Every year, in the week following the Prophet's birthday up to 50 thousand Moroccans descend on a small mountain village of Sidi Ali near Meknes. An exhibition at the French Institute in Fez presents the responses of photographers and artists to experiencing the mousem
The pilgrimage or mousem is traditionally an Hamadcha Sufi event but now includes ritual events from a number of groups, most notably the Gnawa and Jilala. These groups work with spirits, helping those who are possessed by saints or spirits to develop and reinforce their lasting relationship, leading to blessings, health, money, or the removal of specific symptoms.
People rent houses and hire groups to host ritual events, and the town is loud, full of these musical activities day in and out. Simultaneously, each group can be hired to take sacrifices down the hill, progressing to either the tomb of Sidi Ali Bin Hamdush (for the Hamadsha) or Lalla Aisha's cave. Pop music blares, competing with these (popular) ritual sounds, and the entire place is inundated with energy.
For the first time this year a number of artists and photographers visited the mousem and this exhibition shows their response to activities in the town. The exhibition, AiR Sidi Ali - Artists Respond, opened this week at the French Institute in Fez.
|Rene Kladzyk, Jess Stephens and Vanessa Bonnin|
Artists involved in the project included Vanessa Bonnin who had four fine photographs on display. Jess Stephens from Culture Vultures responded to the event with a series of adornments inspired by the rituals and music-based ceremonies at the Moussem.
The other artists include Hollis Bennett, a photographer from Texas, whose work focuses on small groups of people. "He shows their individual intricacies and how they fit into society by standing apart," says Jess.
Rene Kladzyk, a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, New York, gave a solo performance, CROWNWORC, using sound and movement. It was inspired by the practices of possession and trance at the mousem.
A video installation by Fez based contemporary dancer, Camelia Hakim, calls on her research into Gnaoua ceremonies.
|Musicians from Sidi Ali share a joke with Jess Stephens|
The exhibition runs until August 31 at the French Institute Gallery in the Ville Nouvelle. For more information: Click here
|The Fez Hamadcha|
See a two-part description of the Hamadcha Mousem at Sidi Ali :