Friday, January 12, 2018

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 in 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.


No comments: