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Tunisia a welcoming land, says Claudia Cardinale

Street named after star in Goulette to 'remember common past'

30 May, 16:12

    Italian actress Claudia Cardinale (C) during a ceremony to name a street after her in the port town of La Goulette, near Tunis Italian actress Claudia Cardinale (C) during a ceremony to name a street after her in the port town of La Goulette, near Tunis

    TUNIS - Film star Claudia Cardinale said Sunday that she "still feels a little bit Tunisian" during a ceremony to name a street after her in the port town of La Goulette, near Tunis. She stressed that she still felt close to her native country whose sense of hospitality represents a hosting model for the West. "I am very honored because this is where I was born and where I spent my childhood", noted Cardinale, 84.

    Visibly moved, she danced to the music played by a traditional orchestra and then received many gifts, including several portraits by local painters. A mural with her giant portrait was unveiled shortly before the inauguration of the street bearing her name. "We admire Claudia very much and she loves Tunisia, she is returning home - we wanted to dedicate a road to her that will bear her name forever", said the mayor of La Goulette, Amel Limam.

    "I still carry with me many things about Tunisia, its landscape, its people, its sense of hospitality, its openness", confided the actress before the ceremony, in an interview to AFP. Cardinale said she was "very grateful" to the municipality and association "La Piccola Sicilia", co-organizer of the ceremony. At the time of independence in 1956, the Italian community, including many emigres who had arrived before the French protectorate (which started in 1881), included more than 130,000 members. "It's an important step: the Tunisia of my parents, my grandparents, was an extraordinary Tunisia - a land of sharing, joy and exchange", said the actress, confiding that she grew up "in a large cultural melting pot".

    Elected in July 1957 as "the most beautiful Italian of Tunisia" when she was 19, her prize was a trip the same year to the Venice film festival. A year later, director Mario Monicelli gave her a role in the movie "I soliti ignoti" (Big deal on Madonna street). Shortly afterwards, her family moved to Rome where Cardinale's career took off with Luchino Visconti's "Il gattopardo" (The Leopard) and Sergio Leone's "C'era una volta il west" (Once upon a time in the west). The actress, who has lived in France for many years, has been cast in the role of a grandmother in the latest film by Tunisian director Ridha Behi, "L'île du Pardon", currently in post-production. Her family never recovered after leaving Tunisia, a move they suffered as an exile. "It was very hard. My father never wanted to go back, because he feared the pain of what represented for him a heartbreak", she stressed. "My mother recreated Tunis in Italy", planting bouganvillea, jasmine, prickly pears, and "continued to cook" Tunisian dishes.

    The actress went on to say that Tunisia "must be proud of its history". And faced with the story of many Tunisians who risk their lives to reach Europe nowadays, she stressed that it is "important to remember a common past to build the future".

    "Tunisia was for us a welcoming land and I wish all those in the world who need to leave to find the same welcome", she concluded.

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