The International Festival of Matmata: Creating Connections Between Local Businesses and Thousands of Visitors

Articles / 09-06-2023

The 15th edition of the International Festival of Matmata took place from April 28 to May 1, 2023 in the legendary Matmata region. Bringing together more than 18,700 people, visitors enjoyed four days rich in local food tasting, traditional crafts exhibitions, music, and performances to fill up on fun. Drawing inspiration and support from the Festival Incubator program, the event installed a crafts marketplace amplifying the connections between the local community and the visitors and contributing to the economic growth of the region.

Enhancing the Festival’s Quality, Appeal and Impact

The “Festival Incubator” program is an intensive specialized technical assistance and one-on-one mentoring from industry experts, funded by USAID Visit Tunisia Activity and implemented in partnership with Smithsonian Folklife to build capacity of six Tunisian festival organizers to help them better design, organize, and market their event. The International Festival of Matmata is one of the six selected festivals and has been receiving assistance to improve their event management, including programming, community engagement, security, volunteer management, design, and marketing.

"We implemented some of the best practices we learned from the incubation program. Involving our community including the citizens, the local tourism businesses and artisans in the creation of participatory experiences was a huge success. We also improved many aspects of our festival management such as security, organization, and hygiene thanks to the lessons learned at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington in June 2022 thanks to USAID VisiT Tunisia. This year, the festival was different from past editions and held outside of the usual holidays period – which could have impacted the visitors’ attendance. Despite of the time change, our 15th edition was a success drawing more than 18,700 visitors thanks to all our volunteers and team effort as well as the technical assistance, recommendations and mentoring advices we received from the program.”
— Adel Katrouch, President of the International Festival of Matmata.

Interview with Sloane Keller, from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, USAID Visit Tunisia Activity’s implementing partner of the “Festival Incubator” program.

In addition to the Festival Incubator’s specialized support, USAID Visit Tunisia Activity produced and delivered to the festival organizer a hundred high-quality photos as well as a video capturing the essence of the festival to be used as valubale assets for their marketing and communications. Check out the full photo album!

Supporting Local and Regional Artisans and Businesses through Traditional Crafts Marketplace

Drawing inspiration from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and based on the incubation program’s recommendations, the International Festival of Matmata installed a marketplace for dozens of local and regional artisans to demonstrate their creative process, exhibit and sell their handicraft and products such as traditional outfits and natural fiber made accessories.

Thanks to the “marketplace”, the festival helped artisans of the private sector to generate income and sustain their businesses – which contributes to the economic growth of the local community, and empowers artisans, including women and youth, to continue their entrepreneurship journey.

Apart from facilitating direct sales between artisans and visitors, the idea behind the “marketplace” was to create human connections. The marketplace served as a platform for cultural exchange, allowing visitors to engage with artisans, learn about their heritage, and appreciate the value of handmade products.

All Photos and Videos ©Montassar Lassoued/USAID

The festival was also brought directly to kids and persons with disabilities through a special needs center within the festival premises.
For more content, check the festival’s Facebook page and stay tuned for the 16th edition!

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