Tunisian-Italian graphic artist shares her perspective

Tunisian-Italian artist and graphic journalist Takoua Ben Mohamed spoke to students about her experience as a Muslim woman growing up in Italy during a Zoom conversation on March 13.

The event was the first in the Intercultural Language Resource Center’s DEI guest speaker series for 2023, which brings in speakers with different cultural perspectives. Takoua Ben Mohamed, having been born in Tunisia and raised in Italy, is fluent in both Arabic and Italian.

Arianna Fognani, a professor of Italian at Coastal Carolina University, provided translation for Mohamed with assistance from Lecturer of Italian Kevin Regan-Maglione.

She said Mohamed grew up in Tunisia during the ‘90s under the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the former president of Tunisia. Fognani said Mohamed’s father was one of many who were persecuted during Ben Ali’s reign, being exiled from the country only four months after she was born.

Fognani said Mohamed was able to see her father for the first time when her family moved to Italy in 1999. Upon meeting him when was she was 8, she was surprised to find out his complexion was different from hers, with him having fair skin and green eyes.

“It is a complicated moment in someone’s life not to recognize yourself in your parents,” Fognani said.

She said Mohamed’s early memories of growing up in Italy from 1999 to 2001 were positive. However, she said this soon changed after the September 11 terrorist attacks in America, which led to widespread prejudice against Muslims.

Now, she said Mohamed works as an artist and graphic journalist, traveling to different countries and documenting the experiences of herself and others.

“She goes to these places, and she interviews who she wants to talk to. She wants to have a relationship with people, and sometimes the language is a barrier,” Fognani said, “Therefore, it’s very complicated to approach.”