A Day of Storytelling at ALIF Riad

SONY DSCJess Stephens and Alice Barnsdale helped arrange a “day of storytelling” at the ALIF riad near the Batha square.  ALIF (Arabic language institute in Fès) let us use the gorgeous riad free of charge.  I used some Fulbright funds and Alice got her sister-in-law to produce and serve a traditional Fassi couscous for Friday lunch, plus tea and cookies in both the morning and the afternoon.
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I borrowed Al Akhawayn tripods from Charles (rough but better than nothing), and we tried to set up four interview stations around the courtyard of the riad.

Cameras varied in quality, as did the Darija capabilities of the volunteers.  (Hearing my voice on the videos afterwards, I’m repulsed:  “ugly American” and “infantile” are the words that come to mind.)  The Fès university students were held up, arriving only after lunch, which meant that the early story sessions were a little choppy–and Alice was pressed into listening for most of the morning.  The birds drowned out some of our speakers, and in the afternoon, there were competing voices.  Not ideal audio conditions.  But the storytellers themselves were amazing, as were their stories!

Here’s a quick roll call.

Si Mohamed, master-braider: maker of Schlueh (Berber) finery.Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 5.23.10 PM

Abbas, master woodworker and the last carpenter in Carpenter’s Square.
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Zin Abidin, master plaster-carver.
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Hajj, blgha (men’s slipper) maker.  A master of the craft for 70 years.
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Driss, his son Nouredine and nephew Azdeen, master ironmongers (knife and scissor-sharpeners; tool-creators)
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Mohamed Féris, a coppersmith in Seffarine Place
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Abdelkader, master dyer in one of the two remaining shops that work with sabra (vegetable silk) and other raw material.
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Plus a group of six carpet-knotters from the Ensemble Artisanal, who did not want to be photographed on that particular day.

The amount of footage to be watched, translated, edited, subtitled, and so forth is truly daunting–but the stories and the storytellers were so inspiring that I must and will find a way to make this all happen.  Insh’allah.

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