Posts

Showing posts from November, 2015

Dances With Spirits

Image
Published at Brownbook Magazine Though it’s not necessarily considered Tunisian, stambeli can only be found in Tunisia.

A ritual dance belonging to Tunisia’s Sub-Saharan community, stambeli can occasionally be seen performed on the streets of Tunis, when members of the community dress up in masks and costumes to wander the medina as they sing, dance and play the shqashiq.

Despite its gradual demise, there remains a few dedicated practitioners of the tradition, like at Dar Barnu – the last surviving house where those of Bornu origin continue to congregate in Tunis. Here, Belhassen Barnawi, the only son of Abdul Majid Barnawi – the late head of Dar Barnu – continues to perform stambeli as a musician and singer. According to Barnawi, the word ‘stambeli’ is rooted in the Sub-Saharan term ‘sambeli’, and refers to the spirit possession ceremonies that continue to be performed in parts of Nigeria and Mali. The ritual made its way to Tunis during the Ottoman Empire. Many Sub-Saharans arrived …