One hundred fifty artists have been transforming this Tunisian village into the first permanent street art gallery on the planet.
"What I would like to do is talk about the Arab world in a different way, a positive way," says Paris gallery owner Ben Cheikh, the brain behind Djerbahood. Thanks to him, one hundred fifty artists from over thirty countries came to the Isle of Dreams in Tunisia, and transformed the historic but sleepy little village of Er-riadh. Cheikh, himself French-Tunisian, intends to make Er-riadh the first permanent street art gallery in the world, and the result is something magical.
There are hundreds of different murals now on display, each created by an artist or group of artists brought in for the project. They arrived between June and September, stayed in the town for perhaps a week or so, and were allowed to create whatever they desired. Each was asked to be respectful of the heritage of Er-riadh, home to a thriving Christian and Muslim community as well as the site of Africa's oldest synagogue, but apart from that they were given no direction. They could create as they saw fit.
The locals were sceptical at first, but most soon began to see the beauty in the idea. "Art is important, because it encourages us to stay open to others, to other cultures," says shopkeeper Abdel Kader. "I am grateful to this project because it has allowed me to meet people from all over the world, to travel, and best of all, to open my mind."
If legend's to be believed, Djerba was home to the Lotus-Eaters that Odysseus met on his way home to Ithaca. Things have changed a great deal since then, but these modern lotus-eaters certainly know beauty when they make it.