Day of reflection on the draft law on the status of artists and artistic professions.
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Within the framework of the professionalization of the creative and cultural sector, the bill n ° 104/2017 relating to the artist and the artistic trades adopted by the Ministerial Council on December 6, 2017 and submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, raised strong critical reactions highlighting the shared concerns regarding the restrictive orientation of the text. The regulatory systems are therefore, contested by a large majority of actors in the creative and cultural sector. Beyond the legal framework governing all the legal rules which delimit the activities and behaviors of professionals in the artistic profession, it would be relevant to recall that an artist status is above all an explicit recognition of the State , its role, which guarantees its rights to freedom of artistic expression and to cultural action, as well as its duties as a citizen.

The Tunisian Constitution addresses the concept of freedom of creation the same way as that of freedom of expression: “The right to culture is guaranteed. The freedom of creative expression is guaranteed. The state encourages cultural creativity and supports the strengthening of national culture, its diversity and renewal, in promoting the values of tolerance, rejection of  violence, openness to different cultures and dialogue between civilizations.” This bill should legitimately free itself from restrictions and control imposed by the state, which exposes itself to a rather ambiguous role which does not fall to it of right, from which the artist must emancipate himself. The system of  professional cards and authorizations to exercise a professional artistic activity are arbitrary, these practices therefore constitute an “abuse of authority”.

The year 2020 marks a some kind of a blank year for artistic production and dissemination, having been victim of the Covid-19 crisis. Most of the cultural events were cancelled or postponed. Those at the source of creation have seen their income suddenly dry up and managed to underline the weakness of the few emergency measures. The pandemic has exposed the precariousness of the sector and the urgency to reverse the establishment of a legal framework which can recognize the role of the artist as an economic vector and guarantee its protection.

Organized and set up by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, the retreat is designed as a space for consultation between the various actors of the creative and cultural sector open to the public, on the major shortcomings of this bill, which, if entered in force without amendments, would add to the difficulties experienced by professionals in the sector. The distribution of the public in the different sessions was done on the basis of the choice of workshops specific to each of the following disciplines: Dramatic and performing arts, visual and plastic arts, cinema and audiovisual, dance, and music, books and publishing, contracts. Many important points were discussed, but all agreed on the
same: The scrupulous study of the status of the artist and the consideration of the specificity of the disciplines.

 

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Workshop – Dramatic arts 
2 moderators


At the dramatic arts workshop, almost five hours of reflection and debate followed one another, highlighting the myth of internal conflict  between the actors, because once confronted, these same actors ended up sharing similar points of tension on which they end up associating themselves or by discussing them in a constructive way.
The workshop began with a general discussion dealing with the form and content of this day of reflection, emphasizing the insufficiency of the time necessary to write and design real, clear amendments that meet the opinion of the majority.Thus, it was announced by the moderators and later confirmed by the Minister of Cultural Affairs, that these consultations will be spread over a period  of a month and a half, with the objective of closing the amendment discussions on July 15th.

  • The form of the bill proposed to the ARP is all the more criticized after finding multiple syntax errors and a paradox in the references to articles (Art. 3: the amateur artist does not have the right to be remunerated for the exercise of his artistic activity, but can participate in collective artistic projects where the number of amateurs would not exceed one third of the total number of speakers, this, according to the people present, would leave room for interpretation involving their remuneration), otherwise its implementation will be slowed down by the uncertainty which it will create and its interpretation could become a source of dispute where justice may have to intervene.
  • Critics have not failed to point out and bring to light the accusations of the state and its affiliated organizations' attempt to maintain control over the art and culture sector. Contrary to the general orientations of the State advocating decentralization, and with reference to article 4 of the bill which stipulates that "the organization of artistic professions according to the values and rights of freedom of expression, of the right to protection of intellectual property, fair remuneration and support and enhancement of the diversity of cultural expressions and its promotion on a national and global scale ", the contradiction withthe following is elusive. Article 15 restricts the freedoms mentioned above, to the sole possibility of decision-making emanating from the Minister responsible for Cultural Affairs.
  • Interventions have multiplied, highlighting the need to recognize the sector as a whole and not just the artist; the relevance of investments in artistic professions, the profitability of cultural production, its contribution to the country's GDP and its ability to give the country a cultural influence on an international scale and a territorial development of interior regions, which are very often left behind.
  • One of the major challenges relies on the access to culture for all and the development of skills : facilitated and supported by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which in order to regulate the sector must "provide training, guarantee learning and the quality of programs of institutes, centers and art schools that need to review their pedagogies, to open up to other languages and give prizes to the best students by sending them to quality training abroad ”, as quoted by R. Haddad at the end of his participation in the workshop.

 

 

Workshop - Visual and plastic arts
Moderator : Samir Triki  


The workshop began with a brief presentation of the History of art in Tunisia, the plastic arts in particular and that of correspondence on the status of the artist, a subject which certainly attracts attention today but whose debate has been renewed since the 1980s. 40 years later, the debate is still open and actors of the sector are today examining the shortcomings of the legislative framework proposed for the recognition of the artist as a vector of economic development and, above all, with regard to the protection of his rights

According to Chiraz Laatiri, Minister of Cultural Affairs, the ministry is currently following a process of total rupture with the very often used process of "momentary solutions" which has long been engaged as a response to the circumstantial emergencies the country facing. The reform of the sector is therefore a fundamental work which must be done in concert with all the actors of the cultural sector in Tunisia.

 

What we have learned from this workshop, discussions and comments:

  • It must be assumed that the sub-sectors are very different from each other and that the study of the bill must be done separately for each sub-sector, taking into account the specificities of each discipline.

  • The need to move to a scientific council to follow up on the study days with union representatives and actors of the industry in order to reach concrete and practical decisions.

  •  The visual artist is a creator whose practice must not be subject to legislative and regulatory limitations and that the definition of creation must appear in this bill by granting him all the freedom of reflection and creation in his artistic practice, while guaranteeing his social security and creation aid.
  • The first article should highlight the artist’s social status.
  • A version 0 of the bill, which was previously submitted, was more exhaustive in defining the concepts of the artist, crafts, artistic works, etc. This same version had more points at the level of the 4th article which deals with the artist rights and the professions of art; five articles have been deleted in the current bill, one of which governs the right of artists to social security and tax advantages (taxation on sale, tax stamp ...)

 

 

Workshop  : Book & Publishing
3 moderators  


The publishing field, although very broad, has been agonizing since the 1970s due to inequitable remuneration and non-respect of exploitation rights, as well as the non-representativeness of books in today's media.  It is in this context that the withdrawal of the bill has been repeatedly proposed, a bill which does not mention in any line of its articles the recognition of the profession of editor, writer or even the book itself; although writing a new copy could take at least 3 years to be operational due to the neverending procedures. It was therefore proposed to establish a committee that explicitly include and recognize publishing as an integral part of the artistic professions in an eventual new bill.

The participants agreed that each artistic discipline should be studied independently and in depth, without excluding any discipline.

What we have learned from this workshop, discussions and comments:

  •   The questioning of the form and the syntax of the bill which are abnormally numerous.

  •  Irrefutable control over the bill by the ministry in charge of culture, stating that it was not a question of laws but of "orders".

  • Social security for artists: Lack of tax revenue.

  •  Ambiguity of  the bill’s definitions and incorrect translations.

  •  Questioning about the committee carrying this bill.

  •  Article 14 is ambiguous since it is impossible to assess the status of an artist according to "objective criteria".

  •   Article 25: The State should have a regulatory role (financial aid, contact) and not an operator in granting artistic legitimacy through the allocation of professional cards.

 

 

Workshop - Music  
Moderators:  Adel Bondka et Oussama Farhat

 

This workshop welcomed around fifty participants, who were mainly musicians, singers, producers, technicians, composers and music academics. At first glance, we notice the absence of millennials at the brainstorming session, due to a lack of late communication or negligence.

The workshop started with a word of welcome by the Minister of Cultural Affairs which was interrupted several times by protests from the participants, some dissatisfied with not receiving the promised grants during the quarantine and others dissatisfied with the lack of recognition of the artist's role in Tunisia. The moderators quickly followed with an explanation of the context of this meeting in order to better frame the participants by launching the debate on the various articles of the bill.

During the three hours of debate, punctuated by clashes and expressions of dissatisfaction, most of the participants argued about unallocated grants as well as their financial situation post Covid-19, neglecting the main cause that gathered and that is the definition of the status of the artist.

What we have learned from this workshop, discussions and comments:

  •  Most believe that the artist should no longer rely on the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and that he should emancipate himself from it.

  • Mixed opinions as to the validity of the artists professionalism given the specificity of this sector.

  •  All participants agreed that the first article should include the role of the artist and the specific characteristics of the sector.
  • The definition of the artist proposed in article 2 was not validated by the majority of participants by continuing with a series of other formulations.

  • The concept of professional card allocation committees needs to be redefined.
  • The cultural sector must have an independent constitutional body to control it.

  • The solution would be to make a thorough rereading of the current bill and to readjust it since it does not correspond to the needs or the reality of the classification of artistic professions and of the artist today.

 

 

Workshop - Dance 
Moderators:  N. Skandarani and N. Chaabouni

 

Moderated by N. Skandarani and N. Chaabouni, the “dance” workshop, the name of which was disputed by the participants, who proposed the name “Dance and Choreographic Arts”, spread over six hours, between re-reading of bill, analysis of the deficiencies and proposals. As stated in the previous summaries, the workshop participants agreed that this bill is based upon limitations and restrictions instead of granting, in terms of freedom of artistic expression. To limit the freedom of the artist and creator is to jeopardize the arts and culture sector. Following the modifications made to the first copy of this bill, it remain mediocre and do not result in a bill worthy of the status of artists and artistic professions.

What we have learned from this workshop, discussions and comments:

  •  Removal of the preamble proposed in the initial version known as "version 0" of consultations around the bill.

  • Revision of the definition given to the artist, his categories of artistic professions and their designations.

  • Article 14 which deals with the professional card: reviewing the criteria and methods of allocation, the decision-making body at the head of the selection committee; or rethink the usefulness of this device in a world where art and freedom of artistic expression should not be restricted and limited.

  • Add the discipline of circus arts as well as those of folk and traditional arts: Ritual and Spiritual Arts as pointed out by Issaouia, Stambali ...