Painter Paul Klee first travelled across the Mediterranean to Tunisia in 1914 and made many repeat visits to the romantic cliff top village of Sidi Bou Said near Carthage. Klee’s diaries report how the light and colour of the place were a substantial influence on his palette.
But Klee was also interested in the line. The line that is free and expressive “goes out for a walk.” Tim Ingold uses this phrase as leitmotif in his brief history of the line. The artist’s line equates to the line of the wayfarer who is grounded in the local.
Where better to explore this proposition than Sidi Bou Said itself and the neighbouring town of ancient Carthage. These two places are within 2 kilometres of each other. Sidi Bou Said projects the artist’s sensibility for colour, informality, cliff top chic, cafes, leisure and the wavy line. Carthage, with its mythic founder Queen Dido (wanderer), presents early empire, the Punic wars, decayed grandeur, the labyrinthine ruins of the Antonin Baths.
But the conjoining of these two places is interrupted by the severe lines of the enclosure to the Presidential Palace, the white walls of which sear the landscape, blocking waterfront access between Sidi Bou Said and Carthage. This non negotiable sentried plotline was built in 1959 after independence. The austere wall exemplifies the line that is not out for a walk or wander, and that prevents others from wandering. It doesn’t guide, but guards, threatens and restricts.
Ingold, Tim. 2007. Lines: A Brief History. London: Routledge.