DOOR MYRIAM SAHRAOUI
When I was a little girl, growing up in Tangier, I would often accompany my parents to Souk’d Bara le grand Socco in Tangier to buy fresh eggs, onions and delicious sheep’s cheese from the “Djbella” – the local mountain farmers. Next, we would go to the cavernous fish hall, where the bounteous offerings of the sea never ceased to amaze me.
Tangier, the city where I was born and spent my childhood. A city on the crown of Africa, gazing into the distance, towards Europe. This is where mythical demigod Hercules fathered a child with the giantess Tingis, the later founder who named the city after his mother.
Africa and Europe are only 14 kilometers apart, severed by the sea that sprang under Hercules’ feet as he wrenched the continents apart in this very place. Mirroring the story of its mythical foundation, Tangier is a torn place full of hope and tragedy, the beautiful and the ugly, a city of limitless potential and major challenges. It is a place of eternal contrasts, stories, illusions and dreams. Wherever you go in this city, no matter the time, this duality is palpable.
For me, returning to Tangier means coming home. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got the chance to come to Tangier with Female Economy, the company I co-run. We set to work with ten theatermakers, visual artists and authors from Tangier, Casablanca and Rabat and ten residents from the Medina, the old part of the city, and in an intense two-week workshop, the creators and residents plunged into the intimacy of our adoption method. Listening to their life stories, we got a fascinating glimpse into the dreams, desires and problems of the people who live here.
We set up shop in the small theatre of Darna, one of our partner foundations, right across the fish market that I’ve known since my childhood. The street is one where you might find well-off ladies parking their brand-new SUVs amidst children sniffing glue and inebriated homeless people sleeping on the pavement, all set against the backdrop of the ancient Medina, with its beautiful winding streets. Perched atop lies the Kasbah, overlooking the beckoning sea and, for many, the promised continent beyond.
The rehearsal room emanated equal measures of openness and enthusiasm, opening the door for understanding and intimacy, collision, friction and beauty. There were stories of recognition, of One and the Other, lucid, lurid and light-hearted alike, all prompting and urging us to dive deeper and discover each other, even if what we found was confronting us with ourselves. You have to keep mirroring yourself to the Other. As an Arabic saying goes:
اتبع الصديق الذي يبكيك وليس الصديق الذي يضحكك
For me, this experience was a dream come true. I thank with all my heart our wonderful group and my family at Female Economy who were willing to embark on this adventure with me. In that theatre on that street I had walked so often, my past, my present and that which I believe in so strongly and which marks what we do as a company converged; reaching out to the Other as an attitude to life. It all begins with a listening ear, as a curious guide to lands unknown.
I felt young once more, that little girl holding her father’s hand in the fish hall, marvelling at the day’s catch and mighty tales spun by fishermen about torrents, tempests and tuna. In the warm embrace of my exceptional city, Tangier.