off balanced. As I roamed around the souc (central market area) and through the town’s center, I saw many, many men and a few children, but I did not see any women. I knew they had to be there somewhere, maybe today there was some big women’s party and that’s where I would find them – laughing, chatting, drinking tea and possibly singing or dancing right? But after a few days of not seeing any women, or hearing any music except for a lone tuk tuk kind of modified golf cart that zoomed around on occasion blasting sounds ranging from traditional Arabic tunes to the more familiar recent pop tunes from America, I began to wonder. Seriously guys, where are the women? Seriously. So I started by visiting some of the many tea shops and a few restaurants asking where I could find the other half of the human race in this town. What I began to learn surprised, shocked, angered and saddened me all at the same time. The missing women were where they belong – in the house, doing the domestic chores as they should – you know cooking, cleaning, raising the children. Yea, that’s her role here – and we are all very happy with this I was told. No way. ALL the women are happy living this life? I find that impossible to believe. So I decided to look into this more. I met 3 women that work in the tourist industry – two in travel agencies, and one in a lovely boutique store that sold all the traditional Tunisian gifts from the pottery, to the shoes, jewelry, clothes and more. I started talking with these women and learned a completely different story. It was not true, the women were not happy, nor satisfied being treated as second class and just part of the furniture of this society. So naturally I asked, “what can we do together to change this insanity?” This is when things start to get tricky. You see, there are many women who would like to have freedom yes, but are afraid to take it. They have been directed by the man for so long that they cannot envision another life, although they CAN FEEL that something is missing from their current life. This is when a great friend of mine who I have been chatting with online about all of this sends me a link to Madonnas Art for Freedom Campaign. Myself and a small, brave group of women decide it’s time to get organized and do something. We hold a meeting at the travel agency one day to discuss creating an art piece to submit to Madonnas Art for Freedom Campaign. And the ideas began to flow from the women like a slow steady waterfall. As the men passed us in the street you could feel that some of them definitely did not like seeing us outside, sitting together, drinking tea and talking. But there were others who smiled and accepted this with a gentle sincerity…

islamic muslim women

It all starts with 7…

During our meeting we create the outline for the short film and then comes the really difficult part. Actually convincing the women to leave their homes and join us in the Sahara for 3 hours to film this piece. After much debate, encouraging a couple of the women’s husbands to support us, and making the plans, we were finally off to set this idea into motion. The filming itself was such a pleasure to be a part of because the women were so excited and reminded me of children waking up early Christmas morning to see what gifts Santa had brought them. Only these women would be creating a gift to share with women around the world and their energy during the shoot was incredible. When we arrived at the edge of the Sahara, we noticed that there were some very curious men watching us warily. At one point they even came out on horseback to get a closer look at what we were doing. This both excited me and frightened me because I could feel the stress coming from the girls- like they were doing something wrong being there all together… in their Sahara. But we carried on with our project anyway… When the filming was complete, we all happily danced our way out of the sand and back to the waiting taxis to take everyone into town. The film is the first of this kind that I have ever created, and do admit it is a bit amateur, but I think it does get the point across. After spending a couple of days editing, searching for the right music (which I must give credit to Lino Rise for producing and providing to us free of charge) the clip was now complete. Calling another meeting to show the girls before we would submit it to the Art for Freedom Campaign, it is agreed that everyone is happy with the final project and no one can suggest any changes. Ok girls, so let’s submit this thing then!

Madonna chooses our video and features it. Art for Freedom

On January 2nd, 2014, our video was chosen and is featured on the art for freedom website, and just at the end of the most powerful full new moon of the new year. I was actually in the Sahara and unaware that it was chosen, but a friend of mine in Los Angeles who knew about the project from our Skype conversations saw it and sent me a message on Facebook congratulating the group. This was indeed a cause for celebration! But sadly that would have to wait for a real celebration as this town is not quite ready for that yet… baby steps… Being a part of this project showed me so many things. First, that anything is possible – even dramatic changes from decades of repression and traditions that no longer serve a society can happen; that just a few women coming together and organizing themselves and their ideas can start a powerful wave of positivity. I also learned patience. In my mind I was screaming “Come on!! What are you waiting for!?!? You now have laws in your country that protect you and your equality! Now is the time!!” But I had to understand where these women were coming from and be patient in their process – this was difficult for me. I must give thanks to an amazing spiritual teacher named Charles Kunow for inviting me to this place and supporting this group into their transition to true freedom. Charles leads groups of individuals through the Sahara on retreats appropriately named “ZEIT FUR FREIHEIT – Time for Freedom” which I have had the pleasure of attending on more than one occasion (more on that later). He is an amazing healer with a connection to the universe that inspires me, intrigues me, and that I still don’t fully understand but am eager to learn more about. I am grateful for this amazing experience and will continue to support these amazing women in their movement of love and solidarity. What movements have you been a part of that have inspired or enlightened you? Or are there some that you would like to become more involved in which interest you? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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