Words from the Maghreb: Plural Identities. Tradition, Archaeology and Contemporarity

Monleón, José
Quaderns Divulgatius, 15 2000

At school we have studied a history of Spain where a fundamental chapter was the Reconquest in which our relations with the Arab peoples were discussed in a disgraceful manner. Today we can see the results of this disaster in our attitudes towards migration. In the time of al-Andalus the three existing communities understood each other and made agreements with each other under a Muslim administration, speaking three languages, with words from each one being mixed together in their songs and mutually influencing each other in reciprocal poetry. Perhaps al-Andalus was never as the poets remember it, because we know that Muslim and Catholic zealots were no strangers then, but we are also left with an image of coexistence that should be defended.
Moving in a sphere of coexistence does not mean defending a single idea as a consequence of inevitable globalisation nor, on the contrary, opposing this homogenisation taking up the cause of every particularity in systematic warfare. I believe that each culture must assert its singularity as part of striving for harmony and not as a factor of confrontation.
From its numerous activities in the Maghreb, the International Institute of Mediterranean Theatre has been able to draw encouraging conclusions. For example when students of the ISADAC in Rabat, directed by the Andalusian Francisco Ortuño, performed, in classical Arabic, Lorca's "Yerma", we were given a Moroccan view of the work that remained true to its dramatic substance. Federico speaks of the subordination of women to men, of ties to the earth, of fear of the silence imposed by the economic order. Acted by the Moroccan students, the work becomes both Maghrebi and Andalusian without any clashes. The history of art, the history of democratic thought and of human dignity are enriched and are united by many contributions. The work of our Institute is to create and maintain cultural spaces for dialogue and reciprocal respect amongst all the Mediterranean cultures, and the recognition it has received from intellectuals and theatre people in many countries is a very hopeful note. As Fadel Jaibi has put it very well, the person of the theatre is the most important in the country for it is sufficient that the reality in which people live is turned into a creation, in his case, the Tunisian reality. I believe that this is the path we must take. We are different - even though we are not so different as some proclaim from self-interested positions - and, from this difference, we can meet, respect each other and generate responses.
Because, amongst other things, and without even appealing to the differences between peoples, two equal beings in the same society do not produce anything new. History is the encounter with the Other, the shared construction of a response. And if this happens in the personal domain, it also occurs in the collective and cultural spheres. Thus, Arab theatre, to the extent that it continues to shed the memory of European occupation, is coming out of this debate even while in the ideological order and economic reality there still exist many elements that continue to raise the issue of dependence. Coincidences and divergences are produced outside of political doctrinairism, as the response of human beings to their own needs and their knowledge of the works of art of other countries.

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