1996 : we have already destroyed it

Documentrary film, 33 mn, two-channel video and four-channel audio installation, 2022

Tunisian Arabic 
English CC

The Eddir primary school (El Kef, Tunisia), built circa 1961 and eventually abandoned in 2017, is the central protagonist of the film. It was constructed in the heady period of the Bourguiba presidency when education was the means of producing a new kind of citizenry for the modern nation-state. Yet, in its later years, this school was ill equipped to survive its trajectory into our current moment.

The year 1996, when the internet became available in Tunisia, also points to the height of a new set of promises. Rather than the utopia of the modern state, of collective welfare, education, and independence, this era loudly proclaimed the speed and freedom of technology, the internet, of a globalised future that was without place or body. Yet this promise was broken twice, first with the severe restrictions placed upon internet flow in the country, and then through an unrealised IT room that was to bring internet connectivity and then new technologies to students in what was considered a periphery by a Tunis-centric Tunisia already suffering gradual depopulation towards the capital. A fatal move, and a failure to extend the lifespan of a school.
1996: We Have Already Destroyed It is composed of two perspectives, a fragment of which can be seen and heard from the other but not the whole. Through long, deliberate shots of the school, carefully colored and composed, a scale of time beyond that of the dailiness and lifespan of human life beings emerges. As the school gradually falls into ruin, it stands as a mediator between our rapid rate of change, and the scale of time that extends far beyond the end of humanity.

This sense of a deeper time is counterposed with two generations of long-term school workers, Abdelhamid, Saliha, and Essia Fadhlaoui, whose testimonies were recorded through conversations with the artist. Interspersed with sound narratives and numerous details from a decades-long life of caring for the institution and witnessing generations of students passing through. This human dimension brings together the audible (but not visible) memories of those who lived at this school, with the inaudible memories of its walls and spaces which can only be sensed through long, deliberate, and sensitive engagement.


Exhibition view | B7L9 Art Station - KLF | Tunis | 2022

Film crew

Image: Ali Tnani & Ghassen Chraïfa
Sound design and mixing: Tima Savchenko
Editing: Ali Tnani
Color grading: Idir Ben Slama
Film manager: Kouraych Hragui 

This work benefits from the support of AFAC & The Kamel Lazaar Foundation