Departing from Sfax, a Tunisian city overlooking the Mediterranean, Hédi Bouraoui has travelled the world, from Europe to the United States to Canada where he lived for 30 years, teaching French and comparative literature at York University’s Stong College, wrote Tandem News in its March 13 edition:
His is a life dedicated to the study of literature and writing, but above all working towards establishing steady dialogue between various cultures that led to the creation of York’s Canada-Mediterranean Centre and the birth of the concept of “transculturalism”, wrote Tandem.
At 80 years of age, Bouraoui is still travelling and feels just as at home in Toronto as he does in Paris and Africa. And he recently received his honorary citizenship from Acquaviva delle Fonti – one of the cities of the Puglia [region] that have welcomed him with “open arms” during the Italian stopover of his international project from Canada to Puglia under the Sign of Dialogue, launched by Canada-Mediterranean Centre and by WIP Edizioni, and thanks also to the invaluable collaboration of Nicola D’Ambrosio, professor of francophone literature at the University of Bari.
Bouraoui is proud of being part of the “heart and soul of this new family midway between the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Taranto.” This is a citizenship to add to his Canadian one and that enriches his Tunisian origins and plural identity, which functions in terms “of addition, not subtraction.”
“Africa, Europe, North America – it’s all stratified within me,” he says from his Paris home shortly before departing on his fifth trip to Puglia. “And you can’t take any of it away because Hédi Bouraoui is the sum of his parts. Otherwise, I would no longer be me.”
For him, transculturalism is not an abstract concept, but something he experienced firsthand. “When I transferred from the United States to Toronto, I was eager to contribute to the great Canadian mosaic, which I saw as being the opposite of the American ‘melting pot’, which wants to cancel all cultural differences in the name of a stars-and-stripes recognition. But early on, during the early ’70s, I realized that multiculturalism doesn’t work because each community is shut off within itself, while government, then as now, was more interested in gaining votes rather than getting the various fabrics of the mosaic to truly communicate with each other. Transculturalism, instead, is the ongoing search of dialogue between the various cultures, not a monologue.”
And that is a cornerstone of Bouraoui’s works, which often focuses on the Mediterranean, “cradle of Eastern and Western civilization and of the three monotheistic religions par excellence, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.”
Posted by Elizbeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.