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Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Continuing Influence of the 1960s and 70s Moroccan Cultural and Literary Magazine Souffles

Here is an article from al-Fanar on the cultural magazine Souffles and its continuing influence in artistic and academic circles. As the article states, " issues of the iconic magazine in French and in Arabic are available online through the web site of Morocco’s national library."  Stanford University Press published an English-language anthology of the magazine, Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics that can be found here.
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A Long-Shuttered Moroccan Magazine Still Wields Powerful Influence

Ursula Lindsey / 19 Apr 2016

Scholars from around the world gathered at Morocco’s national library in Rabat earlier this month to discuss the impact of a historic cultural magazine. Considered so subversive in its time that its founders were imprisoned for conspiring to overthrow the state, the iconic magazine Souffles (”Breathes”) continues to fascinate Moroccan intellectuals and artists and is increasingly the focus of international research.

The avant-garde magazine, published in French and Arabic, was founded by a group of young friends who were also some of the country’s most talented poets, writers and visual artists. They included the poets Abdellatif Laabi and Moustapha Nissabouri, the writers Driss Chraibi and Taher Ben Jalloun, the painters Mohamed Melehi and Farid Belkahia, and many more. The magazine also developed contacts and contributors elsewhere in the region, such as the Syrian poet Adonis.

The magazine was published from 1966 to 1971, a very turbulent time in Morocco’s
modern history, when King Hassan II faced public protests, leftist opposition and coup attempts, and reacted by unleashing a fierce repression—including arrests, assassinations and torture—that came to be known as “the years of lead.”

FULL ARTICLE

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Moroccan Cultural Center to Open in Paris 2018

Here is an article from the Art Newspaper on the planned Moroccan Cultural Center that will open in Paris in 2018. Completely funded by the Moroccan government and unfortunately, to be built on land where there currently stands the historically important home of the anti-colonial Association des Etudiants Musulmans Nord-Africains (Association of Muslim North African Students) until the 1980s.
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France to get its first Moroccan Cultural Centre in 2018

 by Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  20 February 2016

The Royal government of Morocco will fund a €6.7m Moroccan Cultural Centre, due to open in Paris in late 2018, Le Monde reports. The plan was announced on Wednesday, 17 February at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, in the presence of the King of Morocco Mohammed VI and the French president François Hollande.

The architect, Tarik Oualalou, has been working with the Paris mayor’s office and other government bureaus for two years on the project. 
 
Full Article

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Happy Marriage - a novel by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Here is a piece from the Independent on a new novel by  Tahar Ben Jelloun that has been translated into English. Its about a not so happy marriage between a Fessi man
and an Amazigh (Berber) woman from Southern Morocco.  His novels always seem to catch your attention, but we sometimes wonder who is Ben Jelloun's intended audience.

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The Happy Marriage by Tahar ben Jelloun, trans. André Naffis-Sahely, book review: 'Living hell' for husband and wife

Tahar ben Jelloun's thumpingly ironic title fronts the tale of a long, fractious and toxic partnership

by Boyd Tonkin
Thursday 21 January 2016


Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with the questionable claim: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

If what applies to families also goes for the marriages that make or break them, readers of fiction may beg to differ. At least since the age of Tolstoy, Flaubert and Henry James, suffering couples in the novel tend to run to type.

Tahar ben Jelloun, the powerful and prolific Moroccan-born novelist who migrated to France in 1971, knows all the pitfalls of his chosen genre. His thumpingly ironic title fronts the tale of a long, fractious and toxic partnership, a "living hell" for both husband and wife. The latter acknowledges: "We were not made to be together". So how does Ben Jelloun, always a resourceful and versatile storyteller, renovate this shop-worn material? Be patient, wait and see.

In 2000, a distinguished Moroccan painter has a serious stroke in Casablanca. Stricken by the immobility that diminishes him from a "brilliant, elegant and celebrated" artist to a helpless invalid who sees "a Francis Bacon painting" in the mirror, he has all the time in the world to reflect on his creative and emotional life.

His recovery inches forward at a glacial pace. Enlisting a friend as his amanuensis, he uses this enforced hiatus to compose a memoir. It swiftly descends into an embittered indictment of his wife, their relationship, marriage itself.

FULL ARTICLE

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Gradual Kingdom:" NYC Art Exhibit by Meriem Bennani

Here is a piece from the New York Times about an exhibition by Moroccan artist, Meriem Bennani at  Signal gallery entitled Gradual Kingdom.
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Credit: Dan McMahon

Meriem Bennani’s ‘Gradual Kingdom’ Focuses on Morocco

By MARTHA SCHWENDENER
DEC. 3, 2015

Meriem Bennani’s first show at Signal, “Gradual Kingdom,” might not be as funny as her other projects, which have appeared on sites like Instagram and included a reality show parody (now under actual development) about a hijab designer whose zany head scarves function as purses or Carmen Miranda-like apparatuses. Instead, this exhibition focuses on her hometown, Rabat, Morocco, and how it fits, sometimes depressingly, into global networks of commerce and real estate.

Near the gallery’s entrance are three rudimentary hologram machines — made out of televisions, glass panels and LEDs — displaying images of filtering sand, drifting rose petals and shattering glass. A narrow, floating staircase attached to one wall is coated with sand and leads nowhere. More sand is in the rear of the gallery, this time a pile with an elongated iPhone sculpture lying on it. Ms. Bennani’s home region has nearly been depleted of sand, which has been exported to build artificial islands in the Middle East and offset erosion at luxury beaches around the world. (The sand here comes from an industrial supplier across the street from the gallery.)

FULL ARTICLE

Monday, November 30, 2015

Moroccan cab driver shot in Pittsburgh in Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

Unfortunately, these events are becoming more common. Here is a Washington Post article on the shooting of a Moroccan cab driver in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving day by a man who asked him a lot of questions about his background and disparaged the Prophet Muhammad before shooting the cab driver in the back.
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Passenger rants about Islamic State before shooting Muslim taxi driver in back

credit: wikitravel


It began as an ordinary cab ride.

But by the time it was over, the Pittsburgh taxi driver — a 38-year-old Muslim man from Morocco — had a bullet wound in his upper back and was lucky to be alive, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh police are investigating the Thanksgiving Day shooting, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is asking for more help: CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has called on the Justice Department to investigate the incident as a hate crime — which, it said, was “similar to a growing number of attacks targeting the nation’s Muslim community following the recent terror attacks in Paris.”

The passenger, according to CAIR, “reportedly began asking the driver about his background, including asking whether he was a ‘Pakistani guy.'” CAIR says the passenger also asked the driver “about the terror group ISIS” and mocked the prophet Muhammad.

The driver, who moved to Pittsburgh from Morocco five years ago, told the Post-Gazette that he is three months away from becoming a U.S. citizen. His plan is to bring his wife to the United States and start a family in the country he considers home.


FULL ARTICLE

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hikayat Morocco - The Craft of Moroccan Storytelling

Here is an interesting piece from the New Statesman on a master Moroccan storyteller,  Ahmed Ezzarghani and the group of young Moroccans he trains to keep the tradition going.  They are called Hikayat Morocco and their site is here.
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credit: chasetaylorinc.files.wordpress.com
Meet the master storyteller keeping Morocco's
oral tradition alive in the internet age

by Lauren Razavi
30 September 2015 

The art of storytelling has been an integral part of Marrakech’s culture for generations. One of the most recognisable symbols of Djemaa el-Fnaa Square, the city’s main thoroughfare, is of animated men performing folk tales; stories about kings, families, lovers and beasts, each one meticulously crafted to educate, entertain and inspire.

But over the past decade, the number of storytellers present in the city has declined significantly. With the advent of new technologies and more lucrative revenue streams, many storytellers have retired from their profession or moved onto something new. For a while, it has seemed as if Moroccan storytelling may be lost completely. One man, however, has been fighting to keep this distinctive tradition alive in the modern world. Hajj Ahmed Ezzarghani is a master storyteller who has spent more than 60 years sharing folk tales as his profession. Now in his seventies, he’s training a new generation – a mix of university students and young professionals – in the skills of the ancient art form.
FULL ARTICLE 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Letting North Africa be African


The Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and sometimes Mauritania and Libya) doesn't seem to belong anywhere. Instead of celebrating its invigorating mix of peoples and languages, and the heterogeneity of its cultures, it gets penalized for not being Arab enough, or Middle Eastern enough or in the case of the situation discussed in the article we excerpt below, it's not African enough, an accusation tinged with racial and religious biases. Here is a piece from the Guardian by Iman Amrani on the topic. Enjoy!
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Why don’t we think of north Africa as part of Africa?

by Iman Amrani
September 9, 2015

When a Guardian article stated that Chigozie Obioma was the “sole African writer” to be longlisted for the 2015 Booker prize, the journalist in question had clearly forgotten there was life north of the Sahara. Thankfully, the Moroccan-born writer Laila Lalami, who was also longlisted, was quick to remind him, tweeting: “I am African. It’s an identity I’m often denied but that I will always insist upon”.


I know Lalami’s frustration well. Every time I have to declare my ethnicity I am reminded that “black African” is seemingly the only category that exists. Being both Algerian and British, I am constantly explaining why I identify as European and African – as though I’m “choosing” to be African, rather than it simply being a fact.


In politics and academia, north African countries are commonly grouped with the Middle East under the umbrella of MENA. In conferences I have been to on “African” issues, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt have often had tokenistic representation, if any at all.

But the identity equation isn’t as simple as Arabic speakers equal Arab people. There are still communities across the Maghreb that speak Berber or Amazigh and a dialect called darija that heavily features French and Spanish phrases. Besides, being Arab isn’t an alternative to being African, or even black. Mauritanians and Sudanese can identify as all three at once.

FULL ARTICLE

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Nuances of Women and Religion in Morocco

Here is an interesting article on women and religion ( i.e. Islam) in Morocco from Open Democracy.

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Partners in prayer: women's rights and religion in Morocco

Meriem El Haitami, Shannon Golden, and James Ron
7 July 2015

Human rights ideas are often seen as highly secularized. For many, they are in direct conflict with religion, while for others they are, at best, “awkward bedfellows”. Over the past year, openGlobalRights has run a series of articles on religion and human rights, highlighting these points of convergence and divergence.

Some critics point to alleged Islamic positions on women as particularly problematic, and they portray women as victims of oppressive religious structures or as indoctrinated political subjects. Others point to Islam’s grounding in sacred texts, rather than universal secular humanism, as the problem.

At first glance, the women’s rights movement in Morocco, a highly devout and observant country, seems to highlight this tension. Both Moroccan women’s rights activists and their opponents have framed their debate in “secular versus religious” terms, and both have successfully mobilized widespread public action.

However, our Moroccan Human Rights Perception Polls, based on a 2012 survey of 1,100 adults residing in Rabat, Casablanca and their rural surroundings, suggest that this secular-religious polarization may be an elite-level artifact. Among ordinary people, the issue is more nuanced.

FULL ARTICLE

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Morocco Says Goodbye to Author and Historian Abdelhadi Tazi 1921-2015

Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un.
On April 2nd, Si Abdelhadi Tazi (almarhum) returned to his Lord.
He was a prolific Moroccan author and historian. There are few articles about him in English, but  here is a link to his English language wiki.  We still hope to get a copy of his three volume set on the history of the Qarawiyyin mosque-university one day.
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The ISESCO website writes:
Dr Abdelhadi Tazi  was described was one of the Muslim world’s eminent historians and academics who maintained a close interest in Morocco’s diplomatic history, publishing a master reference book on this matter. He was also particularly interested in Ibn Battuta’s journey and produced a critical edition offering new and corrected readings in this explorer’s extensive travels. “With the death of Dr Abdelhadi Tazi, the academic community lost one of its prominent figures and a historian who greatly contributed through his scholarly works to the sphere of knowledge,” added Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).