Orality, an Immaterial Heritage
A project by Katia Kameli
Al-Halqa is a public gathering in the form of a circle around a performer in a public space. This temporary circular architecture contributes to the representation of historical consciousness and cultural identity, stages a script that is persistently rewritten, hovering between High and low culture, sacred and profane, literacy and orality. Its repertoire combines fantastic, mythical, and historical narratives.*
During my research, I discovered Abderahim El Maqori – known as 'Al Azalia' – a respected storyteller of the Djama el Fna square in Morocco. He began storytelling when he was young and was trained by one of the grand masters of Morroco, Al Hussein. My interest in his performances became stronger after I discovered his speciality was the storytelling of films.
Invited by Nadim Samman and Carson Chan, curators of the 4th Marrakech Biennale to produce a new contextual work, it seemed clear to me I had to meet and work with Al Azalia.
Arriving in Marrakech we had a first meeting in one of the coffee shop of the square.
He showed me his archive, photographs of him when he was younger, performing alone or with other storytellers. Then, he explained his strong relationship with the Eden cinema, located a few metres from the square and where he got most of his inspiration. He used to go to the movie theatre and back to the square, so he could then tell the story of the film for people who couldn't afford the price of a ticket. In my research, I've been reading that Al Azalia's specialty was Peplum movies. I thought this was strange, as we don't have a strong culture for Peplum in the Maghreb. Al Azalia laughed and corrected me:
- Lala, Rani En'Chouff wa Nahki garr li Film Hindi
- No, I'm watching and storytelling Bollywood movies
I asked him to interpret Satyen Bose's 1964 film Dosti. Just as Al Azalia makes his wage by gathering a crowd around him on Djemaa al-Fna, the characters in Dosti find sustenance and emancipation in the circles they draw through songs and music.
Here is the plot for the video work named The Storyteller filmed and presented at the Marrakech's Theatre Royale in 2012.