As I spoke with people about digital storytelling, people repeatedly told me that I should find some way to include Morocco’s own storytelling traditions in my project. Both the male tradition of the halqa or storytelling circle and the female tradition of bedtime stories have been a mainstay of Moroccan oral culture, though both traditions are now vanishing, replaced by Turkish, Egyptian, and dubbed Mexican soap operas. The stories told in the halqa and at bedtime may overlap, though “adult content” obviously appears in the adult context of the halqa rather than in tales told to children.
The halqa is a storytelling circle, composed usually of men, found in places like the Djemma el Fnaa in Marrakech or in weekly souqs. Stories associated with the halqa have been collected in English by Richard Hamilton in The Last Storytellers. A documentary by German film-maker Thomas Ladenburger shows a master storyteller teaching his son the elements of the storyteller’s craft: see the trailer here.
Under the first tab, I’ve translated a few stories from a collection of “Berber stories of the Atlas of Marrakech” told by Abdesslam n Id Bram, transcribed and translated into French by Alphonse Leguil.
Tales told to children by mothers and grandmothers
The other storytelling tradition in Morocco is female, quiet, and intimate. Mothers or grandmothers traditionally told stories to children at bedtime. Many women have told me they remember their grandmothers telling them stories all night long–or at least what seemed the whole night to a small child–and they are sad to discover that they cannot remember the specifics of any of the stories they were told. Some of these stories are being collected now in children’s books in French and English.
Under the second tab, I’ve translated a few stories from the collection
Stories Chez Yacob
When traveling through Tamnougalt, we stayed at Chez Yacob. As we were having lunch, Yacob made the mistake of telling me me he had collected (in Arabic) various traditional tales back in 1992. He agreed to tell me a story before we left the next morning. Under the third tab, you’ll find some video clips of the storytelling process.
Stories at Cafe Clock Marrakesh
As the halqa disappears from public spaces like the Djemma el Fna, Cafe Clock Marrakesh is trying to revive the tradition through a new apprenticeship and weekly storytelling sessions in the cafe. Stories are told both in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) by XXXX, a traditional storyteller, and in English by younger Moroccan storytellers. Under the fourth tab, you’ll find a few selections from a storytelling session on March 13th.