International markets offer ray of hope to beleaguered Tunisia artisans

Middle East EFaisel Ben Ghorbel in his workshop in Tunis' old cityye – Tunis, Tunisia: Fakher Baklouti’s father taught him to work with olive wood as he was growing up outside of Sfax, an industrial city about halfway down Tunisia’s Mediterranean coast. The texture and patterns in the wood appealed to him, and he found it easy to turn into beautiful, artistic products. Now, Baklouti is proud to be a third generation olive wood artisan carrying on a traditional Tunisian craft. “It’s important for me that it’s purely Tunisian,” he said.

Since the country’s 2011 revolution, Tunisia has experienced a prolonged period of economic malaise that has made life more difficult for Baklouti and other artisans. Tourism has declined, shrinking an important client base, inflation has increased the cost of raw materials and cheap, and smuggled goods from Libya and Algeria have flooded the market.

Searching for opportunity and new markets in a Tunisian economy characterised by over regulation, rampant cronyism and widespread corruption, according to a recent World Bank report, is exceedingly difficult. As a result, Baklouti and other artisans have found it hard to make ends meet.

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Tunisian youth skip presidential vote

TUNIS, Tunisia — Late IMG_0291Sunday afternoon, Nov. 23, Serine Limam, 21, purposefully strolled into a polling station in La Goulette, a suburb of Tunisia’s capital. She was resolute in her reasons for voting in Tunisia’s first free presidential elections. “It’s important for youth to vote because it is our future,” she told Al-Monitor.

Many of her friends did not feel the same way. “They think that, no matter what, Tunisia is not going to move forward and that their vote won’t change anything,” Limam said.

In Sunday’s election, Limam was the exception rather than the rule.

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My Beacon Campaign!

Actors in Wajdi Mouawad's play 'Incendies'I recently launched a project on Beacon reader, a crowd funding platform for journalists. The project will help fund my reporting over the course of the next year and allow me to cover stories related to arts and culture and their intersection with social change in the United States and Middle East.
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