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A Tunisian woman at a police station that has been burned in a protest.
A Tunisian woman at a police station that has been burned in a protest.

Waiting in springtime

Zied Ben Romdhane's exhibition on the Arab Spring explores the endless waits of its people post-revolution and has pertinent messages for India

Zied Ben Romdhane was 29 when Kasbah Square, in the heart of the Tunisian capital Tunis, exploded in protest on 18 December 2010. Just a day earlier, a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, had immolated himself to protest alleged harassment by the police and government officials. Catalysed by the incident, people in Tunisia were out on the streets, demanding democracy and an end to the dictatorship of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

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Start of revolution at Kasbah Square; Red placard says: “ Get out Ben Ali.
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Rebel in front of the palace of justice in Benghazi.

Romdhane’s images also play out the long, endless wait in its various forms—the wait for food, tents, passports by immigrant workers and the peoples’ wait for a change in government and an end to the civil war. In essence, they carry with them the subtler moments of a revolution. “What Zied shows is not only the photojournalistic view of revolution but also some of the quieter aspects of the movement. Most of his subjects are people who are the worst hit by the revolution, especially immigrant workers—people who have no papers, no resident status, no passports,’’ says Zasha Colah, curator of the exhibition.

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Rebel in Libya in front of graffiti drawn by protesters.

Romdhane often deals with the history of a Left movement sabotaged and then ignored in Tunisia during Ben Ali’s dictatorship, only to resurface during the mass protests of the Arab Spring. “Those who risked their lives during the first wave of protests demanded genuine change, which still hasn’t come about," Sharma says. “At a juncture where many in India see politicians like Narendra Modi as a solution to all of its problems, Romdhane’s work puts across a message that protests against an existing institution and the consequent change can only have a limited role,’’ he adds.

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Sudanese refugee who is at the Tunisian border with Libya.

Waiting Zones is on till 31 March, 11 am-7pm (Sundays closed), at The Clark House, 8, Nathalal Parekh Marg, Colaba, Mumbai.

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