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a creation by

Radhouane El Meddeb
& Malek Sebai



Radhouane El Meddeb

performed by

Malek Sebai

music created and performed by

Selim Arjoun

visual artist

Héla Ammar

lighting design

Eric Wurtz

artistic collaboration

Philippe Lebhar

technical management

Bruno Moinard

management, production

Thomas Godlewski


Peggy Ries,
KUMQUAT | performing arts


30 June 2021,
Festival de Marseille, Friche La Belle de Mai


approx. 60 minutes


no problem

seasons 21/22, 22/23

stage w10m x d10m x h6m

touring party 5 pax

transport tbc

links & downloads

> performance sheet (EN)

> dossier de diffusion (FR)

> context

> full video (password)

> HR photos (password)

> technical rider (password)

بلدي يا بلدي

Actress and singer Habiba M'sika shook up the social conventions and artistic genres of Tunisia in the 1920s. Her audacity, her charisma, her free speech and her commitment in opposing the French colonizer, her passion for the stage and her love for Tunisia, her country...

Tunisian Jew, burned alive, murdered by her lover, her name remains as a legend and her voice as that of modernity and transgression. Fascinated by the diva, dancer and choreographer Malek Sebai revisits her story on the occasion of the documentary "Tunis, ma chérie*", recently broadcast on Arte, as part of the series "Invitation au voyage". A century later, what remains of Habiba M'sika?

Together with Radhouane El Meddeb, Malek invokes, through dance, this icon so important in the Tunisian collective mind. Memory of a nation and personal memories intertwine. The place of women, of artists, and the issue of being different in today's Tunisian society seal the union of choreographer Radhouane El Meddeb, dancer Malek Sebaï, pianist Selim Arjoun and visual artist Héla Ammar. Who was Habiba M'sika? Who are we? Will we all be devoured by fire?

* « Tunis ma chérie » :

production La Compagnie de SOI coproduction Festival de Marseille (FR) / Festival Dream City, Tunis (TN) / Charleroi Danse , Bruxelles-Charleroi (BE) / Theater Freiburg (DE) support Institut Français de Tunis / DRAC Ile-de-France - Ministère de la culture


13 - 28 August 2020 - rehearsals at Théâtre de l'Opéra de Tunis

14 - 17 December 2020 - rehearsals at Théâtre de l'Opéra de Tunis

12 - 29 April 2021 - rehearsals at Théâtre de l'Opéra de Tunis

20 - 27 May 2021 - rehearsals at Théâtre de l'Opéra de Tunis

13 - 20 June 2021 - rehearsals at Théâtre de l'Opéra de Tunis

20 - 25 June 2021 - creation lights and technical assembly at Théâtre de l'Opéra de Tunis
28 and 29 June 2021 - set-up at La Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille

30 June - 1 July 2021 - Premiere at Festival de Marseille, Friche La Belle de Mai, Marseille (FR)

October 2021 - Théâtre de l'Opéra de Tunis
October 2021 - Festival Dream City, Tunis

available for bookings 2021/2022 and 2022/2023



In her time, Habiba M’sika was an artist influenced by the advances of European modernity. She refused to be « passive, undergoing the course of events, object and not subject of history ».

The story of this icon from the 1920s will give birth to a scenic writing that will take root in a common soil, that of a shared culture. But it will, above all, serve to question, once again, the conflicts that are still present in societies, which advocate the retreat into nationalist ideas of identity and alienation, in the name of «untouchable» traditions.

Time, it seems, has the least of control over the course of events. In 1920, Habiba M’sika’s fate was shattered by the abuse of a fanatic attitude, which is repeated over and over again.

In 2020, we will therefore be working on the traces left by Habiba M’sika. These traces will find an echo in the body of the performer, in the eyes of the choreographer and under the fingers of the musician.

We will explore together this continent of the memory, through the prism of our own history, we, the custodians of a buried and disappeared world, but which by a clever turn of necessity or chance, has sprung up from the bowels of time and invites us to question it, give it substance, expose it.

The obvious for us today is to reinvent ourselves, to surpass ourselves and to lose ourselves...

It’s about our own transgression that this is about now. The ardor of this resuscitated diva will allow us once again to tell us about ourselves. To tell about our passion for the stage, for dance... with the quality of our dance and its lyrical and political scope. Our paths, our crossed destinies and our views that can be so different... The music will tell about this love and an era, which is about to disappear...

In the maze of this exploration, we will meet with the singing of Habiba. From that voice, what remains ? Dance her voice, seek in her existence what resonates within us, and perhaps with others, descendants, heirs, custodians, contemporaries.

Radhouane El Meddeb left Tunisia, Malek Sebai returned to her country.

We have both experienced what it means to wear a strong identity. To be immersed in a culture that we finally carried as second nature.

Does this lead us to acculturation, or does it create a hybrid and rich culture, which we urgently need to claim and accept today?

This solo will explore what it is like to be a creative artist, in an Arab Mediterranean society. It will explore the dichotomy between coming from an Arab country, with its codes and culture, and using a Western tool to create. In her days, Habiba M’sika was criticized for her use of European singing techniques.

Since 2011, Tunisia has been operating in a context less hostile to the diversity of opinions and freedom of expression. In 1920, M’sika was already using her freedom, to an extreme level, disturbing for her contemporaries. Has she crossed the line? Her tragic death by fire is the answer.

Our « Sheikhs » are now asking women to return to their kitchens, and firmly demand that the means attributed to culture be used for « useful » ends. Culture is considered « futile ».


This is the first step towards defining new limits of the tolerable. Malek is an Arab woman. She speaks French, she sings in Arabic, she has performed classical ballets such as Giselle or Swan Lake and she can’t help but dance when she hears traditional Tunisian music.


Radhouane is an Arab man, he dances and choreographs.

He now lives in a European context. His origins are present in his life and he continues to question them in his works.


Can we now, as Habiba once did, disobey orders and laws and exercise our freedom? Demonstrate our existence, in an increasingly complex and repressive context ...

May we use what we are today, us, individuals, women, men, Tunisians, dancers, free, alienated, modern, agnostic, religious, atheist or skeptical, and dig deep into our bodies , sensations, memories, to tell aloud the story of Habiba, borrowed from yesterday, to tell us today.

Who was she?

Who are we ?

Will we be devoured by fire again?


Radhouane El Meddeb & Malek Sebai

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