Tricontinentalism in Recent Moroccan Intellectual History: The Case of Souffles

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The 1960s phenomenon of tricontinentalism, originating in Havana in 1966, had its strongest politico-artistic impact on the African side of the Atlantic in Morocco. We can trace this through the avant-garde journal Souffles, published in Rabat between 1966 and 1972. The intellectual space that Souffles came to dominate lay at the crossroads of different anti-colonial ideologies: both Arabist and keen to promote Berber culture; both Moroccan and Maghrebi as it called for a new culture in North Africa; both pan-Africanist and pan-Arabist; and exhibiting signs of ‘Maoisant’ Marxism to boot. It is thanks largely to the ideological scope of Souffles that Morocco became a pivot for the Tricontinental Movement worldwide.

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... See: 5 Davies 2015;Harrison 2013;Stafford 2008. This discussion also refers to recent studies from the Anglophone context relating to the Tricontinental or Pan-African dimensions of Souffles. ...
The magazine Souffles was published by intellectuals and poets in Morocco from 1966 to 1972. It functioned as a node, medium, and interface in the intellectual, political and artistic production of a post-colonial subjectivity. Going beyond existing studies of Souffles that mainly looked on its relevance for literature production in Morocco, this article highlights the contributions by visual artists and transnational solidarity movements for the magazine’s translocal constitution. This includes encounters, relations and transfers between radical art and political discourses and practices, as well as the transnational context in which the magazine’s post-colonial aesthetic proposals emerged. The article is based on insights conducted in a research project with the same title that studies the magazine’s polyphone character in a trans-disciplinary manner. It combines artistic research, interviews and conversations looking closely at the visual and aesthetic proposals as well as written testimonies in dialogue with a socio-political reading of the publication, considering as well recent theories on aesthetics and concepts developed in the field of postcolonial studies.
This dissertation looks at the Maghreb as a Pan-African space of cultural resistance to the forces of neocolonialism and Cold War imperialism during the 1960s and ‘70s. Upon independence, the Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian governments, eager to emerge as world leaders, offered military and financial aid to ongoing liberation struggles in Africa, as well as in the Americas. This support motivated artists such as Black American beat-poet Ted Joans, Angolan poet-militant Mario de Andrade, and Guadeloupean filmmaker Sarah Maldoror to travel or even move to the Maghreb. There they encountered Maghrebi artists, such as Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi, and Algerian poet Jean Sénac. Together they transformed the streets and cafes of Rabat, Tunis and Algiers, into havens for militant-artists from across the world. In order to recover these spaces and moments of encounter, I have conducted interviews, scoured through artists’ personal papers, and explored state and diplomatic archives. Through French, English, Portuguese, and Arabic sources, this project uncovers the lost history of collaboration at the grass-roots level between revolutionary artist militants from across Africa and the globe. The encounters between artists in the Maghreb of the 1960s radically altered the language and reality of postcolonial alliances. From a solidarity based primarily on race and hinged upon national liberation was born a transnational movement of revolutionary poetics that used poetry, violence, and sex as tools to reclaim space from the colonial powers and the new postcolonial states. Geographical distinctions made by the academy between northern and sub-Saharan Africa have obscured the realities of these political and cultural alliances. This dissertation makes clear that it is no coincidence that this transition happened in the Maghreb. The Maghreb’s interstitial position between the Middle East and Africa challenged pre-existing assumptions of racial solidarity and forced new forms of identification. This ideological shift indicates that in the 1960s and ‘70s, when historians have argued that intellectuals, politicians, and artists concentrated on nation building, a number of artists and militants from the postcolonial world ignored their governments’ call to protect the nation-state and forged a transnational network that undermined the very foundations of these new nations.
The recent revival of interest in Moroccan thinker Abdelkebir Khatibi (1938–2009) around the English release of his seminal 1983 essay, Maghreb Pluriel represents an opportunity to place this thinker in the inner circle of post-1967 Arab thought. This article argues that most coverage and commemoration of him has been devoted to a glorified side of his trajectory that fits neatly within the framework of ‘postcolonial francophone intellectuals.’ However, this article argues that we must revise the meaning of his seminal book and his call for a ‘plural Maghreb’ to see it also as the demise of his project for a decolonized sociology in Morocco, which was necessary to set his sights toward semiology and his significant literary oeuvre. His example informs us on Arab intellectual strategies after the end of grand ideological narratives, and how to write Arab intellectual and cultural histories without succumbing to the trap of nostalgia.
This chapter follows a group of Luso-African militant-poets, chief amongst them Mario de Andrade, Marcelino Dos Santos, Amilcar Cabral, and Aquino Bragança, who used Rabat as a home base for anti-colonial activism in the Portuguese colonies starting in the late 1950s. The Moroccan government provided them with passports, headquarters, press coverage, and weapons. Morocco also served as a liberated space, on the African continent, for them to imagine what one could be in the wake of an empire. In Rabat, these militant-poets met young Moroccan writers who were haunted by similar concerns over their role in the postcolonial world, amongst them poet Abdellatif Laâbi founder of the Moroccan literary journal Souffles. Through their relationships with the members of Souffles, these Luso-Africans were able to build networks of support in Morocco that lasted long after the support of the Moroccan government had dried up.
This case study examines the Musée d’Art Contemporain Africain Al Maaden (MACAAL), a private museum in Marrakech, Morocco, within the cultural, political and economic contexts of private philanthropy. It analyses the development of the collection of the owners of the museum within the specific context of support for the arts in the Muslim kingdom in North Africa and examines the function of the private museum which opened in 2018. In order to answer the question of the motivations for the foundation of the museum, the article describes the transition from a more traditional model of philanthropy and patronage to a new entrepreneurial model of giving in line with a generational shift in the management of the collection and opens up some possible explanations for this shift. The complex relationship between the State and the collecting family that touches not only on cultural but also political and economic domains is explored. Furthermore, a shift of alignment from the MENASA region to a Pan African context in line with state policy is discussed. This serves to situate the private museum within a broader context and to make a contribution to the study of private patronage and museums in emerging economies.
In the last half century, Moroccan artists, historians, critics and creative writers have undertaken the task of decolonising the history and criticism of their art. From the nineteenth century through independence in 1956, the story of Moroccan art was written largely from a colonialist perspective. In the 1960s and 1970s, this story was rewritten in broadly focused cultural journals such as Souffles, Intégral and Lamalif. In the subsequent decades, lesser known journals continued to reflect on the place of art and artists in Moroccan society. After the millennium, a specialised art press emerged. Current art magazines such as diptyk, launched in 2009, devote visual and verbal space to artists and critics. While a variety of media outlets, including newspaper journalism and television programming, have kept visual arts in the public eye, this essay focuses on the impact of cultural journals and magazines on the development of distinctly Moroccan ways of seeing and saying in the twenty-first century.
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