A street in the northern suburbs of Tunis is now named after the 84-year-old Italian-Tunisian actress, unforgotten in “Le Guépard” or “Once Upon a Time in the West”.
“I’m still a bit Tunisian”: the actress Claudia Cardinalewho inaugurated a road in her name near Tunis on Sunday, underlined her attachment to her home country, whose hospitality she believes is a role model for the reception of migrants in the West.
“I feel very honored because this is where I was born and spent my childhood,” the 84-year-old Italian-Tunisian actress said at the start of a ceremony in her honor in La Goulette, a port city in the northern suburbs of the Tunisian capital. Visibly enchanted, the actress danced to tunes played by a traditional orchestra and then received several gifts, including portraits by local painters.
A mural featuring a huge portrait of the actress was unveiled just before the unveiling of a plaque near the small La Goulette train station. “We love Claudia very much and she loves Tunisia, she is coming home, we wanted to spoil her with a road that will forever bear her name,” La Goulette Mayor Amel Limam told AFP. “I keep many things from Tunisia inside me, its landscapes, its people, its sense of hospitality, its openness,” the actress confided ahead of these ceremonies in an interview with AFP via email.
The descendant of Italian emigrants said she was “very grateful” to the town hall and to the association “La Piccola Sicilia”, co-organizer of the ceremonies in her honor. This “little Sicily” was the district of La Goulette, where thousands of Italians from Tunisia, mainly from Sicily, were concentrated and where “la Cardinale” was born. At independence in 1956, the Italian community, including many emigrants who arrived before the French protectorate (since 1881), had more than 130,000 members.
“Great cultural mix”
“It is an important past: the Tunisia of my parents, my grandparents, was an extraordinary Tunisia. A land of sharing, of joy, of exchange,” she confided, emphasizing that she “grew up in a very good cultural mix.” Voted “Tunisian’s most beautiful Italian” in July 1957 at just 19, her reward that same year was a trip to the Venice Film Festival, where she was noticed by the industry. In particular by director Mario Monicelli, who will give him his first role in “The Pigeon” the following year.
Shortly thereafter, her family moved with her to Rome, where her career took off with mythical roles in Luchino Visconti’s The Cheetah and Once Upon a Time in the West Sergio Leone. The actress, who has lived in France for many years, has never stopped filming and plays the grandmother in Tunisian Ridha Behi’s latest film, The Isle of Forgiveness, which is currently in post-production.
“Land of Welcome”
Like the protagonists of the film about Italian immigration, his parents never recovered from their exile in Tunisia. “It was very hard. My father never wanted to come back as he feared the pain, which was a real heartbreak for him,” she insists. “My mother recreated Tunis in Italy. She planted there the species “bougainvillea, jasmine, prickly pears ” and continued to cook “Tunisian”.
For these descendants of Sicilian migrants who left Africa in search of a better future, Tunisia “must be proud of its history”. and face to migration which today are often made from south to north, it was “important for the actress to remember this common past”. “Tunisia was a welcome country for us. I wish all people in the world who have to go to find the same welcome.”
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