Inter-generational encounter between Sahrawi poets and youth

This event was organized by the Sahrawi Ministry of Culture and falls under its Oral Culture Program that aims to protect and transmit Sahrawi oral culture, under threat due to deteriorating conditions in exile and under Moroccan occupation. Poetry is one of the main Sahrawi art forms that transmit oral history, identity and traditions from generation to generation, and the ministry regularly organizes poetry events in the studios of the Sahrawi TV network, RASDT-TV, to this end. The TV programs that are then edited and aired are billed “The Spirit of Popular Culture and Literature”.

The Ministry approached us about making some changes to the format in order to attract youth. They proposed setting up a traditional haima (tent) in an oasis, inviting a women’s traditional music and dance group and organizing an evening that emulated the thousands-old nomadic celebrations in the desert.

Taking place in the middle of the pandemic in the context of numerous cancellations of cultural events, the encounter offered Sahrawis the first opportunity in many months to enjoy an evening of culture and togetherness. Poetry, music, dance, tea-making and conversation merged in a beautiful tented setting, surrounded by colourful rugs and artwork.

The event borrowed the inter-generational approach from the Prince Claus Fund-supported Lmzun project that we undertook two years ago. It brought about a dozen of Western Sahara’s most renowned poets together with Sahrawi youth — some of whom were aspiring poets themselves.  In addition to reciting poetry, the elders engaged in an open-ended conversation with the younger generation. They discussed the role played by poets in Sahrawi society, how the spoken word is delivered through poems and songs and the challenge today of keeping these transmissions going from generation to generation. There was also much reflection on the role played by Sahrawi women in family units, who are often the principal bearers of oral storytelling. The event was a total success.

This encounter was filmed and edited into a short “Making of”

Partners: Sahrawi Ministry of Culture, EFA Abidin Kaid Saleh

Supported by: Dimes Foundation

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