Sefrou and Personal Connections

Bled Sefrou, as named by Clifford Geertz, is a social space, a network of relationships mediated by markets, public institutions, local identities, and densely interwoven bonds of kinship and alliance. Sefrou is considered as a microcosm, an ethnic laboratory as called by professor Sadik Rddad, of Moroccan society. Sefrou hosts a representative number of Moroccan populations and cultures (Amazigh, Jews, Arabs). This amalgam, multicultural dimension of Sefrou is what intrigued and caught many anthropologists’ attention. Namely, anthropologists such as Clifford Geertz, Lawrence Rosen, Paul Rabinow, to name a few.

This exhibition aims at scrutinizing Sefrou’s personal connections amongst its residents. In order to do so, we proceeded by curating some pictures and videos that represent and revolve around this theme of personal bonds. In addition to the proposed visuals, we accompanied them with corresponding commentaries and remarks.

The Cherry Festival of Sefrou

In 2012, the “Cherry Festival of Sefrou” was recognized as Immaterial Heritage by UNESCO. It is one of the most important traditional festivals there. The Cherry Festival is usually held in June and lasts for three days. People use this festival to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of local culture and nature. The annual Cherry Festival selects beautiful young girls to be the “Cherry Queen”. Throughout the festival, numerous music parades are held, with floats of various kinds traveling through the streets of the city to rural and urban music. Participation in the whole festival is a very important way for Sefrioui people to socialize. Their pride in traditional cherry-picking culture and appreciation of the beauty of nature bond them to each other. Moreover, their shared cultural confidence allows them to communicate with others in a relaxed and enthusiastic manner.

This mini-documentary discusses the preparation, history, and culture surrounding Sefrou’s most important cultural event, the Cherry Festival. Many believe it to have healing properties, along with the festival providing traditional music, cuisine, and even the chance to become “Miss Cherry”. It is the perfect opportunity to make meaningful connections with the locals of the area. You will experience a variety of different people who will share their cultural knowledge and give you a better understanding of the event. This festival displays the cultural art of the area, showing off a variety of different skills such as cooking, music, physical artwork, and craftspeople.

Craftsmanship in Sefrou

Sefrou has a long history of craftsmanship, with cultural origins dating back to the city’s days as a trading post between the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean. Its handicraft culture was carried forward along with the trade routes of the time and had a profound influence on other regions. Huddadine Square, pictured here, is still home to many artisans, including weavers, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, and button makers.

This video simply shows Sefrou women engaging in the art of button making. They all gathered together to create beautiful buttons and wearable pieces of jewelry with it. This area is heavily involved with craftsmanship, allowing people to engage with local businesses on a more personal level. It is not difficult to see that Sefrou is a tight-knit community that has plenty of positive things to share with the world. Personal connections are bound to be made in this environment, as you must engage with the shopkeepers and will make friends along the way. Towards the end of the video, she even gives her website where she states you can buy some of the products handmade by them online.

This video displays the complexity and pure talent behind the textile industry in Sefrou. It shows the process needed to create woven, hand-crafted designs that appear to be on blankets using traditional older machinery. The designs were wildly colorful with incredibly fascinating artwork on them. When exploring these markets where they sell these, you will have the opportunity to learn about the creation, meaning, and inspiration behind these art pieces. By doing so, you will make meaningful connections and understand the blooming culture within the city.

The Sefrioui Souk as a Social Exponent

As it is known, Jews and Muslims had complex relationships. Yet, in Sefrou, this relationship is one of mutual understanding, closeness, and serene harmony. One of the most important social spheres that brought Jews and Muslims together is the bazaar economy of Sefrou, also known locally in Morocco as the souk (the market). The souk can be perceived as a cultural text/form and a social enterprise that strengthened the bond between Jews and Muslims. The souk is what rendered the coming together of a plethora of ethnicities possible. It is exactly why Sefrou received the label of the city of coexistence and tolerance.

Sefrou is a city where you can find whatever your heart desires. In the deepest of the mountains of Atlas, this city provides both nature, the crowded fun life of a modern city, and the traditional festivities that are held there. Thus, the personal connections are well demonstrated in the three mentioned aspects.

This video shows well how people, men and women, are interacting in the souk. Buying and selling in the ancient medina are one of the aspects where personal connections can be displayed. The traditional crafty-handed products are one of the most captivating shots in the attached video. It is in there where the “Maalam” held a deep relation with their “Mteelem”, by teaching them the crafts that were inherited from one generation to the other. This relationship actually fills that age gap.

Sefrou as a Melting Pot of Cultures

The following pictures display a certain type of synchrony between Sefrou’s different inhabitants. One of the most famous aspects in Morocco in general and Sefrou in particular is the mellah. The mellah is known as the Jews’ district. Yet, after Morocco gained its independence, Sefrou’s mellah was no longer the exclusive space of Jews. In fact, the mellah came to also host and encompass a wide range of Muslim families. This alteration at the level of social norms resulted in a culture of solidarity and sharing between the Muslim and the Jew communities. The key pillar of this cultural harmony is found in the mutual respect of religious beliefs and ethnic differences. In doing so, both communities were able to achieve and maintain an equilibrium, a peaceful symbiosis.

This can also be witnessed in The Cherry Festival, where Muslims and Jews participated altogether in the creation of a gay and pleasant atmosphere.

Nature and Sefrioui Music

Music has been linked to dopamine release, involved in regulating mood and craving
behavior, which seems to predict musicā€™s ability to bring us pleasure. Coupled with the
effects on endorphins, music seems to make us feel good and connect with others, perhaps
particularly when we make music ourselves. This beautiful song is about “AGHBALOU” the
source of water that used to connect the Amazigh people on the river. Women and kids used
to go to the river in order to do the laundry or simply to bring water to their shelter. In those
meetings, wonders of folk tales were told, sharing and joy and sorrow were to be shared to
light the burden and share happiness. Spring of pure water coming out of a rock and flowing
was indeed the miracle of Sefrious.

This project was done by:

Firdaous Naim

Wenxuan Dong

Fairouz Sarraj

Micheal Mattei

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