Sunday, January 14, 2018

Calling all Australians in Morocco


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fez Gathering - Final Roundtable Discussions

The 3rd International Artists Gathering  hosted its final day of discussions with a highly appreciative audience braving the very cold conditions. The provision of coffee, tea and small snacks, assisted in boosting the energy levels of those a little tired from the previous night's Slide Luck presentation

The first round table discussion on contemporary art in Africa was well attended, but got off to a late start on a particularly cold morning of around 7 degrees Celsius.

Moderator Neil van der Linden

The individual contributions were well received. Aurelie Lierman, a composer based in The Hague, pointed out the domination of the contemporary art scene over the years by 'middle-aged male Europeans". Originally from Rwanda, Aurelie, an engaging speaker, was one of a strong contingent from the Netherlands that included Neil Van der Linden, and singer,  Shishani Vranckx.

Aurelie Lierman

The two second speakers explained they were doing a joint project, but their contribution were plagued by technical problems and a rather chaotic attempt to rectify the situation turned into an unintended piece of performance art. Eventually, Yassine Balbzioui, from Rabat and Matteo Rubbi, from Italy, informed the audience that the project was a 'paper plane making" competition. Inexplicably, the presentation ended up with a large painting being carried around the streets and an attempt to destroy it by kicking a football through it.

This was followed by a video presentation filmed in Dakar, entitled "You are the shade of my Heart" by Mohammed Arejdal from Rabat. In the video, the audience follows a man dressed in Moroccan clothes, carrying a large red umbrella through the streets. The reaction of local people makes for an interesting cross-cultural discussion. The carrying of an umbrella was the job of a slave - and Mohammed explained his motivation as being political.

The session however, suffered from having too many speakers, technical problems and an overlong introduction from the moderator who, to the bemusement of many in the audience, appeared to cast himself as a contributor rather than facilitator.

Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

The final session was preceded by an unannounced but interesting input from Syrian American author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar, whose first novel, The Map of Salt and Stars, is to be published in a couple of months. Jennifer explained that her novel had two main threads - the story of modern-day refugees and that of a famous make-maker some eight hundred years earlier. The introduction of the art of the written word made for a seamless transition to the topic that followed

The final round table discussion switched direction from art, performance and photography to the realm of language. Titled  looking at the history and tensions between Anglophone and Francophone communities.

Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar's first novel

In Africa, English is spoken by around 130 million people, while French speakers number 115 million.

As one of the panelists commented, "Africa needs an African language". However, while Swahili might be an obvious candidate, the chances of a consensus is highly improbable.

Linguistic dominance comes at a price and is an issue that should be considered seriously. With the increase in so-called world languages comes the erosion of local languages and dialects. Language is the mother of culture - it is part of the cultural DNA and needs to be respected and protected..

The total number of languages natively spoken in Africa is variously estimated (depending on the delineation of language vs. dialect) at between 1,250 to 2,100. Nigeria alone has over 500 languages - one of the greatest concentrations of linguistic diversity in the world.

Several speakers suggested that the future will include Cantonese and Mandarin. The growing importance of China in trade, development, investment and tourism will provide employment possibilities for those who can speak Chinese.

Omar Chennafi, Meryem Lahrichi and the team deserve congratulations for their vision of the 3rd Fez Gathering and having turned that vision into a stimulating few days in Fez.


Casablanca and Bordeaux celebrate 30 years of twinning

According to the French Cultural Institute of Casablanca, cities of Casablanca and Bordeaux are preparing to celebrate 30 years of twinning through a series of events

In 2018, artists, inhabitants, architects, public actors, entrepreneurs will come to Casablanca to "discover or rediscover the most active city of Morocco".

The Institute proposes to mark this event, initiated under the theme "Casablanca / Bordeaux: 30 years of life together," by renewing the links between the two cities over the years.

Actors, artists and personalities, who will "have the heart to invent projects with and for Casablancais", will come from Bordeaux, announces the Institute. "As well as the invitations of personalities and artists from France, the Institute proposes to create new meetings, with the hope that they will open new projects and beautiful adventures."

According to the Institute, both cities have "things to share". They are both port cities, open to the Atlantic, and they have the distinction of being "rich in creativity and innovation". Bordeaux, being at the heart of wine tourism, is a popular holiday destination for many Moroccans.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Slideluck 3 in Fez

As part of the Fez Gathering of International Artists, the third Slideluck evening was held in the new venue - the Medina Social Club. Slideluck has been held in more than 80 cities around the world. It is run by a non profit organisation which is dedicated to building and strengthening community through food and art

The idea is to bring together diverse groups of people, artwork, food, ideas and perspectives under one roof - with the aim of creating a unique and magical event - and once again the formula worked well in Fez.

The Medina Social Club was an ideal venue and the event well attended with an enthusiastic crowd. After eating, the audience took their seats and the show began.

The curated show gave a diverse offering of work produced in locations around the world - from the poverty of individuals in the Siberian landscape to textile workers in India, to a couple of interesting mini-documentaries on the work of photo-journalists.

The overall impression was of a well curated show that left the audience wondering when Slideluck 4 would show up in Fez.


Ritual, Practice and Sufism in Africa

The Second day of the 3rd International Artists Gathering dawned cold but sunny. Proceedings got underway after morning coffee and a panel on "Ritual, Practice and Sufism in Africa

The panel was chaired by Anthropologist, George Bajalla , from New York's Columbia University.

Sidi Brahim Tidjani, the spiritual leader of the Tidjani Sufi Brotherhood, was quick to point out that there was a big difference between what he termed "popular" Sufism and formal Sufism. When it cam to the question of art, Sidi Brahim pointed out that "art is in the breath" - referring to the practice of samaa - listening and remembering.

Fernando Manrique

Fernando Manrique, psychotherapist and psychiatrist, gave an animated description of what constitutes ritual. Remarking that ritual is a necessary component of community.

In the audience - Jess Stephens of Culture Vultures
Ramia Beladel - fascinating personal ritual

Ramia Beladel, a Marrakech based artist, gave a fascinating description of "life-long project" entitled "Waiting for Godot to Bless Me".  Her search for a personal ritual has evolved since she came up with the concept back in 2011.  In an echo of Brahim Tidjani's description of "art being in the breath". Ramia has made a ritual of putting her breath into white balloons and leaving them in sacred places with some white stones.  Ramia has performed her evolving ritual at the annual celebrations at Sidi Ali in 2015 and 2016 and also in Bolivia. Ramia is keen on spreading the ritual and has already had an artist n Canada take up the challenge

Professor Meriem El Haitami - shrinking women's space

By far the most academic presentation was from Professor Meriem El Haitami, from Rabat's International University. She challenged the notion of formal versus popular Sufism and went on to point out what she sees as a disturbing trend, a reduction in the space to women in mosques and other sacred spaces. At the same time she pointed out the research that shows women have often been ceremonial leaders in Sufi practice.

Calligrapher, Mohammed Charkaoui, gave a fascinating presentation on the changing style of calligraphy over the centuries.