In the 1920s, the actress and singer Habiba Msika (1903-1930) shook up social conventions and artistic genres in Tunisia. She stood out for her audacity, her frank expression, her love for Tunisia and her defiance of the French colonisers. A passionate artist and performer, she received much acclaim during her short but dazzling career, which was tragically cut short when she was burned alive by a former lover at the age of 27. Her premature death has made her into an icon in Tunisia.
Almost a century on, dancer Malek Sebaï, who has long been fascinated by the flamboyant diva, pays homage to Msika in a solo choreography by Radhouane El Meddeb, set to music by pianist and composer Selim Arjoun. With Nous serons tous dévorés par le feu, this trio of Tunisian artists evokes Habiba Msika as a starting point for a broader, shared reflection on what it means to be a creative artist in the Mediterranean Arab world today. Drawing on their respective personal experiences across various cultures, they asset total freedom – in art as in life – as an absolute imperative.
In this piece, a multiplicity of memories, stories and traces are transposed to the complex social and urban fabric of Marseille to offer a distant echo of Tunis, haunted by the figure of Habiba Msika. As part of its Artists in the Community programme, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès supports this work dedicated to a Tunisian legend, whose voice resonates with modernity and transgression – here amplified by a new generation of socially engaged artists.