The latest silly news from Morocco is of a belly dance festival ( see our earlier story here) which was to have been held in Marrakech on May 10, but was cancelled today. The reason for the cancellation was not a sudden burst of common sense (belly dancing is not Moroccan) or a rush of prurient blood to the head; but rather fears over the safety of its Israeli dancers.
|Belly dancing in the Fez Medina|
“I cancelled it because I didn’t receive any authorization and I was afraid for the safety of my participants,” festival producer Simona Guzman told the media.
No authorisation? Was it the case that the excuse of safety was used to shut down a festival the Islamist government was disapproving of? Maybe so, because Islamist members of parliament and pro-Palestinian associations had criticized the invitation to the Israelis.
Criticism over the Israeli presence was first heard last year when the festival was also held in Marrakesh, but the event went off without mishap.
Some 18 countries, including Britain, Japan, Russia and The Netherlands, were due to have taken part in the festival which was first held in Istanbul in 2010.
|Belly dancing in Marrakech|
After the Greek and Roman period, there seems to be no documentation of veil dancing in the Middle East or North Africa in literature or in art. At the end of the 1800's and the beginning of the 1900's, there were numerous photographs taken of women dancing with what looked like shawls and kerchiefs. Many of these photographs were posed pictures which were more reflective of the photographers' prurient taste than the culture which they presumed to document. There was a salacious appetite to be quenched for the English and European buyers of these provocative and sometimes seminude photographs. There was money to be made. The photographs depicted the Orientalists' racist, sexist fantasy of how the forbidden women of the harems were supposed to appear. - Artemis Mourat, The Illusive Veil.
While not at all interested in censorship or a fundamentalist response to the festival, it is of concern that some seem to think Morocco needs belly dancing. There is enough indigenous music, dance and culture without pandering to Orientalist fantasies that are not part of Moroccan culture.
Also see our story: What is it with belly dancing?