A Bourguibist Mural in the New Monastir? Zoubeïr Turki’s Play on Knowledge, Power and Audience Perception | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2045-5895
  • E-ISSN: 2045-5909



Zoubeïr Turki, a prominent artist of the Ecole de Tunis, painted the mural La Procession des Mourabtines in the lobby of the Hôtel Ribat in Monastir, Tunisia in 1962. Its iconography, patronage and position in Monastir’s architectural landscape elucidate the contentious and hierarchical relationships of power underwriting the art and tourism industries during the decade of Tunisian socialism (1961–1969). In this mural, Turki portrayed former president Habib Bourguiba leading a chain of murabitun (volunteer warriors) from the city’s landmark Islamic monument, its eighth-century ribat (a coastal fortress with military and religious functions). The artist’s dual reference to Tunisia’s Islamic history and Bourguiba’s burgeoning cult of personality testify to his engagement with claims to religious expertise in a contested political economy. With its various subtexts and ambiguities, the mural invites an interrogation of expertise and power in three concentric domains: the reforms of Habib Bourguiba and his administrative elite, the infrastructure supporting the installation of decorative programmes in state-owned hotels, and the audience’s capacity to conceptualize the mural within the discursive framework of modernization.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Habib Bourguiba; Monastir; murals; postcolonial Tunisia; ribat; tourism
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