Libyan Flavours aims to celebrate and preserve Libyan culture and encourage dialogue, explained one of the group's filmmakers Naziha Arebi to Your Middle East.
WHAT IS LIBYAN FLAVOURS AND WHEN WAS IT ESTABLISHED?
Libyan Flavours was an idea conceived around 6 months ago by a group of Libyan filmmakers who started Huna Productions, a home grown film company. We work with people from the community of each village we travel to and start the interaction element of the concept at a grassroots level by working with activists and NGOs.
Libyan Flavours is an initiative that aims to share different perspectives of Libya and encourage interaction across the country, using the Facebook page as a space for that visual conversation and the videos as a catalyst to stimulate participation. It’s a way to celebrate and preserve our diverse cultures and traditions, but also a way to spark national dialogue and soft reconciliation through visual interaction, well that’s the aim anyhow, to soften the ‘fear of the other’.
“Libyan Flavours is an initiative that aims to share different perspectives of Libya
It’s something that we initiated with the first videos and pictures, but is fast becoming something that is owned by the fans of the page. Watching people share their own videos, pictures and continue the idea in their own way is really inspiring for us.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACHIEVE?
After travelling around Libya whilst filming for different projects we discovered that many people want similar things after the revolution, but that they felt far from their neighbours in other areas of the country. We’d often hear people in the North ‘warn us’ about travelling to the South, that it was dangerous, and people in the South warned us of the people in the East and so on and so forth. Many of these people had often never been to these areas themselves and it seemed that those warnings would often stem from fears of the unknown.
Libya is home to a wealth of diverse people. From Tabu, Amazigh, Toureg, Arabs and Bedoins, we found that there were many cultural differences between people across Libya, as well as many similarities, but even so the people wanted a collective united Libya. So we thought that if we could break down these fears, in a soft way, if we could celebrate these cultural differences, this diversity in backgrounds, traditions and ethnicities, then we could use them to unite people, rather than divide. So we aimed at making something interactive that would allow us to share our local traditions with each other and start breaking down barriers.
It also had a secondary aim, to preserve Libyan heritage. Many aspects of Libyan traditions, whether they be from Tabu, Toureg, Amazigh, Arab or Bedoin, are disappearing. We are seeing the music, languages, foods, clothes, architecture and traditions of our country slowly being erased from our cultural history, so we also wanted to create a space where we could keep Libyan culture alive, no matter background.
WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN?
When we made the videos we would work with local people from each area we travelled to. We would have them work in our crew and they would help develop the idea for each town we went to. At that time Libya was having problems which as filmmakers made our job difficult, especially with regards to security, but even so the people were really excited that we had travelled to their area to film these videos and really embraced the idea. One of my favourite assistants was a woman from the South near Traggin. She was so active and came with so many ideas that we could have made 10 videos just there if she had had her way!
“People were really excited that we had travelled to their area to film these videos”
Once finished the first videos were published on the Internet and also broadcast on a number of Libyan TV stations.
The response has been amazing, quite overwhelming actually. The page has a large amount of fans and people have been really interacting with each other and us, suggesting ideas for new content, sending us their pictures from their towns, commenting on the videos and each other’s pictures. At a time when divisions in Libya are heightened and there doesn’t seem to be much to celebrate with assassination everyday and ongoing conflict, people seem to be really engaging with the idea and each other. We are not naïve enough to think that this will end wars, but it’s a small step in understanding ourselves and each other, which is important for a peaceful, united future for Libya.
I think it’s important to note that we are seeing deaths everyday on the news, the cries and ongoing struggle of Benghazi and darkness that is sweeping over Libya and we know many people will say that now is not the time for cultural initiatives or dreamy ideas of national unity, that maybe it is insensitive. But we think that it’s at times like these that we must act and continue these ‘dreams’, because if we don’t then ‘they’, whoever they are, have already won.
Interested in checking out Libyan Flavours? Follow their work on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LibyanFlavours