Dora Hichri — Working on Color Fields

Written by Wissal Boujneh. Published on 29 December 2022.

MISE EN LUMIÈRE was a public art project that took place in November 2022 in Tunis. It sought to memorize female pioneers in different fields by architecture projection artworks onto six selected sites in the center of Tunis. The contributions were developed by a collective of young and experienced, local and international artists — assembled for the commission of the public art project. The artistic directors were Aymen Gharbi and Bettina Pelz.

Among the contributing artists was Dora Hichri. She is a  visual artist and an art teacher, she is based in Sousse. Her artistic oeuvre revolves around experimenting with digital imagery and tools of video mapping and video projecting. Aspects of Dora’s work consist of the use of a coarse and colorful style on abstract backgrounds.

For MISE EN LUMIÈRE, she based her abstract animations on color fields that were associated with the site: For the City Museum, she built up on the color systems of tapestries by Safia Farhat, and for the Cathedral St. Vincent de Paul, the historic glass stained windows and their light and color play were her visual pool.

At the City’s Museum

Photos: Ouafa Ben Amor

Palais Khreidreddine, the City Museum in the Medina, was one the MISE EN LUMIERE Site. Dora Hichri looked into the heritage of Safia Farhad and made it the material of her contribution to MISE EN LUMIÈRE.

Safia Farhat is among the icons that helped shape present-day Tunisian identity and is an model for many Tunisian women. The artist’s massive fibre works articulate weaving as an expression of the reforming spirit of her time. Dissolving the borders between art, craft, and design, her richly textured tapestries are an essential part of her oeuvre and reveal the ingenuity of her approach. She was the first Tunisian director of the School of Fine Arts of Tunis. As a publisher, she founded the first Arab-African feminist magazine titled “Faiza”. She was a sucessfull entrepreneur working with crafts and design. She contributed to the creation of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women and was an activist in the defense of women’s right. MISE EN LUMIÈRE honored Safia Farhat (2114 – 2004) as an artist and an path makers in the field of visual arts.

In her distinct way, Dora Hichri’s animated color fields in the City Museum are an attempt at reviving patterns of weaving to reform the spirits of Farhat’s iconic works. The explicit referencing of Farhat’s quirks and techniques especially her focus on tapestry which involves the weaving of different colored threads is salient in Dorra artworks. As such, she went back and tried to depict the oil painting movement invigorating Safia Farhat’s painterly past and the process of pigments upon a terrain of abstract shapes. Hence, Dorra Hichri worked on preserving key aspects of Farhat’s work but under a distinct and different form in the City Museum, especially with her vibrant use of vivid colour concepts and material appearances of the tapestries by Safia Farhat.

At the Cathedral St. Vincent de Paul

Photos: Ouafa Ben Amor

This can also be seen on the Cathedral’s façade, another of the six sites upon which the MISE EN LUMIERE artists worked. For both religious sites — the Zitouna Mosque and the Cathedrale St. Vincent de Paul — there was no integration of pioneering female figures possible respecting the sacred sites.

Dora Hichri’s digital animation in the cathedral echoes the features of the stained glass windows of the cathedral. I think what is interesting here is that the prominent artistic style of the windows and especially the preserved aspect of the medieval stained glass cannot be seen in isolation from the overall curvaceous surface of the cathedral. Historically, the art of stained glass reached its height between 1150 and 1500 as such the cathedral follows a mixture of styles, including Moorish revival as well as Gothic.

Dora Hichri combined together the use of bright colors and shades with the semi-circular arches and curving lines of the building. Overall, Dorra Hichri through her artwork highlighted the esthetics of the building as they take shape along with its complicated surface and stained glass. I think her work engenders the impression of movement as there is a variety of things going on all at once. This gives the impression that there are many ingredients. To finalize, in her work, the focus was on the interaction of color and form which as a result leads to the idea of motion that governs the visual experience.