The Cultural Resource Mapping project identifies, classifies, and analyses public cultural facilities in the central 7 Mahallas of the Municipality of Central Tripoli, and records direct-beneficiaries’ opinions about the tangible and managerial services offered within them. The aim is to assess and inform public local-level support to the cultural sector.
Being the first baseline cultural resource database in Libya, the study is therefore focused on breadth rather than depth of information in order to establish a fundamental record of the number, typologies, distribution, and ownership of public facilities. This paves the path for further in-depth studies.
On this web page, all data collected, the methodologies, and the findings are made publicly available to inform the public and support peer initiatives and research. This is also provided to local State authorities responsible for developing the facilities within the scope targeted by the project. In this way, the project contributes to Municipal cultural planning and encourages grassroot-responsive policies.
Policy Briefing Paper
By presenting the project summary and analyzing its results, this paper identifies some gaps between cultural facilities management policies and users' needs, and highlights opportunities to develop public policies for the culture sector at the local level as a model that can be replicated to return at the national level towards comprehensive cultural development.
Map of Public Cultural Facilities
within the 7 central Mahallas of the Municipaity of Central Tripoli
1) Supported Practices
The map and Baseline Cultural Resource Database above reveal the distribution of facilities amongst cultural practices. This emphasises the lack of spaces made available for some art activities compared to others.
Fine arts Theatre Literature Cinema Pottery Seminars Music Sculpting Partly equipped Empty space
2) Type of Support
The study reveals a critical gap in public cultural policies where all facilities available are for the distribution of finished art products, with the exception of two theatre spaces where performing arts rehearsals can take place. No art production spaces are available for all other forms of arts and culture.
3) Distribution of Support
For evaluating the consideration of geographic accessibility of local communities to cultural spaces within Municipality planning, the data shows unequal distribution of cultural facilities amongst the Mahallas.
53% of the total public cultural facilities located within the central 7 Mahallas of the Municipality are located within the Old City of Tripoli; a historical site managed by an independent public heritage Authority.
8 The Old City
Omar Al Mukhtar 1
3 Martyrs Square
1 Al Sreim
1 Ain Al Dowara
Report: Interviews with Users
Objective: Survey user evaluation of existing services & needs
Focus Group: First-hand users of mapped facilities; i.e. artists & cultural civil society managers
This survey was conducted for the purpose of understanding the views of culture and arts makers on the support provided to them by the state through public cultural facilities and services as one of the main tangible cultural resources of the sector .
The research took a semi-structured face-to-face interview methodology with 12 persons as a sample of the users of the facilities documented in the cultural resource map of this project, and the facilities closed since 2019 were excluded according to sources from the public institutions concerned. Participants in this poll are artists or managers, civil society organizations, cultural who use these facilities at least once since 2019.
Participants expressed that they are pleased with the increasing number of art activities and of audience participation in recent years, allowing them to disseminate the messages within their arts as a means of social impact. For most facilities, this is made possible due to the easy booking procedures with no fee in many of the public spaces. However, there are weaknesses and lacks in the means made available to them that require planning for a long period before the event, consequently limiting the number of events and/or programmes that can be prepared for per annum.
4 participants noted that there has recently been some technical improvement such as in Dar Al-Faqih Hassan and Dar Nueji cultural facilities within the Old City. Microphones and a projector are now made available within the space whilst in the past users were responsible for arranging to rent such basic equipment. On the other hand, basic spotlight fixtures within the seminar room at Dar Al-Faqih Hassan have been added in response to the increasing use of it as a gallery space by the users. Despite the improvement, the lighting currently installed does not meet professional art gallery standards.
Addressing the management of the facilities, participants mentioned that they often find themselves having to clean a place before an event, and sometimes even paint it, because the facilities are usually abandoned and opened only upon occasional events.
6 participants spoke about the problem of space constraints. Many of the spaces allocated for cultural activities are small. This restricts the number of art work displayed and the number of audience possible to accommodate, especially since the COVID19 pandemic. If users want to display more work the only available option is to rent other spaces as opposed to the free but smaller public cultural facilities.
Moreover, 2 of the interviewed users said that it is difficult to find venues for their public workshops; given that these activities require a production space in which it is allowed to use liquid paints, for instance, without worrying about damaging the space.
[See previous section on the absence of art production facilities.]
Not much different is the situation for the performing arts, according to 4 participants in this field who mentioned that there are no dedicated rehearsal spaces for theatre actors other than the theatre auditorium. The participants expressed a state of frustration amongst the theatre community; on one hand due to the lack of encouragement and support by the State, and on the other hand because of institutional conflicts regarding the ownership, budgets, or management of some of the few remaining theatres. These consequently led to the closure of some facilities and the weakening of theatre in the capital city.
It becomes apparent through the opinions surveyed that the weaknesses lie within the management of facilities and the investment in developing the services offered within them. Positively, a number of facilities are currently available; however, most are not of spatial and/or technical characteristics that comply with the activity to which it is allocated, and its standards. This is particularly because many of the dedicated spaces lie within historical buildings in and beyond the Old City, thereby constructed for other functions whilst the process of rehabilitation/re-functioning is often either incomplete or restricted in order to preserve the historical identity of the building.
On needs & policy recommendations
Focus Group: Managers and long-term users of public and private cultural facilities
2hrs, 26 November 2021
Summary of Roundtable Discussion
Within the second phase of the project, a panel discussion was held to engage the views of 8 leading cultural actors on:
The importance of public cultural facilities for actors in the sector and local communities;
Strengths and gaps; and,
Why culture and arts?
Defining the 'cultural movement' and its characteristics.
The role of cultural facilities in public life.
Distribution facilities and production facilities, and their respective roles.
Reading into the conditions of public cultural facilities in the city of Tripoli today.
How do you envision appropriate facilities?
Solutions and recommendations.
A summary of the main points raised by the participants (all views below are of the participants') :
1) Challenges and weaknesses:
On one hand, cultural activities led by civil society and independent artists are isolated from the rest of society; where the same circle of creators and consumers repeatedly dominates in most events. Moreover, there is a noticeable reluctance in activities that seek to communicate to and engage the broader society. On the other hand, cultural activities led by governmental institutions have a weak and limited influence. These are usually limited to a repetitively classic approach that no longer keeps pace with the needs and interests of artists and society in this era.
Independent initiative by individuals, groups or organizations is a new culture that we have no experience with before 2011. Moreover, we must take into account that this is a new practice for the society, which must be re-introduced to the role of culture for public benefits. This includes security considerations as a precipitate inherited from the controlling and surveilling policies of the past regime.
A number of suitable cultural spaces are available today that meet the needs of the cultural practice in its current modest size. However, some cultural spaces are closed due to administrative and operational challenges.
Cultural experts who may be able to assist government institutions in providing a better level of management and services are not being involved.
Government institutions do not demonstrate evident support for the traditional crafts industry and there are no clear policies in this regard - despite the available opportunities for twinning and exchanging experience with neighboring countries that have succeeded in sustaining traditional crafts. Exchange can aid in advancing the sector in Libya.
There is a confusion amongst governmental and non-governmental actors over the concepts of 'production facilities' versus 'distribution facilities'. Authorities indicate no attention to providing art production spaces in the city.
There is no effective communication stream between non-governmental cultural actors and government institutions. Some government institutions have bureaucracies that do not facilitate partnerships with individuals or private institutions nor do they have the capabilities to manage this partnership. There is also a reluctance to participate in government agencies by organizations and artists due to double what the first can add to the second
There is a need to develop the public policies of local government institutions responsible for managing the facilities, especially policies that aim to build partnerships with non-governmental experts who can contribute to the development of cultural facilities and, in turn, the sector.
Establish a culture of cooperation in cultural management through participation, user evaluation, and employment/integration of experts that can assist in strengthening sectorial infrastructure.
Improve equipment in facilities and develop managerial capacities.
Reconsider means of communicating and networking between civil society organizations and government institutions. Improved communication provides opportunities for a deeper understanding of the needs and opinions of the users for informing policy planning.
Collaborate with university faculties of arts and cultural centers through programs that strengthen exchange and create opportunities that support emerging cultural managers.
Better determine the identity of each cultural space where each building is dedicated to a specific cultural activity. This enables building the appropriate managerial and technical services for the specific activity/activities in each facility and fostering environments that are relevant for the users and the needs.
Improve policies regarding the management of cultural facilities and contracts with long-term user to enable a fair opportunity between stakeholders to access and benefit from the spaces. This should include policies that emphasise mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating these facilities and the impact of their uses.
Report: Interviews with Decision-Makers
A preliminary inquiry into the issue from the perspective of local governance officials:
Within the Cultural Resource Mapping project, semi-structured interviews were carried out with four officials in positions connected to the cultural facilities mapped in the scope of the project. These are:
A Decision maker from the Culture Office, Tripoli;
A member of the Culture Committee in the Municipality of Central Tripoli;
Two officials from the Old City Tripoli Administration Bureau, including a Board member.
The objective of the interviews is to form a preliminary understanding of issue from the perspective of governmental institutions; particularly regarding plans and challenges hindering the development of cultural facilities to meet the needs of the users.
Summary of the interviews:
Addressing the difficulties faced by governmental institutions that render weaknesses and gaps in the services received by the users, the Director of the Culture Office in Tripoli that is affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Cognitive Development of the Government of National Unity stated that there is a lack of surveys and data, especially those related to cultural facilities. For that reason, the response of the Office is limited due to the lack of clarity regarding the status of the facilities and their needs. Nonetheless, the Director adds that they expect an improvement as he announced plans to restore and maintain cultural facilities (including sport facilities), based on the desire of the Culture Office to re-strengthen the cultural practice in Tripoli and make it more inclusive. Further, The Director of the Culture Office also explained that there are some challenges beyond their control. These include security challenges that impede the work of the Office; such as their inability to access some cultural facilities that are controlled, or forced to close, by other entities.
Regarding policies to involve artists and civil society organisations and build partnerships with them for joining assets to overcome difficulties, the Head of the Culture Committee in the Municipality of Central Tripoli noted their plans to build a channel of communication with users of cultural facilities through periodic meetings aiming to discuss the needs of the spaces. He further mentioned the desire of the Committee (appointed recently) to implement new policies regarding the cooperation of the Municipality's Culture Committee with activists working in the cultural field within the municipality.
Presenting a positive local example, (indicated also by the data shown in the above map, databases, and interviews documented in this project which show a concentration of cultural activity in the facilities located within the Old City Mahalla compared to others), an official from the Old City of Tripoli Administration Bureau said that there are plans to further facilitate procedures for booking and using the spaces that lie within their administration. They add that the Bureau is in direct contact with a number of users and civil society actors concerned with the cultural facilities, and emphasised the importance of continuous communication which contributes to enriching the cultural movement and the prosperity the facilities, especially those within historical buildings.
On the distribution of cultural facilities for providing equal access for local communities, a Member of the Municipal Council (a former Director of the Planning and Projects Office within the Municipality of Central Tripoli) explained that the Municipality in general is working to achieve decentralization and developing policies for this – noting the restrictions preventing them from working on such policies previously, since that did not previously lie within their responsibilities.
It is no secret that there is critical weakness in the executive performance that enables public cultural facilities to play a positive role that meets the expectations of their direct beneficiaries. However, it appears here that the reasons are not only limited to weak capacities and scarcity in some aspects of public policies (such as the absence of partnership or evaluation policies policy, for example), but also due to administrative obstacles and conflicts in institutional responsibilities, in addition to financial and security challenges – highlighting the impact of the national-level situation of the State on local-level performance.
In spite of that, there is room for development and some available solutions, as demonstrated by the performance of some local-level institutions and their (relative) success in fostering user interests and a relative-prospering of cultural activity within their scope. However, on the whole, there is a noticeable gap in communication and cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. Specifically, there is a general absence of formal and clear mechanisms for communication and/or evaluation that include the user and guarantees that their opinions will be taken into account.
Due to the semi-structured methodology of this part of the study chosen in order to allow for uncovering the interests and priorities deemed important by the participants, it is noticeable that the answers are focused towards plans and aspirations amid an apparently lower interest in addressing and analysing the current situation; which is an important aspect of solution finding and critical for the process of effective communication between the service provider and the beneficiary.
On the other hand, this indicates a general awareness of the current weaknesses; thus the focus on solutions. It appears through this preliminary inquiry that there is a desire on the part of decision makers to develop new policies to improve the work and outputs of cultural facilities. This indicates a common appreciation for the role of cultural facilities towards social and economic well-being. Here lies the intersection between governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, and thus the opportunity that can be invested in to build cooperation towards common benefits.