Art in the Streets of Essaouira

Art in the Streets of Essaouira

These are photographs taken on my perambulations around Essaouira in between projects I had set myself. This was the end of my trip and I was feeling quite jaded, so there are not as many images as I would have liked. The colours of Essaouira are quite beautiful so I am sure I will return and enjoy myself further.  I briefly explain where in the city these were taken and any other brief relevant information.

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Historic Catastrophe : the Agony of Essaouira

Historic Catastrophe : the Agony of Essaouira

Much of the available online literature provides a positive description of Jewish/Arabic settlement in Morocco,  suggesting a substantial legacy of intra-racial tolerance,  accord and cultural harmony.  Indeed,  Morocco seems to be advertising this positive relationship in its marketing and promotional campaigns to attract tourists from Arab, Christian and Jewish diasporas.  The specific qualities that a Jewish workforce brought to Morocco ( including banking,  usery,  jewel-making and contacts with the West ) were considered invaluable to Morocco’s economic expansion and world trade by former sultans.

But is this portrayal true?  What really was the relationship between the originally settled Jewish communities across the Mahgreb and Arab invaders?   What agreements and covenants were agreed and signed to facilitate peace and ordered co-habitiation?   What socio/economic/political factors influenced that relationship and the lifestyle of Jews under Arab rule?  Does a better understanding of the experiences of Jews living in Arab controlled countries and under Arab dominion for almost a thousand years contribute to a broader understanding of the Arabic-Jewish debate?

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Ethno-Psychiatry and the Hamadcha

Ethno-Psychiatry and the Hamadcha

The man laying on the rich carpet welcomed me into the the Hamadcha Zaouia in Essaouira.   After determining my nationalty he proceeded to tell me in English about the psychological and spiritual healing role the Hamadcha confrere traditionally enjoys within Moroccon folk ethnology.

Just several hours before he had been one member of a collective of musicians and dancers performing in the Place de l’Horlage as part of the 2019 Gnaoua Musiques de Monde festival in Essaouira, Morocco.  In the small square under the old clock tower the ensemble performed for forty minutes in front of a enthralled mostly Moroccan audience.  Approximately 2 minutes of the early part of the performance is captured below.

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Kadisha,  Amazigh Artist of Essaouira

Kadisha, Amazigh Artist of Essaouira

The woman in the worn green jellaba and distinct Amazigh features is in her early forties. She cuts a striking figure as she moves from person to person in the cafes around Place Moulay Hassan clutching a bunch of curling papers in her right hand. She insists that everybody view these papers; they are her art works and her raison d’etre.

Kadisha, born locally in El Hanchane,  says she has always lived in Essaouira. She tells me that she paints most days, buying paint and paper for 2 dirhams from the local stationers. Her art is always on A3 paper, is always portraits and often from her imagination.

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Sidi Magdoul,  the Scottish Saint of Essaouira

Sidi Magdoul, the Scottish Saint of Essaouira

At the furthest southern edge of Essaouira a large marabout tomb is becoming increasingly suffocated by creeping modernity. Once isolated it is now hemmed in by a sewage works, a complex of roads, industrial buildings and several large modern houses. This cacophony of progress diminishes much of the visual sanctity of the shrine.

I have visited previously on several occasions, walking firstly alongside Essaouira’s modern concrete beach promenade towards the small lighthouse before cutting a little inland where the shrine is found. Its green dome and grey crenellated walls, suggestive of a fortress rather than a shrine, manage to still be seen within the urban chaos around it. On the two occasions I have visited previously I had not managed to gain entry to the building from the family living at the site; this time I resolved to be a little more assertive.

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Sidi Kaouki : A Marabout Shrine on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco

Sidi Kaouki : A Marabout Shrine on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco

Sidi Kaouki is a small town on the windswept Atlantic coast of west Morocco.  Some 25 miles south of Essaouira, its long golden sands and dashing surf make it a favourite for surfers and windsurfers.  There is a collection of stylish hotels, surfing and windsurfing schools,  and lines of drying wetsuits around its environs, which attest to this interest.

Standing at the top of the beach,  close to the coterie of cafes and shops,  is a marabout shrine.  Here the white building  rises from the sandy beach as the largest structure close to the shoreline.  This particular type of building is known as a Koubba,  or Koubbeh,  which is Arabic for dome or cupola.  It specifically refers to a monument erected on the grave of a revered figure,  or in a place where he ( or she ) stayed or lived.

These monuments occur mainly in North Africa and consist of a spherical dome built on a square, cubist building which forms a room,  often decorated, which houses the tomb of a saint.  They are normally quite small buildings,  their size rarely exceeding 4 meters square.

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