Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Saving the art of words
My photo shows a halakis, or storyteller, in the Jemaa El Fna in Marrakech, Morocco. Every evening there are several halakis continuing the great oral tradition of storytelling in Marrakech's public space, and they are real performance artists who attract large local audiences of all ages. Storytelling was traditionally an important way of passing down ideas and legends in a society where 47% of the adult population are still illiterate and where the legacy of gender discrimination means that in the twenty-first century 60% of Moroccan women remain illiterate, a statistic that is missing from most of the 'lifestyle' coverage devoted to Marrakesh and other fashionable cities.
But despite this dependance on oral communication the art of words is under threat as young Moroccans turn to new technolgy for their entertainment. Spanish author and Marrakech resident Juan Goytisolo has eloquently pleaded the case for the storytellers and in 2001 UNESCO named Jemaa El Fna as 'a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity' and it is planned to make recordings of the halakis available online.
More proof that words are the new music.
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