Walking the line

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.


  1. rcoyne99 says:

    The boundary of the Presidential Palace is the white wall on the left of the panoramic image of the Antonin Baths. The visit recorded above was on 26 December 2010. On 14 January 2011 word was out that the President had fled to Saudi Arabia in the wake of street riots in Tunis. Gigaom.com has an interesting article speculating about whether we are witnessing the latest Twitter revolution. In at least one taxi ride I saw a decorative tag of Che Guevara suspended from the rear view mirror. So revolution is in the air.

Leave a Reply