Paul Bowles: A Witness of Moroccan Traditional Storytelling
08:23:50 PM Sunday Nov 25, 2007
I was watching a documentary on the Moroccan TV channel 2M about the American writer Paul Bowles, and something he said became my subject of reflection for a few minutes. I cannot find an extract of that documentary, apparently produced in 1993, but soon it might popup on youtube or dailymotion. At any rate, Paul was speaking about his early Moroccan friends who used to tell him stories they invent, and he would be transcribing or recording them. The most fascinating and mysterious of all was Mohammed Mrabet. Those stories later became popular novels and short storty books, albeit outside of Morocco. He sighted, and sadly said that it's too bad Moroccans lost their culture the minute TV and cinema came in, alluring to the beauty and richness of the traditional storytelling art of Morocco. That goes for the entire world, he resumed. He said that everyday, a culture is becoming similar to its neighboor, and eventually everybody will be part of a synthetic culture enabled by electronics.
This synthetic culture is crystalizing faster than ever.. would you agree? do you believe core cultures are being wiped out?
Do you think a synthetic world culture and a traditional culture are mutually exclusive? how can people creatively develop a world where core cultures can coexist with the global culture?
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8:52 am December 3, 2007
In response to the question of the synthetic culture I do see a great loss of tradition here in the U.S.A. Before when I was young, people had more sense of community. Familiies hung out on the steps and shared more of themselves than they do today. The children would play double dutch jump rope and patty cake games where you made up lyrics. Now due to high crime and drive by shootings most of the play time in urban settings has gone inside infront of the computer screen. Most young people have access to computers at home today and are doing things with a keyboard. Drawing on sidewalks and group activities are more limited. Television is the great babysitter. Band and music practice is limited to sports events which is part of the American culture and art funding in school has been cut. Storytelling is still out there and mostly part of the African-American elders who try to keep it going. The storytelling was huge in the Native American culture which has suffered under the ruling class. Through their stories they taught their people how to live in harmony with nature which was the basis of the Native American culture. For me culture is in the food, music and lifestyle of a people. There are places where culture is mush more interesting than other places for instance in New Orleans there has a great party culture based on the food and music of the people there. Every event has food attached to it. With a large migration of people leaving the area after Hurricane Katrina and Rita perhaps they will be exporting their culture to other places., and spreading the spice of life I think there has to be an agreement within the community that is willing to support the culture and cherish it. Look at American sport culture. We see sports all the time on television and it's supported by advertizing. This is how it is legitimized. Every country has it's own flavor but it all comes from the predominant people who live there. Moroccans have a certain way of living that is not found in New York City. The people are all in agreement about certain things and that would be very hard to change for instance - 2 hour closures after lunch. That is very Moroccan and wouldn't fly in New York or anywhere eles in the USA. The three hour hammam for women and afternoon tea. Americans in general go to the spa as a special treat not a weekly activity (unless they are rich). So as far as a world culture is concerned I think we are there electronically for those who are connected via the internet. Food culture will probably remain local. Music is ever changing because of it's nature to float across the airwaves. As far as clothing or dress is concerned - everything seems to be made in China these days and is rather homogenized. But Moroccans still have the traditional jellabah. What we need more of are the forward thinkers and trend setters and artists. They are the ones we view as outrageous but wind up imitating. They have the ability to change the culture but only when they are supported by the community. This is why it is important that people go outside and do things in community settings. Without actually being part of the events and socialization culture will die. Imagine a costume party where nobody dresses up or a parade without an audience. So get off the computer and go dancing.
Jane Bowles used to go to bars and get naked and exposed in front of strangers, she had her own mode of exhibitionism. Paul Bowles definitely loved Morocco and Tangier, and the makhzen did nothing to honour his memory.
4:03 pm November 26, 2007
Paul Bowles helped many Moroccans to make it to the international scene to name some few : The writer Mohamme Shoukri ,and Bashir Attar the jakouka Master who played with Mike Jagger and Ravi Shankar's daughter and others.
About the nakedness crise, I think Abdelilah is referring to the fact that Paul Bowles wife was bi-sexual, and she had a Moroccan lover called Aisha. Who still lives in Tangiers.
I think you guys can dig her up from youtube...
PS: Paule Bowles was burried in the US with dirt from Morocco and a Dirhan on the top of his coffin.
So... who proposed to who? :) and what do you mean by nakedness crises? As for Mrabet, the fellow in the video up above, when his novels were about to be published and if I'm not mistaken, right when Georgetown University was readying to honor him with a distinguished degree of oral litterature, he escaped and disappeared from the face of the earth leaving behind his wife and children and Paul Bowles. Paul said the reason is because Mrabet was scared. But scared of what? scared of fame. Scared of the Makhzen.
yes, it is a fascinating story. The case of his wife Jane who used to have nakedness crises is even more interesting. LEmrabet was made famous by Bowles, and the former said that his friendship with the late Choukri ended when he proposed marriage to him.