Arts for change, return on the cultural festival of Taroudant
By Marjon Goetinck, MEDEA Institute
Anna Lindh Foundation’s Belgian Network, coordinated by the MEDEA Institute, participated in a major assembly on the theme of « Art, Expression & Instrument of Social Transformation » from 10th to 12th April. This event was organized by the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Moroccan network with the support of the European Union and local authorities of the Kingdom of Morocco. Organizations of civil society from seven Euro-Mediterranean countries met in Taroudant (Morocco), a multicultural and multireligious city in southern Morocco.
Over 120 participants from Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Morocco, Sweden and Tunisia from 62 member organizations working in the field of culture and arts came together to celebrate the diversity of instruments and artistic expressions and the common heritage of the region. Furthermore, this initiative aimed at mobilizing local civil society and to create opportunities for the local community through workshops in schools, spaces for best practices, street performances and art exhibitions.
More than 120 people attended the cultural festival of Taroudant. Artistic creation and the idea of Mediterranean cultural community are at the heart of the current upheavals in the region, and have been highlighted during the festival.
At the opening of the festival, in the presence of El Habib Choubani, the Moroccan Minister for Relations with Parliament and civil society, Mohamed Fahmi, leader of the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Moroccan network, explained that « this event is part of the new civic engagement present in the Mediterranean region and the profound changes in our euro-Mediterranean societies context. »
The uprisings that have taken place since 2010 and some of which are ongoing in many Mediterranean countries have directly affected the modern history, as well as the paradigm of cultural cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean. A whole generation of writers and artists young and bold increasingly use the stage to create a social dialogue and open spaces of contestation and subversion. But the street has also become a central place to spread the culture, to differentiate usual venues. Urban areas have emerged as nurseries raising new ideas and positive change. In this new context, how can we reinvent cultural cooperation in the Mediterranean? Who should be the main actors? What are the needs and priorities today?
Through discussions at the University of Taroudant, country representatives shared their ideas about these issues and questions. Lilia Lahmar Tanit Arts (Tunisia) noted that in this current time of crisis, artwork multiply, artistic players explore new forms of art that create original and innovative visions by involving more and more local communities. The last ten years have seen the creation of new independent theaters, dance companies, musical groups, publishing houses, galleries, cultural researchers, and so on. All share a desire to stand out from official institutions and to explore new artistic and literary sensibilities.
Jamal Youssfi of the Company of New Disappeared (Belgium) noted the issue of the gap between elitist and popular culture. “What equality is possible between the culture that “can afford » and the one that cannot? To reduce this division, beyond the endless debates, it must take to the streets, doing a research reflection from citizens to get to have a cultural for all” he said. Mohammed El Hassouni from the Theatres Nomads (Morocco) added: « As artists, we are often far from society. We must speak the language of the people with whom we want to work. It should work in closer, to feed with the people’s essence. Art can only be close to the people. It must bring contemporary art to the neighborhood. We must ask ourselves how we artists, we can come to think otherwise. »
It is essential that the arts and culture are part of the process of building new political and social structures. Achieving this role means having access to financial resources, involving discriminated groups and youth, promotion of exchange programs for arts actors and supporting free and independent cultural spaces. Eduard Miralles from the Interarts Foundation and cultural relations advisor to the city of Barcelona is convinced: “We should promote culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development and include it in the agenda of the post-2015 development”.
Obviously, artistic mobility remains a basic need and a tool for a serious cooperation. This meeting in Taroudant, purveyor of a smart thinking on art and social change, has provided an adequate response to the need to create spaces for exchange and creative projects. Given the success of this first edition, the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Belgian network strongly encourages to repeat the experience the next year.
 The panelist cited the global initiative “Agenda 21” fighting for the presence of culture in the Agenda post-2015 development.