The Free Word Births Light

In the tumultuous aftermath of the Tunisian Revolution that kicked off the so-called Arab Spring, everything seemed possible. 2011 awakened so many hopes and unleashed so many joyful dreams – the euphoria was a contagion, an intoxicant, a transformative moment that outlived the early weeks of protest, and remains among so many even in the dark days. I took this photograph at a journalists’ protest on Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis on Bourguiba Avenue, prompted by a court ruling: a blasphemy verdict rendered against Nessma TV’s Nabil Karoui, in response to the channel’s airing of Persepolis in the run-up to the country’s first democratic elections.

I love so many things about this image: the caption on the protest sign (roughly translated: “the free word gives birth to light / enlightens”); the photo-bombing teenage boys gathered on the theater steps, and – most of all – the light reflected on, and by, this man’s face. I find so much hope here, and in everyone who fights for freedom: of speech, movement, thought, love… for anyone who refuses to concede defeat, for all who cling to joy when this world’s darkness threatens to overwhelm.

No, this piece is not for sale. I created it for a friend, and just finished the final touches. He has not seen it yet, knows “something” is coming in the mail, but doesn’t know that I will never look at this photograph without seeing him as well. Below are the steps of the creation process, from pain-in-the-ass start to painstaking (but always worth it) finish.

May the free word always birth light.

Published by amandaerogers

AKA Ms. Entropy, Your Lady of Chaos (Theory). Angry academic seeking tenure track gig. Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, Colgate University. I'm sarcastic, curse & I probably need a nap.

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