Much of Morocco’s art is a blend of indigenous Berber traditions with Spanish, French, Andalusian, Arab, and Jewish. Their craftwork includes jewelry (gold, silver, beadwork), textiles, leatherwork, and other mediums that blend art with functionality
Architecture here can vary across many styles based on when it was built and whose style it was based on. Because of its location and historical heritage, buildings can range in a number of styles and ornamentation. The first major foreign influence was Islam. They introduced tiling, geometric patterns, fountains, elaborately decorated doorways, and of course mosques. The Spanish also introduced arches (although I thought that arches were part of Islamic architecture as well, but maybe these are archier or something), tile roofs, and gardens. When the French moved into Morocco, they further changed the cityscape. They required buildings to be no more than four stories tall, regulated that balconies can’t overlook into someone else’s home (that seems fair), and required that at least 20% of the residential property be devoted to garden or courtyard. Although colors and materials may vary, woodwork and ceramic work seems to span all styles.
From the outsides of the home to the insides, color and geometric design dominates Moroccan art. Intricate wood carving techniques are passed down from generation to generation. With these skills, people carve furniture, tools, and utensils. Ceramics, such as ornamentation and bowls, are often created and painted in a number of colors and designs. They’re also known for their brightly colored woven carpets, utilizing many colors and geometric designs.
The art scene in Morocco today is among some of the leading displays of African art. Art galleries dot the country, and all of the major cities hold their own art festivals throughout the year, sometimes multiple times a year. Moroccan artists have not only excelled in art shows and exhibitions in Morocco but many artists have showcased their work across Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
The literature of Morocco is written in many languages, from Berber and Moroccan Arabic to colonial languages such as French and Spanish. And really from about 1000-1900, poetry is one of the main styles of literature. Much of the early poetry was centered around court life and historical writing. As mosques began popping up across the country, they also served as a sort of de facto library, housing numerous manuscripts and book stops for the people in the community.
One of the most important developments in literature is tied to the city of Fez. During the 12th century, the world’s first university was the University of Fez, and it had a great impact in not only writing and developing a literary society but also teaching younger generations how to continue their efforts.
Starting from about the 16th–19thcenturies, a number of other genres were also introduced during this time. Travelogues like the rihla (an Islamic journey) written by the Ahmed ibn Nasir were pretty common along with other religious writings. Biographies, historical writings, songs, and other styles were also written during this time.
The 20th century brought forth many changes, not only in their literature but also in a socio-political sense as well. Mohammed Ben Brahim was part of the first generation of writers who was prolific during the decades they were part of the French Protectorate. A second generation of writers such as Mohammed al-Mokhtar Soussi, Abdelkrim Ghallab, and Allal al-Fassi helped push the transition between occupation and becoming independent. After Morocco gained its independence, a third generation of writers emerged and further impacted their literary scene. Writing in a number of mediums—novels, plays, poetry, journalistic works—modern writers during the 1960s and 1970s pushed the boundaries of what was literature and certainly pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable.
|Peter Orlovsky, left, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs (fully clothed)|
The 1950s and 1960s were also a time when many American and European writers were flocking to Morocco as an escape and “sabbatical.” Perhaps it was the sun, the Mediterranean climate, or the food, but quite a few writers spent time in Morocco working on their writing: Jack Kerouac, William S Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, Brion Gysin, and Paul Bowles just to name a few.
Up next: music and dance