Lifestyle

Free Running In Tunisia: Parkour is a lifestyle

Article published on March 20, 2014
Article published on March 20, 2014

In the cen­tre of Tunis and on its out­skirts, urban spaces have re­cently be­come a play­ground for the young peo­ple who prac­tise the art of get­ting around: park­our. Cafébabel spent five days with Hichem Naami, park­our mas­ter and founder of the Tunisan Freemove as­so­ci­a­tion. This is a photo story about the Tunisians whose dance­floor is the city it­self

Hichem Naami, the leader of the Tunisian Freemove as­so­ci­a­tion, often prac­tises just a few steps away from his house. Like here, on top of the water tower in the New Med­ina. Climb­ing bare­handed and with no safety har­ness in case he falls, Hichem ex­plains his risk-tak­ing with a sim­ple idea: "Above any­thing else, I want to be free in my move­ments, free in body and spirit."  

A few min­utes from the cen­tre of Tunis, dis­used build­ings have be­come a play­ground for young freerun­ners. Shàrléz Màrwin, a mem­ber of the Na­tional School of Cir­cus Arts in Tunis, doesn't hes­i­tate for a sec­ond to throw him­self in, no mat­ter where. "You have to think of the ob­sta­cle as some­thing use­ful, which helps you to get around and never pre­vents you from doing some­thing."

Park­our is "danc­ing with the ob­sta­cle to build a pure re­la­tion­ship be­tween the per­son and the en­vi­ron­ment, with­out de­stroy­ing what's around us and with­out get­ting hurt." El Men­zah, in north Tunis. You just can't get from one place to an­other with­out tak­ing ad­van­tage of every sec­ond and every plot of land to prac­tise with. 

Mem­bers of the Tunisian Freemove as­so­ci­a­tion prac­tise in Mutuelleville, in the El Men­zah area of the city. "For a lot of young peo­ple who lean to­wards some kind of de­vi­a­tion from the norm, the act of find­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion gives them an­other source of plea­sure and sat­is­fac­tion. It gives them bound­aries. The events or­gan­ised by the as­so­ci­a­tion have an im­por­tant role to play, they give the feel­ing of be­long­ing to a com­mu­nity."

Shàrlém Màrwin tames the nar­row streets of the Med­ina, the his­toric cen­tre of Tunis. "Some young peo­ple do park­our for the plea­sure of it, to get rid of extra en­ergy. Some­times you find traçeurs (those who prac­tise park­our - Ed.) in a bus sta­tion per­form­ing ac­ro­batic moves, or flows, on things around them to pass the time. It often be­comes a show for passers-by. It's bet­ter than stand­ing still, wait­ing."

A few min­utes away from the place du 14 jan­vier, waste­lands stretch out along the Lake of Tunis.  

Young park­our prac­ti­tion­ers and home­less peo­ple often end up spend­ing the day to­gether.

Tunis's Med­ina. "Park­our also lets you build a kind of bal­ance be­tween the human body and thought. Per­fect­ing your inner ear, which is where the body gets its bal­ance from. But it's dif­fi­cult to achieve, and you need a few years' ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore you can truly find a bal­ance."

Dis­used build­ing along route 22 on the out­skirts of Tunis.

The New Med­ina, near the foot­ball pitch where young peo­ple from the area like to meet up after school. 

A home­less man watches the train­ing. Many home­less peo­ple, for­merly hid­den from view by the Ben Ali gov­ern­ment, now live right in the heart of the Tunisian cap­i­tal, in dis­turb­ing human mis­ery. 

The area around the Radès Olympic Sta­dium, about seven miles from the city cen­tre, is the per­fect train­ing space. "Park­our? It's not just a sport, it's a lifestyle," Hichem con­cludes. 

This article is part of the Euromed Reporter project, conducted in partnership with I WATCH and Search For Commong Ground and supported by the Foundation Anna Lindh.