Creativity sparks civic engagement

By Amy Shapiro

These days in Morocco seem like weeks. I appreciate the care and attention to our well being by Katie (ITD), Ismail (Sim Sim) and the Moroccan Fellows who have made it possible to soak in the sights, sounds, smells, and culture of this country. Getting to know and learn from the Moroccan Fellows, hearing about their projects and experience Morocco in a way that the Fellows directed has shaped my assumptions about the country. All these experiences and learning has provided an insight to how the country’s history and politics impact the future choices of young people. From the Fellows, the mural artists, Ynis, and Hamza at Craft Draft I see over and over again how young people are making choices sometimes seeking creative solutions for shifting the paradigm to make change that provides opportunities and a quality of life for young people.

Friday March 22, 2019 we gathered at the MCISA center to hear the Fellows present their projects, challenges and seek support from the group. This was my first opportunity to meet the other Moroccan Fellows and learn about their innovative projects. They are amazing people who are taking initiative in creative ways, who love their country and are committed to civic engagement.

The celebration continued to Menorah restaurant where our American and Moroccan Fellows shared a joyful evening of stories, filling in gaps of learning, and eating good Moroccan foods. What a wonderful moment for both American and Moroccan Fellows to deepen their relationships. We presented Amina, Rim and Latifa sweatshirts printed with their new logo to help launch a new collaboration as well as Yassine with his logo. The gifts were a symbol to remind them of the support back in America. We witnessed the Fellows reconnecting again for the first time since their fellowship that displayed optimism for the future of Morocco. The evening of friendship and cross-cultural exchange was wrapped up with Hatim singing to everyone.

Sunday March 23, 2019: In Fez Fouad took us to the Medina for a special cultural experience. We were greeted by Yunis, a man who lives in the Medina with his family, who became our guide for the day. We walked narrow paths that wove all around like a maze in between buildings with small businesses along the way witnessed by others for hundreds of years. Yunis invited us to his home to meet his family, have tea. I was again touched by an authentic experience that introduced us to his world of which was different from what we had seen.

In the Media we went to Craft Draft ( ) where Hamza greeted us with a warm welcome to his bookbinding workshop. A place where he was trained by his father a Master bookbinder. The space filled with tools and seats organized from years of use. We took our place and Hamza started to explain that we were going to make a book using original techniques and traditional tools that have been used for decades. After several hours we gained a rich experience that passed on the craft of bookbinding. Hamza (maybe in his 30’s) is married, participated in a in the U.S. State Department Program, will continue teaching bookbinding the traditional way to be a Master like his father and live in the Medina. His focus is to teach and share the tradition taking advantage of traveling to the U.S. to participate teaching his craft to pass on the tradition. Another example of how a young person has chosen to blend the old tradition in contemporary days.

Monday, March 25, 2019
I was fortunate to have an informal conversation about Moroccan art history with Khaoula Erraoui who explained how the original Moroccan art is made up of abstract images that began with tattoos. The large art that we saw in Casa and in Rabat is part of an intentional public art project with an open call to artists from around the world. These large murals stay up for a year at a time impacting the community with images. Creative activities are everywhere in Morocco. Another example of public art can be seen from Khaoula’s project using words to create change and building collaborations that shows another dimension of creativity impacting civic engagement.

My experience was shaped from many informal discussions to understand the creativity, visual images and traditional crafts and how young people see their future. I can see how these young professional Moroccans are creating NGO’s that focus on young people to deepen civic engagement, are connected to community, and passionate to build a new way to sustain the country and make positive impacts.

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