Tangier American Legation

Tangier American Legation

Participation in the round table in the framework of Youmein Festival 2017 in Tangier where we talked about IMITATION and more specifically about how contemporary artists and architects imitates some aspect of the Moroccan heritage to produce contemporary works. With Nouha Ben Yebdri and George Bajalia as moderator.  


How do cultures change? Is a society made up of endless imitations that become canonized as tradition? Or do traditions change through borrowing from other cultures and societies? From the reiteration of simple zilij patterns which come together to form a more complex whole, to the inventive riffing on established forms in slam poetry and contemporary dance, imitation is often at the root of the most creative acts. In North and West Africa, Sufi scholars have long emphasized the memorization and imitation as the techniques of body which lead to an enlightened mind. In the late 19th century, French sociologist Gabriel Tarde proposed imitation, invention, and interference as the three principles which form the basis of cultural change. Rather than searching for an origin, or an authentic kernel from which these imitations draw, how do these processes of borrowing and imitating become new cultural forms? Is imitation simply blind appropriation, or does it form the basis of new traditions? North Africa, as both border and bridge between Africa and Europe, is home to a multitude of cultures which draw from one another, and from those across both continents. In this iteration of the YOUMEIN CREATIVE MEDIA FESTIVAL, we invite artists to reflect on “imitation” across languages, cultures, and borders in North and West Africa.

In Arabic, the word imitation (تقليد) is used in plural (تقاليد) to designate tradition, but often in Morocco and other Arab countries, modernity is considered by some the imitation of a western way of life. We invite artists to reflect on the relationship between imitation and tradition, stasis and change, especially as relates to the movement across borders in North and West Africa.

Tangier, and Morocco in general, is home to hybrid cultural forms that draw from Africa and Europe both. Yet, certain cultural practices, habits, or lifestyles are often labelled as simple imitation- of Middle Eastern, American, European, or African cultures . How does cultural borrowing and imitation break down borders, and how does it form new boundaries with little to do with national borders?

Algorithmic code is at the core of contemporary culture, from the everyday use of electronic devices to data driven design. Though daunting, how different is this from Islamic geometric and astronomical sciences? How do techniques of copying and imitation enable innovation and invention? How do they limit them?

What is the relationship between social movements, political change, and imitation?

Social and political movements often occur across national borders, and the circulation of slogans, symbols, and demonstration practices involve definite forms of imitation. How do these slogans, symbols, and practices change as they spread? Is this a singular phenomenon, or wholly integral to broad social change in general? 

Texte by George Bajalia, Tom Casserly and Zakaria Alilech


More information about the 2017 edition on this article and this one.