The Hassani CultureApril 6, 2008
Throughout the Hassani day, I noticed while assisting to the program that the Hassani culture has its own specificity. The Hassani handy craft is mainly composed of local material taken from the nature like silver, leather, wood and cloth. All the decoration was very simple with a clear influence of the Black African forms of art especially in the jewelry. The handy craft shows a big cultural mixture with Mauritania and Mali and other West African regions, since the symbols and material is quite the same. Among the symbols that were represented in the craft we can easily distinguish the Islamic influence, as the croissant with the star is present on the cloths and the decorations. Magical symbols are very important too, because in some of the jewelry and handy craft I noticed the traces of magical squares which act as talismans. The Hassani Music is very simple and Rhythmic and relies on local Hassani poetry and slow movements. Further more, the Hassani food is very different from the rest of Morocco. Hassani alimentation is mainly based on rice and animal milk as well as corn, whereas the Moroccan food in mainly based on bread and cattle meat. The dressing is also obviously very different. Hassani people were the Melhfa for the women and the Daraiya for the men like Mauritanian and other desert people, and we notice very rare people wearing modern European style cloths as most of them wear it under their traditional cloths.
Even if Hassani people share some tribal values with the rest of Moroccan people, they still constitute an anthropological exception. In Hassani culture the women play the most important role in the family. Women are preferred big and tall as a sign of local beauty and social wealth. The cast system is very rigid, and the Arab Bedouins lay on the top of the social cast. Hassani people even tend to see other Moroccans as inferior to them, as they are more tribally organized and still respect the traditions. Islam has a very important place in education and Coranic schools for youngsters are very common in the south. Hassani people have their own pace of life. They don’t like to rush themselves and do things very slowly for enjoying every moment of life, so being quick or active is seen as inconvenient. The southern regions of Morocco are also known for the strong oral tradition and the importance of classical and local poetry, which is present in most of the men or family reunions.
Hassani culture is very important and rich for the Moroccan melting pot. Yet, other Moroccan people know very few things about this culture because of years and years of psychological distance. The Sahara conflict and the special treatment of the Southern regions as well as rumors played a negative role in creating stereotypes and antipathies between the Hassani people and the other Moroccans. In stead of doing a politic of cultural openness and assimilation the responsibles of the Sahara issues tended to impose cultural separation. Consequently, we see no aspect of Hassani art or culture inside the big cities like musical tapes or cloths and no Hassani cultural books were published.
I think that to promote the Hassani culture among other Moroccans many actions should be done from both sides and at the small and decision making level. First of all, Hassani culture should be present in the Moroccan education from primary school. At least pictures of Hassani people and texts about Hassani story and poetry should be included in manuals, as to permit the self identification of Hassani children with these manuals and the familiarization of other children with these people that they see as blue zombies nowadays. At a bigger level, I think Hassani culture department should be includes in Moroccan public universities and anthropological studies should be done and published by the state. Local tourism can play an important role in knowing more the culture of the region. Tourism agencies should stop their orientalist discourse about the exotic south and try to show a more realistic image about the region. On the smaller level, Hassani students in big cities like Agadir and Rabat should try to mix more with others and even organize cultural days instead of living in isolation. The civil society is very active in the south, so it would be easy to organize expositions and music festivals about the Hassani culture. Media also has a very important role, as it should stop showing sand and palms and start giving more importance to the human potential and the local culture as to broadcast it to the rest of Morocco.
The Hassani Culture is very rich and can be an added value to the Moroccan melting pot with its originality and Saharian African influences, if many measures would be taken. Both Hassani people and other Moroccans should cross their cultural distance and build bridges that transcend political issues through: education, tourism, festivals, Medias… We live in a kind of distorted image about each other and the rest of Moroccans tend to see the south with an internal orientalist perception. This perception can’t easily change especially while dealing with a rigid Hassani tribal mind. Yet, cultural communication is the only way to unite different people in the same constructed country.