The blueprint to a life

Wool blanket (Battania), embroidery, sound*, 2023

*radio documentary,16 min, mono, arabic

This installation was developed from an imaginary intersection of two stories by artisans from El Jem and Mahdia*: Selma Heb Errih the weaver and Saïda Bahri the embroiderer. Via the voice of her granddaughter, Selma tells her life story and her domestic artisanal work. Saïda narrates the stages of her embroidery apprenticeship and her work on commission for clients. The choice of the support and the embroidered motifs echoes these interwoven stories. The battania here refers to domestic female labor, generally unpaid. The reference to the old five-dinar banknote partially embroidered translates the first remuneration received by Saïda for work done outside the domestic sphere. This is a key sign of the professionalization of female labor, of the first steps towards autonomy, but also a visual that suggests the societal values of that era.

Several stays at the workshops of Najib Belhaj in Mahdia made it possible to develop a embroidery device that defines, based on the artist's drawings, the contours, the solid parts, the different points to use, as well as the colors and materials of the threads and fibers. In addition to the “straight flat pass” and “overlapping flat pass” points necessary to fill the solid areas, the stitch point used to create contours, the work shows, among other things, a specific point from the region of Mahdia, a rather complex point that is almost abandoned today, "el ghorza el kahla". This latter option is in itself a way to make this unique point known and valued, an opportunity to ensure its transmission.



Embroidery : Atelier Tili Tanit 
Sound Design :  Tima Savchenko
Photography : Nicolas Fauqué
Hirafen, Ateliers du Centre Technique du Tapis & du Tissage (C3T) Denden, Tunis (Tunisia), November 4, 2023 to March 20, 2024, curated by Ludovic Delalande & Nadia Jelassi