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Cultural Catalyst: Feriani's Vision for Art as a Force for Social Change

A new contemporary art gallery, Selma Feriani, is set to open in the bustling city center of Tunis this month, focusing on North African art and featuring talent from across the continent. The eponymous space will be North Africa's first major commercial gallery. This venture reflects the Tunisian gallerist’s longstanding commitment to nurturing creativity within her homeland, following the establishment of her gallery in London.

Recognizing the limitations of promoting regional artists solely from a European platform, Feriani emphasizes the importance of being closely connected to the artists' studios and narratives. Hence, she decided to open a new space in Tunisia. Having initially launched her gallery in London in 2013, Feriani expanded to another location in Sidi Bou Saïd, Tunis, where she showcased emerging and mid-career artists from the MENA region and beyond. The Sidi Bou Saïd location, a former convent from the 1960s, has been repurposed into accommodations for gallery guests.

Feriani's latest venture, situated in the thriving Tunis Lake district, features a purpose-built space designed by Tunisian architect Chacha Atallah. The gallery includes three exhibition rooms, a basement area for various activities, a mezzanine platform, and a room with high ceilings specifically for large-scale artworks. Additional facilities comprise a reading room, a bookshop, and a recreational garden for outdoor displays.

With a focus on growth and adaptation to artists' evolving needs, Feriani emphasizes the gallery's role in presenting art in a manner that resonates with contemporary audiences. The first exhibition will showcase new visual works by Paris-based Tunisian artist Nidhal Chamekh, exploring themes inspired by a poem by Édouard Glissant. This exhibition, titled "Et si Carthage.../ And what if Carthage...," delves into the speculative history of Carthage, contemplating its fate had it not been destroyed by the Romans.

Looking ahead, Feriani expresses her desire to collaborate with artists from across the African continent, transcending regional boundaries. Through exhibitions like the upcoming showcase of works by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, Feriani aims to address societal issues and foster cultural dialogue through art. Ultimately, she believes that art is a powerful tool for uniting people and responding to global challenges.

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