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Tunisian Model Kenza Fourati On the Lessons Her Mother Taught Her

If given the chance to pen a note to the one you adore, or show gratitude for a period of your life, what would you write?  Vogue Arabia asked Tunisian model Kenza Fourati to share her admiration for her filmmaker mother, Dora Bouchoucha Fourati.


Kenza Fourati With Her Mother, Dora Bouchoucha. Photographed by Joanna Ben Souissi.

Originally published in February 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia.

“Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself
They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you, they belong not to you”

As a soon-to-be mother-of-two, I keep reminding myself of these lines from Kahlil Gibran – so simple, yet so poignant. Little Dora, my daughter, is named after her grandmother, my mother. Just like her, she is fiery, passionate, and a born leader. She might not yet be two, but she definitely has the unwavering determination of her grandmother.

My mother is a filmmaker. She pours her passion into her projects. It gives her a drive and energy that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere. My sister and I were taught from a young age to be self-reliant and independent. We had a different experience than most in our community. We spent a lot of time on film sets, often filling in as extras or acting in commercials. That’s probably why sets, locations, and crews have felt like a second home and family for me.

Kenza Fourati As a Child With Her Mother, Dora Bouchoucha, Father, Kamel

We learned early on that we had to work very hard and that nothing was owed to us but, most importantly, we learned the importance of keeping our integrity intact. We also learned the difference between a talker and a doer. My mother is definitely the latter. She is also an incredibly generous person. Everything that she works hard for, she happily gives. While she might not have a family recipe to pass on, she has given us much more. She has shown us empathy and how to always understand different perspectives. She brought this empathy to each of her films, her documentary, and her activism. It set her apart. She didn’t have an easy childhood. She doesn’t talk about it much, but it taught us to accept our vulnerabilities as preciously as our strengths.

Like most models, I left a sheltered home when I was very young. Today, as a parent, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for mine to trust their baby to go off and wander around an adult’s world. It is hard in general, but even harder in the context of coming from a conservative environment like Tunisia. My children, growing up in New York City, will most likely have a very different upbringing from mine. Their core family unit is smaller, yet their world is exponentially grander and more diverse than my small hometown of La Marsa. Every day, as every working mother, I challenge my definitions and my expectations as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, and an entrepreneur. Some days are victories and many aren’t. But now, more than ever, I connect with my mother’s journey, her failures, and her worries as much as her successes. I deeply admire and am grateful for the path and the example she led.


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