The culture of Tunisia is mixed due to its long established history of outside influence from people ‒ such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Italians, Spaniards, and the French ‒ who all left their mark on the country.
The birth of Tunisian contemporary painting is strongly linked to the School of Tunis, established by a group of artists from Tunisia united by the desire to incorporate native themes and rejecting the influence of Orientalist colonial painting. It was founded in 1949 and brings together French and Tunisian Muslims, Christians and Jews. Pierre Boucherle was its main instigator, along with Yahia Turki, Abdelaziz Gorgi, Moses Levy, Ammar Farhat, and Jules Lellouche. Given its doctrine, some members have therefore turned to the sources of aesthetic Arab-Muslim art: such as miniature Islamic architecture, etc. Expressionist paintings by Amara Debbache, Jellal Ben Abdallah, and Ali Ben Salem are recognized while abstract art captures the imagination of painters like Edgar Naccache, Nello Levy, and Hedi Turki.
After independence in 1956, the art movement in Tunisia was propelled by the dynamics of nation building and by artists serving the state. A Ministry of Culture was established, under the leadership of ministers such as Habib Boularès who oversaw art and education and power. Artists gained international recognition such as Hatem El Mekki or Zoubeir Turki and influenced a generation of new young painters. Sadok Gmech draws his inspiration from national wealth while Moncef Ben Amor turns to fantasy. In another development, Youssef Rekik reused the technique of painting on glass and founded Nja Mahdaoui calligraphy with its mystical dimension.
There are currently fifty art galleries housing exhibitions of Tunisian and international artists. These galleries include Gallery Yahia in Tunis and Carthage Essaadi gallery.
A new exposition opened in an old monarchal palace in Bardo dubbed the "awakening of a nation." The exposition boasts documents and artifacts from the Tunisian reformist monarchal rule in mid 19th century.
Tunisian literature exists in two forms: Arabic and French except for one author and translator. Arabic literature dates back to the 7th century with the arrival of Arab civilization in the region. It is more important in both volume and value than French literature, introduced during the French protectorate from 1881.
Among the literary figures include Ali Douagi, who has produced more than 150 radio stories, over 500 poems and folk songs and nearly 15 plays, Khraief Bashir, an Arabic novelist who published many notable books in the 1930s and which caused a scandal because the dialogues were written in Tunisian dialect, and others such as Moncef Ghachem, Mohamed Salah Ben Mrad, or Mahmoud Messadi.
As for poetry, Tunisian poetry typically opts for nonconformity and innovation with poets such as Aboul-Qacem Echebbi.
As for literature in French, it is characterized by its critical approach. Contrary to the pessimism of Albert Memmi, who predicted that Tunisian literature was sentenced to die young, a high number of Tunisian writers are abroad including Abdelwahab Meddeb, Bakri Tahar, Mustapha Tlili, Hele Beji, or Mellah Fawzi. The themes of wandering, exile and heartbreak are the focus of their creative writing.
The national bibliography lists 1249 non-school books published in 2002 in Tunisia, with 885 titles in Arabic. In 2006 this figure had increased to 1,500 and 1,700 in 2007. Nearly a third of the books are published for children.
In 2014 Tunisian American creative nonfiction scribe and translator Med-Ali Mekki who wrote many books, not for publication but just for his own private reading translated the new Constitution of the Tunisian Republic from Arabic to English for the first time in Tunisian bibliographical history, the book was published worldwide the following year and it was the Internet's most viewed and downloaded Tunisian book.
At the beginning of the 20th century, musical activity was dominated by the liturgical repertoire associated with different religious brotherhoods and secular repertoire which consisted of instrumental pieces and songs in different Andalusian forms and styles of origins, essentially borrowing characteristics of musical language. In 1930 "The Rachidia" was founded well known thanks to artists from the Jewish community. The founding in 1934 of a musical school helped revive Arab Andalusian music largely to a social and cultural revival led by the elite of the time who became aware of the risks of loss of the musical heritage and which they believed threatened the foundations of Tunisian national identity. The institution did not take long to assemble a group of musicians, poets, scholars. The creation of Radio Tunis in 1938 allowed musicians a greater opportunity to disseminate their works.
Notable Tunisian musicians include Saber Rebaï, Dhafer Youssef, Belgacem Bouguenna, Sonia M'barek and Latifa, Salah El Mahdi, Anouar Brahem, and Lotfi Bouchnak.
The TV media has long remained under the domination of the Establishment of the Broadcasting Authority Tunisia (ERTT) and its predecessor, the Tunisian Radio and Television, founded in 1957. On 7 November 2006, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali announced the demerger of the business, which became effective on 31 August 2007. Until then, ERTT managed all public television stations (Télévision Tunisienne 1 as well as Télévision Tunisienne 2 which had replaced the defunct RTT 2) and four national radio stations (Radio Tunis, Tunisia Radio Culture, Youth and Radio RTCI) and five regional Sfax, Monastir, Gafsa, Le Kef and Tataouine. Most programs are in Arabic but some are in French. Growth in private sector radio and television broadcasting has seen the creation of numerous operations including Radio Mosaique FM, Jawhara FM, Zaytuna FM, Hannibal TV, Ettounsiya TV, and Nessma TV.
In 2007, some 245 newspapers and magazines (compared to only 91 in 1987) are 90% owned by private groups and independents. The Tunisian political parties have the right to publish their own newspapers, but those of the opposition parties have very limited editions (like Al Mawkif or Mouwatinoun). Before the recent democratic transition, although freedom of the press was formally guaranteed by the constitution, almost all newspapers have in practice followed the government line report. Critical approach to the activities of the president, government and the Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (then in power) were suppressed. In essence, the media was dominated by state authorities through the Agence Tunis Afrique Presse. This has changed since, as the media censorship by the authorities have been largely abolished, and self-censorship has significantly decreased. Nonetheless, the current regulatory framework and social and political culture mean that the future of press and media freedom is still unclear.
Football is the most popular sport in Tunisia. The Tunisia national football team, also known as "The Eagles of Carthage," won the 2004 African Cup of Nations (ACN), which was held in Tunisia. They also represented Africa in the 2005 FIFA Cup of Confederations, which was held in Germany, but they could not go beyond the first round.
The premier football league is the "Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1". The main clubs are Espérance Sportive de Tunis, Étoile Sportive du Sahel, Club Africain, and Club Sportif Sfaxien.
The Tunisia national handball team has participated in several handball world championships. In 2005, Tunisia came fourth. The national league consists of about 12 teams, with ES. Sahel and Esperance S.Tunis dominating. The most famous Tunisian handball player is Wissem Hmam. In the 2005 Handball Championship in Tunis, Wissem Hmam was ranked as the top scorer of the tournament. The Tunisian national handball team won the African Cup eight times, being the team dominating this competition. The Tunisians won the 2010 African Cup in Egypt by defeating the host country.
In recent years, Tunisia's national basketball team has emerged as a top side in Africa. The team won the 2011 Afrobasket and hosted Africa's top basketball event in 1965, 1987 and 2015.
In boxing, Victor Perez ("Young") was world champion in the flyweight weight class in 1931 and 1932.
In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Tunisian Oussama Mellouli won a gold medal in 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) freestyle. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, he won a bronze medal in the 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) freestyle and a gold medal in the 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) marathon.
In 2012, Tunisia participated for the seventh time in her history in the Summer Paralympic Games. She finished the competition with 19 medals; 9 golds, 5 silvers and 5 bronzes. Tunisia was classified 14th on the Paralympics medal table and 5th in Athletics.
Tunisia was suspended from Davis Cup play for the year 2014, because the Tunisian Tennis Federation was found to have ordered Malek Jaziri not to compete against an Israeli tennis player, Amir Weintraub. ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said: "There is no room for prejudice of any kind in sport or in society. The ITF Board decided to send a strong message to the Tunisian Tennis Federation that this kind of action will not be tolerated."