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February 22, 1959 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1959-02-22
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- ~ ~17 - r r .~.. ~-'* 4

New Culture, Different Ways
For an American in Tunisia


Land ofTraditionsLandofC
Africa Has Had Extraordinary Political and Economic Growth

AS THE boat pulled into Tunis,
we leaned over the- rails and re-
turned the waves and cheers of
the many cotton-skirted or veiled
women, the men and the- children
who waited on the dock.
There were very few remaining
fourth class passengers as the ma-
jority had been French soldiers
who left the boat in Algeria.
Those, like myself, bound for
workcamps in Tunisia were met
and taken to the College Tech-
nique Nationale where we were to
stay for the first two weeks.
I had been sent to Tunisia by
the American Friends Service
Committee which sponsors, among
other things, work camps in the
United States and throughout the
world. The camps in Tunisia, how-
ever, were run by the Service Civile
Internationale (SCI), another or-
ganization in the workcamp move-'
SOMEHOW, I am not sure what'
one expects when going to an-
other country where the culture
is in many ways unlike his own.
Yet, Tunis, a city of white build-
ings, crowded souks, mosques,
churches, Arabs and Europeans,
was a constant source of excite-
The work camp itself was in-
ternational in every sense of the
word. There were approximately
forty people. Almost a third were
Tunisians, and Algerian refugees.
The others were from various parts'
of Europe, the States, and other
Nanny Murrell, who spent
last summer in Tunisia, is a
senior in the College of Liter.
ature, Science and the Arts.

parts of the Middle East and Af-
As I remember, this interna-
tional conglomeration made the
first evening somewhat tense,
partly because of the Algerian
situation. Yet, during the two
weeks which we spent in the capi-
tal city, national boundaries were
somewhat lessened.
HE WORK camp in Tunis in-
volved white washing a hospi-
pital in the morning. The after-
noons and evenings passed with
lectures, discussions and visits
covering briefly, various phases of
the political, economic and social
life of Tunisia.
Perhaps one of the strangest
things to me as a foreigner was
the position of the women.
During the first two week- per-
iod, a journalist from L'Action, a
leading paper in Tunis, spoke on
the role of the woman in the so-t
ciety. Although Bourguiba has
said that the women are to be
equal with the men, and that they
do not have to wear veils, the
legislative change moved more
quickly than the change in spirit.
For the young, the change was
less difficult, but it seems that it
would be hard for a woman in her
forties or fifties to remove a veil
she has worn since maturity.
A SECOND incident concerning
the women's situation in Tu-
nisia occurred later.
An Algerian refugee in the group
invited a girl from Norway, my-
self and some of his other friends
to his house. We followed him
through nearly dark streets to his
home. As the Norwegian and I
climbed the steps his friends
waited below.
The house was filled with women

and children. The older men were
in Algeria, either fighting or dead.-
We were greeted by all.
Later, one of the boys below
whistled and the women went in-
to another room; only the sound
of their voices could be ,heard. Our
host's friends entered and after
awhile his mother came from the
room and gave us kus-kus (a na-
tive dish) to eat and tea to drink.
ALL THROUGH the evening I
could hear drum sounds and
singing from the other room, but
none of the women came back to
talk with us.
We were greeted, however, with
a barrage of questions from the
children. When the time came to
go, the boys left first. The women
then came out to say goodbye,
and we left with our friend.
He explained later that the wo-
men could not be seen by men
other than the family. It is like
this in many Tunisian families.
IN TUNIS, there are many parts
of the city which are modern
and new, but also sections where
there is great poverty.
A professor spoke to us of Tu-
nisia's economic problems.
Tunisia, an agricultural coun-
try, suffers greatly from lack of
water. During the whole summer
it did not rain, and it was not
strange to see in the country men
watering the fields with a camel
which pulled a leather water bag
from a well. The water would spill
from the bag into troughs that
ran throughout the field - a slow
and inadequate method of irriga-
The professor who spoke to us
said that industrialization was
needed in Tunisia. He also pointed
out how the trade still conforms
to that of a colonial structure.
He added that over half of the
population was under nineteen
years, and there is a high mor-
tality rate among children.
A FTER A brief and short verbal
introduction to Tunisia, the
group was off to other work camps.
Some went to another town to
help build houses. I left to work in
a children's village in El Oudi-
ane, about 75 miles east of Tunis.
There are six or seven of these
villages which are run by the gov-
ernment in Tunisia. Here orphans,


M~arket Day in a Tunisian Village

"Lower your ears
Raise your ego"

or children whose parents are too
poor to support them live until
they are old enough to support
The boys in the village where I
worked ranged from about five to
eigheen years.
MY FIRST impression was a
strange, rather shocked one as
we were greeted by marching chil-
dren in double rows who saluted
us as -they passed.
But, as I worked there during
the summer, the marching seemed
less and less fearful, and in a
sense I think it gave these chil-
dren who had few material things,
a kind of ideal and feeling for
their country.
At El Oudiane one felt more and
more the nationalistic spirit. I
heard Bourguiba's praises sung
again and again.
Later, toward the end of the
summer, when we were taken to
the Algerian frontier. we stopped
at a children's village. This one
had been a French town which
was now owned, by the govern-
ment. On a little hill stood a char-
acteristic French chapel.
I entered and was surprised to
see small rows of beds on either
side. And at the far end there
could be seen the place where an
altar had been located. And above
this, like in all places in Tunisia,
was a picture of Bourguiba.
IN EL OUDIANE, it was not hard
to meet - the people from sur-
rounding areas.
The first day, as I wandered by
myself, I met a Bedouin lady who
worked in the laundry at the vil-
lage. She got a small child to
translate, and with his broken
French and mine, I understood
that I was to have coffee with
Soon another child beckoned to
me and the afternoon passed vis-
iting various families. One soon
realizes that "No" is not an an-
swer to Tunisian hospitality, and
even though one's stomach is filled
with various new kinds of food,
one goes on eating.
Although I had only been at El
Oudiane one day, everyone some-
how knew that I was the American
girl with the guitar, and at their
request I played and sang Ameri-
can folk songs for them.
Later I was able to teach some
simple songs to the children. A

Hebrew round, a Negro play party
song, and Allouette.
FOR THE first time, I met people
I did not know, *ho welcomed
strangers without expecting any-
thing in return.
They wanted you to come and
visit with them, and you ate with
them what little they had. And
the Bedouin lady with long red
braids and bandana said to me
(with my short braids and ban-
dana): you.. . me . .. same.
Here again, one finds the
strangeness of being a foreign
woman in a country where the po-
sition of the woman is very differ-
ent from your own.
When I visited one of the fami-
lies, the wife served her husband,
the other guests and me. Then she
retired to a corner.
PEHAPS ONE of the most re-
warding experiences of the
summer, was the trip which the
director of the village took to the
Algerian frontier. It made pos-
sible spending the night in an-
other children's village.
We visited the small town Sakiet
which had been bombed by the
French in the spring. Thirty-three
airplanes had come on market
day. To imagine this, one must see
market day, usually Sunday in Tu-
In the towns, people come from
all over the countryside, by don-
key, by camel and on foot to sell
their produce and animals. There-
fore, the towns are more crowded
than usual, for market day is a
special day.
At the end of the town was a
muddy stream. Someone told me
that across it, was Algeria. A
faint red glow could be seen in
the Algerian hills. The man who
we were, with said that over there
were Algerians trying to escape.
They had been trapped by French
soldiers who set fires around them.
If they ran out, they were shot.
It happens every evening, he
W E LEFT Sakiet and drove to
the refugee camp nearby-
hoping to be able to talk to a few
The flag of the Croissante Rouge
flew high over many camp-like
tents. Families lived in these all
year round, and winters in the
west are quite cold.
(Concluded on Next Page)

I SUPPOSE the starting point for
any consideration of Africa now
is the extraordinary changes which
have occurred since the Second
World War.
I think even those who have had
a long and varied experience of
Africa could hardly have fore-
seen the dynamism and the change
which would have come into the
African scene in the last ten or
twelve years. One reason un-
doubtedly was the generous emo-
tions raised by the War; by the
realization of what a contribution
Africa made in the great struggle.
And this political realization has
since had the most fruitful eco-
nomic and social results. But,
whatever the reason, there is no
doubt about it that in the last
twelve years, Africa has been
drawn along in a great torrent of
say that whatever the problem
in the next thirty or forty years
the direction of Africa is set
towards the emergence of African
states in which the majority of
the population have the final word
in the determining of policy. And
the changes that have been in-
troduded in West Africa will
spread, whatever the problems
In the sphere of economic
change, the decisive fact of the
last decades is that with varying
degrees of speed and varying de-
grees of effectiveness, the whole
vast continent is being drawn into
the web of modern economic insti-
tutions-the market economy, the
.expansion of resources, the build-
ing up of modern agriculture, the
origins of industrial growth.
Now there is here, I think, a
sharp distinction to be made, be-
tween the different rates of
If you take as the prime movers
of economic change four factors
above all-though of course there
are others in varying degrees-I
think you can define them as the
growth of export income, the in-
troduction of dynamic agriculture,
the provision of basic services-in-
frastructure, in the convenient
French shorthand-and the begin-
nings of industry.
NOW IF WE look at these prime
movers in Africa, it is quite
clear that the continent has been
moving forward with great and
accelerated speed in- the last
twelve years.
But I think we have to make a
distinction here between the
southerly tip, which includes the
Union, the Rhodesias and the
Belgian Congo, where every single
factor making for economic growth
has been, as it were, "roaring"
ahead, and the marked but never-
theless much more modest growth
of other parts of Africa.
I would say that in the southerly
tip - in the Rhodesias and the
Union and the Congo-every single
prime mover has been working at
a pitch which probably equals any-
thing that has been done in the
Communist zone, and surpasses
any rates of growth achieved else-
where in the free world. In over-
all terms these economies have
seen bounding growth and for a
number of obvious reasons. They
enjoy large export incomes mainly
based upon minerals-the first of
the prime movers in southern

be t


A new and modern Africa with strong ties to the West is emerging. The growth of its larger cities
and its economic potential is seen in this air view of Leopoldville, Belgian Congo.

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E XPORTS are provided, too, by
the second of the prime mov-
ers-dynamic agriculture.
Agricultural exports are large
and growing. Southern Rhodesia
has become the second largest ex-
porter of tobacco in the world.
The Union of South Africa has
pushed ahead to become an ex-
porter in wool second only to Aus-
On the third point, certainly the
Southern economies have enjoyed
booming conditions in every aspect
of infrastructure, largely under
government investment and gov-
ernment plans. Transportation in
the Rhodesias and the Union has
incidently received considerable
help from the World Bank.
Throughout the Southern eco-
nomies, whether it is a question
of power, communications, urban
development or port development,
capital, in large measure public
capital, has been pouring in and
this great movement has of course
affected the last of the prime
Growth has stimulated a grow-
ing internal market, the possibility
of local processing has been seized,
all these areas have the fuel need-
ed to make local industries a prac-
tical proposition. As a result the
decade has seen a wide expansion
of industry.


comparable expansion. First of all,
these are areas which on the whole
do not have the rich endowments
of minerals which you find further
It is, broadly speaking, true to
say that the main export incomes
of this area are due to agricultural
exports. To the typical tropical
products which the world can ac-
quire in the main most cheaply in
this large central belt of Africa-
such as palm oil or cocoa-have
been added other crops introduced
or reintroduced from outside such
as coffee, or cotton, or tea. And itE
is on these that a very large mea-
sure of the prosperity in this area
has been based.
There is a dependence here in
the main upon a single crop or
upon a single agricultural range
of crops which makes these eco-
nomies vulnerable. But do not
underestimate what these export
incomes have made possible for
these countries.
Take, for example, the experi-
ence of Ghana. There the full
gain in world prices for cocoa
after the War has not been passed
straight on to the farmer to create
Internal inflation. The internal
price is about three times above
pre-war. But the balance over and
above the level has been held back
and put into capital reserve. This
country of five million people has
stashed away something like 200
millions' worth of capital as a re-
sult of the steep rise in cocoa
prices after the War.
MOVING ON from dynamic agri-
culture, we come to the third,

prime mover-infrastructure-and
here, undoubtedly, an enormous
amount has been done.
I suppose that under the various
colonial welfare and development
schemes something like 60 to 80
million dollars a year has gone
from the metropolitan government
into British Africa, and perhaps
150 million dollars a year has gone
from France into. French West and
Equatorial Africa,
This has been devoted in large
measure to communications, to
power, and to basic urban develop-
ment' These are the areas which
must be developed if there is to be
any expansion in the industrial
field or any really dynamic growth
in the economy as a whole.
Only 150 years ago Africa's in-
ternal system of transportation
was largely confined to the speed
and scope of manpower-the men
who carried burdens on their heads
or manned the oars on river boats.
And now we can reasonably talk
of the development of a grid of
power and transportation for the
whole continent. This is the mea-
sure of change.
IN THIS FIELD of infrastruc-
ture, public investment has been
in the main employed.
Large-scale basic installations
are not now the province of for-j
eign private capital. And local
private capital cannot come intoa
existence until the basic invest-
ments in transportation, in ports,,
in the utilities, above all in power,
have been undertaken. Private en-
terprise grows up with the expan-




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Barbara Ward,
ish economist and
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article printed he
densed from an ad
Ward gave last M
13th American A
New York on "'
States and Africa.
sembly was sponsor
Carnegie Corporatic

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[dress iss W
lay to the NOW WE COME to the other
ssembly in part of Africa, West Africa
he United and British East Africa-the cen-
The As- tral bloc of territory between the
red by the Sahara and the booming South.
on. We find that the outlook, al-1
though promising, is not one of
RY 22, 1959

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