- Noemie Arazi
Collective workshop on Azemmour's heritage
At the invitation of Florence Aigner from Polymorfilms, I had the opportunity to participate last may at a collective and citizen-led workshop on Azemmour’s cultural heritage. This meeting was the result of a photographic workshop held in 2015 in the medina of Azemmour, one of the oldest if not the oldest medina of Morocco. Azemmour, located on the atlantic coast at around 75km south of Casablanca, is steeped in history - it was under the first arabo-muslim dynasty of the Idrissides (8th century) and later on (12th century) under the Almoravids; during the middle ages Azemmour became an important staging post for commercial caravans linking the north and south and in the 16th century the town was occupied by the Portugese for nearly two-hundred years. Commerce, fishing and crafts remained the foremost activities until around the 1930s when little by little Azemmour’s medina was abandoned by its families, moving to economic hubs such as Casablanca and El Jadida. Today, Azemmour’s medina is in a derelict state, shunned by a large part of its population that mostly lives in the modern part of town. Using a collective approach our group first defined themes, which revolved around Azemmour’s tangible and intangible heritage, the lack of knowledge and valorization of its history and culture, and the need for civic engagement to build a collective and constructive future for the town’s medina. We then defined our objectives over the long term, which include among others the collection and editing of historical documents (historical and archaeological sources, maps, narratives, film / media, etc.), the organization of cultural events (festivals, exhibitions, artistic residences, performances), citizen engagement (rehabilitation of the built heritage, the involvement of associations and local residents, fundraising, etc.), informal education and knowledge transfer (training, capacity building, conferences) and environmental issues (development of the river Oum Errabiaa, replanting of old species, etc.). Those few days in Azemmour were unique as it was my first time to join a citizen-led project on heritage. All participants contributed in defining the needs to reclaim Azemmour's history and heritage, a process that is generally reserved for an institutional elite. The next step is certainly not less important as we are now facing the task to find the necessary funds to carry out the activities we identified.