Stepping into New Cultural Spaces : Djemaa El Fna Rotterdam, and Musical belonging

September 30, 2018


Djemaa El Fna, the most famous square in Morocco attracts thousands of tourists. This time, the square came to the heart of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The square wasn't transported, it was created from locals, Moroccan-Dutch citizens settled in the Netherlands for more than two, three decades and more. 


Although the fifth edition coincided with a storm and rainy weather, Kebab, Kefta tajines and mint tea were still being prepared and served under the tents. 


As someone who is extremely interested and curious about identity formation as well as the creation of cultural spaces post-migration processes, attending the festival was a great starting point. I had recently decided to focus my final dissertation on the impact of collective memories in shaping national identities of second generation Dutch-Moroccans. 


When I was writing my research proposal I had no specific understanding about the context of livelihoods of Dutch-Moroccans, but I knew that deep down, I would be able to "figure things out", once I meet individuals from the social group I wanted to understand. 



One of the most beautiful discoveries during the two days were correlated to music. I came across two beautiful performances. The first was Samira's Blues, singing in Tamazight, a language I considered as an alter reality, uprooted from my own.  



Samira Dainan  sang Tarhanine   of which I could only understand  "tu es le seul pour moi" and شحال كنبغيك. 

Samira's full performance was full of warmth and grace, making of her songs lullabies, and perhaps hymns of peace sang at the end of a long pilgrimage to announce closure with one wave, and to declare commitment to a lifelong love, one that kisses tears, and comforts wounds.  


Fifteen minutes of listening to Samira brought a different type of awakening. Understanding livelihoods can never be done in separation with one's self. Not from a stance of comparison but with an openness to understand the other all while trying to decode ourselves. 


Moving from one place to another, becoming a stranger, running out of escapes, finding beautiful exits, gaining luck and losing it didn't actually lead to vicious circles, but rather to continuous cycles of growth. Each different from the other. In different locations, and zones. 


Thinking about existence as being a combination of cycles of growth is perhaps a new lens that could open new alternatives for understanding what purpose is. Far away from its cliché and trendy definitions. 














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