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Art Moves Africa – Retracing Roots and Tracing New Routes: Mobility and Touring in North Africa

A study by Lara Bourdin for Art Moves Africa, October 2019

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76<br />

Country-Specific Information<br />

—<br />

GENERAL INFORMATION<br />

—<br />

Located on the northwestern edge of <strong>Africa</strong>,<br />

Morocco has been <strong>in</strong>habited by Amazigh tribes<br />

for as long as there are written records. After Arabization,<br />

it was the only northwest <strong>Africa</strong>n country<br />

to avoid Ottoman occupation. The Alaouite<br />

dynasty, which rules to this day, seized power <strong>in</strong><br />

1631. In 1912, Morocco was divided <strong>in</strong>to French<br />

<strong>and</strong> Spanish protectorates, with the French tak<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the majority of the territory <strong>and</strong> <strong>in</strong>stitut<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

system of acculturation, namely via the school<strong>in</strong>g<br />

system <strong>and</strong> adm<strong>in</strong>istration. Morocco rega<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

its <strong>in</strong>dependence <strong>in</strong> 1956.<br />

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy<br />

with an elected parliament. The K<strong>in</strong>g of Morocco<br />

holds vast executive <strong>and</strong> legislative powers.<br />

While Morocco has been relatively stable s<strong>in</strong>ce<br />

<strong>in</strong>dependence, its recent history has been marked<br />

by economic <strong>and</strong> social crises, which erupted<br />

<strong>in</strong> the 2011 movements. Jo<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> the chorus<br />

of revolution to the East, Moroccans called<br />

for greater social justice, freedom <strong>and</strong> dignity.<br />

K<strong>in</strong>g Mohamed VI responded by shift<strong>in</strong>g some<br />

authority to the legislature <strong>and</strong> pass<strong>in</strong>g a new<br />

Constitution. However, these moves have been<br />

criticized as cosmetic more than structural: the<br />

K<strong>in</strong>g ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>s dom<strong>in</strong>ance through a comb<strong>in</strong>ation<br />

of formal powers <strong>and</strong> <strong>in</strong>formal l<strong>in</strong>es of <strong>in</strong>fluence<br />

<strong>in</strong> state <strong>and</strong> society, <strong>and</strong> most m<strong>in</strong>istries are run<br />

by technocrats loyal to the monarchy.<br />

In the last 5 <strong>–</strong> 6 years, Morocco has <strong>in</strong>vested<br />

considerably <strong>in</strong> economic <strong>and</strong> commercial<br />

ties with <strong>Africa</strong>n countries across the cont<strong>in</strong>ent.<br />

It re<strong>in</strong>tegrated the <strong>Africa</strong>n Union <strong>in</strong> 2017 <strong>and</strong> has<br />

asked for membership <strong>in</strong> the Economic Community<br />

of West <strong>Africa</strong>n States. It has <strong>in</strong>vested<br />

considerably <strong>in</strong> flight connections with <strong>Africa</strong><br />

via the ma<strong>in</strong> carrier, Royal Air Maroc. In 2015,<br />

42% of trade was with Sub-Saharan <strong>Africa</strong>n<br />

countries, most <strong>in</strong> West <strong>Africa</strong>. Morocco had 13<br />

<strong>in</strong>tra-<strong>Africa</strong>n <strong>in</strong>vestments, mostly <strong>in</strong> bank<strong>in</strong>g <strong>and</strong><br />

telecommunications. Attijariwafa Bank Group<br />

—<br />

M<br />

O<br />

R<br />

O<br />

C<br />

C<br />

O<br />

—<br />

operates <strong>in</strong> 10 Sub-Saharan <strong>Africa</strong>n countries;<br />

Banque Maroca<strong>in</strong>e du Commerce Exterieur has<br />

18 country operations. Last year, the K<strong>in</strong>g went<br />

on official state visit to East <strong>Africa</strong>, with his usual<br />

entourage of bus<strong>in</strong>essmen, signall<strong>in</strong>g a desire<br />

to exp<strong>and</strong> his reach beyond areas of culturall<strong>in</strong>guistic<br />

connection.<br />

It should f<strong>in</strong>ally be noted that Morocco<br />

has taken on a leadership role on migration. It<br />

is a member of the International Organization<br />

for Migration, was co-president of the Global<br />

Forum of Migration <strong>in</strong> 2018 <strong>and</strong> may be the seat<br />

of an <strong>Africa</strong>n Migration Observatory for the EU.<br />

Morocco is mak<strong>in</strong>g efforts to regularize immigrants<br />

arriv<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> the country, thereby comply<strong>in</strong>g<br />

with European wishes to curb travel on the<br />

Mediterranean. While endear<strong>in</strong>g Morocco to the<br />

EU, this approach also serves diplomatic objectives<br />

with <strong>Africa</strong>n countries <strong>and</strong> contributes to<br />

exist<strong>in</strong>g efforts to portray Morocco as a tolerant<br />

society (Malka, 2018).<br />

—<br />

QUOTE:<br />

« To this day, there hasn’t been<br />

any dialogue between the M<strong>in</strong>istry<br />

of Culture <strong>and</strong> cultural actors.<br />

And when I look at the results of the<br />

M<strong>in</strong>istry’s calls for applications,<br />

the beneficiaries do not reflect<br />

the dynamism of the cultural<br />

scene. »<br />

Bouchra Salih<br />

Independent cultural operator <strong>and</strong><br />

designer,<br />

Rabat*<br />

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