2019 ENCATC International Study Tour, 10-14 June 2019, Casablanca and Marrakesh, Morocco
33 educators, researchers, artists, cultural professionals, and decision makers from 10 countries gathered in Morocco from 10-14 June for the 9th ENCATC International Study Tour, organised in partnership with MedCulture, The World Leisure Organisation, and with the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. An intense five-day programme took participants on exciting study visits to cultural institutes and inspiring cultural venues, including lectures, cultural tours, and interactive discussions with leading cultural management and policy experts and influencers in Morocco.
This International Study Tour was a once in a lifetime experience into the heart of leading arts and cultural institutions in Casablanca and Marrakesh in Morocco. By taking part in lively exchange of ideas, projects and best practice, participants had the unique opportunity to increase their knowledge of cultural policy system and cultural trends in North Africa, to discuss together possible synergic projects between Morocco and Europe and to network with international colleagues.
Many of the visits included private tours and behind-the-scenes access revealing new perspectives and insight into the day-to-day management of arts and cultural institutions. The framework of the Tour was ideal to promote cooperation among European and North African cultural institutions and to prepare the ground for the imminent ENCATC Congress “Diversity and sustainability at work. Policies and practices from culture and education”, which was held in Dijon on 2-5 October 2019.
Some questions seemed to resonate since the beginning of the Tour: how is Morocco moving in the cultural field? What characterises the Moroccan cultural policy? Who are the main actors of the Moroccan cultural scene and what projects and activities are they carrying out? What are the main areas of exchange and collaboration between Morocco and Europe in the cultural field? The study visits and talks with speakers of excellence helped the participants to gradually find answers to these questions.
The Study Tour started on Monday 10th with an exciting tour of the city of Casablanca with the outstanding guide Samba Soumbounou, Project Manager of the Africa Art Lines project (Artistic Mobility fund in Africa), together with the Afrikayna association. After a wide explanation of Casablanca’s history and after visiting some symbolic places, such as the Mosque Hassan II, in the afternoon the participants discovered the Carré Créateur Gallery, a boutique and place of creation in the fields of fashion, art and design. Here the group was welcomed by Lita, Esprit Matières, Hakim Daoudi et Karo, the four artists who opened the Gallery.
On the second day, the Tour started with an intense study visit at the French Institute in Casablanca, where the group was welcomed by its Director Martin Chénot. Together with the French Institutes of Tangier, Marrakesh, Rabat, Fez, Meknes, Tetouan, Oujda, Essaouira, Agadir, Kenitra and El Jadida, the one in Casablanca is part of the French Institute of Morocco, the main platform for dialogue between France and Morocco in the fields of culture and knowledge. As explained by the Director, “the Institute aims at being the main cultural centre in Casablanca not only for French people, but also and above all for Moroccan people”. The hundreds of multidisciplinary cultural events organised by the Institute every year target mainly the young audiences. A particular attention is given to Moroccan artists and cultural actors through a residency programme of creation and cultural cooperation.
After a presentation about the Institute and its activities, the discussion was joined by Bouchra Bendany, member of the board of the Dante Alighieri Association in Casablanca. Together with Mr Chénot, they discussed with participants about the role of the EUNIC Cluster Morocco (Casablanca and Rabat). The Cluster has developed a joint three-year strategy at the core of “Cultures pour vivre ensemble”, a county-wide programme intended to ‘create values’ which facilitate coexistence between communities with plural and diverse identities in Morocco. Two of the main joint projects of the EUNIC Casablanca group – formed by the Cervantes Institute, the Institut Français, the Goethe Institute and the Italian Dante Alighieri Society – was the Fête de la Musique and the European Language Day.
On the same morning, the exchange of ideas and experiences was enriched by the inspiring presentations of Kenza Sefrioui, journalist and editor at En Toutes Lettres, and Dounia Benslimane, former Development & Partnerships Manager at Racines Association. Both gave the group inspiring presentations on the main challenges of Moroccan cultural professionals and the main contradictions of cultural policies in Morocco. Kenza mainly focused on the field of journalism and publishing and on the importance of accessible public libraries. “Public reading is the basis of democratization” and “Bottom-up solutions are just emergency solutions. They should come from the top, the political power” she said referring to the development of the cultural sector. Dounia, instead, told the story of her association, Racines, banned and closed by the Moroccan Government because against its position and opinions. “La Culture est la solution” (“Culture is the solution”) was their slogan and also the title of an inspiring documentary produced by them. Racine’s main objective was to advocate, promote and defend cultural policy in Morocco.
After a networking lunch, the second day ended with another study visit at L’Uzine, a cultural center whose objective is to facilitate exchanges between artists and the public. Here, the group was welcomed and guided by Dounia Jawhar, Communications Manager of the center. L’Uzine is a place of promotion and programming of local, national and international events of quality and also a place of intense creation, where workshops of theater, music, dance, circus and street art are available to the public throughout the week. “Culture pour tous” (“Culture for all”) is their slogan. L’Uzine is the multidisciplinary cultural space of the Touria and Abdelaziz Tazi Foundation, established in June 2013 to promote creation and culture through patronage actions.
On the third day, the group moved to Marrakesh for new and exciting study visits. Right after the arrival, the group was guided to the discovery of some of the most famous places in the city: the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, the Jardin Majorelle and the Berber Museum. Currently, the Jardin Majorelle belongs to the Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and the profits generated by the garden support other projects in Morocco through the Jardin Majorelle Foundation. In the heart of the Jardin Majorelle, in 2011 it was inaugurated the Berber Museum, which welcomes more than 600 objects collected by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent. Here the group was welcomed by the registrar Hajar Itqiq for a private tour of the remarkable permanent collection and was trained on the governance and audience development policy of the museum.
An intensive programme was prepared for the fourth day, which started with a warm welcome by our guide in Marrakesh, the stylist Batoula Bencheikh. She led the group to the first study visit of the day: Sidi Ghanem, an industrial zone where artists and artisans have chosen to establish their own ateliers and showrooms. Around 2000, in fact, Marrakesh started to become fashionable and craftwork also benefited. Thus, the area of Sidi Ghanem began to interest creators and became a trendy area worth exploring.
The day continued with a visit to the most symbolic place of Marrakesh: the Jemaa el-Fna square and the surrounding souk. Between storytellers, dancers, water sellers and snake charmers, the group enjoyed the real heart of Medina. Right after the main square, the participants were led to the enchanting Dar Bellarj Foundation for another study visit, the real highlight of the day. Here, its Director Maha Elmadi and its President Vincent Melilli welcomed the group and focused their presentation on the Foundation’s mission and activities. The main objective of Dar Bellarj (literally stork house, because built on a former hospital for birds) is to foster the promotion, development and exchange of Moroccan cultural expressions, tangible and intangible. To reach its goals, Dar Bellarj has an intense programme of music, dance and art workshops, exhibitions, concerts and talks, where children and women from the neighborhood are constantly involved. It is financed by the the Susanna Biedermann Foundation, established by a Swiss couple in love with the Moroccan culture. The visit ended with the participation in an authentic and exciting traditional music workshop, in which older women transmitted their knowledge to the younger generations.
The last day of the Study Tour started with an inspirational private tour of the MACAAL, the Museum of African Contemporary Art AL maaden, by its Artistic Director Meriem Berrada and its Exhibitions Manager Janine Gaëlle Dieudji. The MACAAL is a cutting-edge 900 square metres of exhibition space with a garden and a store. It has been conceived as a hub for African creativity and dialogue between Moroccan and international artists and has a rich programme of guided visits in different languages not only for tourists, but above all for schools and people from Marrakesh. The MACAAL is the museum project of the Alliances Foundation, a non-profit association with the aim of supporting the cultural development of Morocco by launching flagship programs, with the support of networks of experts.
The day, and the Study Tour, ended with a visit to Al Maqam, an artist residence in Tahanaout, a small village located 30 km south of Marrakesh. Here the group was welcomed by Mohamed Mourabiti, a well-known figure of the Moroccan contemporary art scene. “His intention was to bring to life a welcoming space, entirely devoted to culture. Over the years, the residency has gained recognition and acquired a progressively established structure”.
The organiser of this event was ENCATC, the European network on cultural management and policy. It was done in partnership with MedCulture, The World Leisure Organization, and with the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.