This autumn, ECF highlights cultural policy research and activism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Through a series of interviews, ECF introduces cultural policy researchers and activists from across the region who are working on developing and influencing cultural policy in their countries (from Algeria and Egypt to Palestine and Lebanon). Some of their analysis and research contributes to the World CP – International Cultural Policy Database – which, since its launch in 2015 by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), is growing as an important monitoring tool of country-specific cultural policy reviews from around the world.
In this interview, we talk to Mourad Kadiri (Morocco) – a key cultural player in the MENA region and contributor to the World CP – about his work, ambitions, challenges and vision for the future of cultural policy in his country.
Murad Qadiri, PhD, is a poet and cultural activist who has worked as a consultant for the Ministry of Culture and other ministries in Morocco. He has been elected to the executive committees of several cultural organisations, including the Poetry House in Morocco, the Moroccan Coalition for Culture and Arts, the Moroccan Association for Cultural Policies and Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy), where he is a member of the art council and the general assembly. With a PhD in Modern Moroccan Literature to his name, Murad has also published four books of his own poetry, as well as a book on The Aesthetics of Modern Zajal Moroccan Poem (2012). He has participated in poetry festivals, cultural panel discussions and training workshops, both inside and outside Morocco.
Mourad Kadiri, Member of the National Task Force for Cultural Policy, Morocco
What are the key components of the mission of the National Task Force for Cultural Policy, Morocco? What is the method your organisation follows to realise this mission?
The National Task Force for Cultural Policy in Morocco was established in 2011, as an independent civil association under Moroccan law regarding civil associations.
The task force’s mission includes:
- motivating those who work in official sectors, elected officials, civil society organisations and the private sector to regard culture as a matter of national importance, and as a priority. This is done by engaging them in projects and programmes, each of which aim to achieve a certain preconceived goal that would enhance and develop Moroccan cultural practices;
- building a knowledge base that supports cultural planning and investment in Morocco, to be at the disposal of researchers interested in examining cultural policy data;
- suggesting administrative and regulatory mechanisms that could develop cultural work and improve conditions for implementing and evaluating cultural policies by relying on an economic, developmental and productive analysis;
- following up on cultural practice indicators and the development of relevant rules and regulations;
- defending the rights and presence of Moroccan culture in public media and the education system;
- defending cultural diversity to protect its presence and continuity; and
- improving thinking and working in: a) cultural management; b) cultural presence in media; c) cultural industries; and d) cultural activation.
To raise awareness about these key messages, the Moroccan task force relies on an important element, which perhaps distinguishes its work from other national and Arab task forces – that is, getting the subject of cultural policy into Moroccan universities, and making it a core topic of academic interest. This was achieved by the task force and the Faculty of Literature and Human Sciences in Casablanca, which collaborated on a programme that allowed the formation of a research group looking at cultural policy, and produced an acceptable number of studies, reports and theses written by the students.
What challenges have you faced while working in the field of cultural policy in your country?
It is fair to say that the field of cultural policy is not yet as significant as it deserves to be, nor is it rooted enough in Morocco. Discussions and work in this field are still limited to a group of individuals and entities that believe in the importance of developing an adequate cultural policy in Morocco. This may be due to the fact that planning is widely regarded as a strictly economic and social matter, therefore excluding culture from planning processes.
Another challenge we have faced is the narrow-minded view that culture is only relevant to the Ministry of Culture. Our joint efforts, along with other cultural activists, are directed at promoting another view that goes beyond this sectoral approach towards a more inclusive approach that makes culture a horizontal, integrated and participatory public issue.
How does the National Task Force work with cultural practitioners in your country and the MENA region? How do their needs differ from other cultural players around the world?
There are multiple groups working on cultural policy in Morocco. It is unfortunate that these groups do not collaborate and coordinate activities. This may be due to the differences in frameworks and priorities between the groups – a fact that should have become an enriching and diversifying factor. Instead, the groups are competing in a very unproductive manner. Some Francophone intellectuals are trying to monopolise cultural policy work by turning it into their own area of entitlement.
Do you collaborate with other task forces active in the MENA region? How do your needs differ from those of other cultural activists around the world?
We are a member of the Arab Task Force for Cultural Policy, a coordination body that includes representatives from 10 national task forces. They all share the will and ambition to raise awareness about the importance of developing cultural policies in the Arab region, at both official and civil levels.
This coordination body was created by an initiative launched by Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy), which played a pioneering role in advancing issues of cultural policy by organising the first conference on the topic in Beirut in 2010. Within this coordination group, we can collectively question and think about the reality of cultural policies in our countries, and explore opportunities to develop and improve them. This Arab task force was also responsible for several important initiatives in the field, including bi-annual reports on cultural policies in the Arab region, published by Ettijahat. Independent Culture.
What is becoming increasingly evident is that the requirements of cultural policy workers in the Arab region are different from those of their international counterparts. Considering the instability of many countries in the region (Syria, Iraq and Yemen, among others), the right to culture has received much less attention than the right to life. This is a painful reality that is quite apparent in the comments of our colleagues who represent those countries within the Arab task force.
What are the most important connections you have built and collaborations you have worked on with European countries? What is their impact in the region?
I was honoured to represent the Moroccan task force twice and meet European experts in cultural policy. The first time was in Berlin in February 2014, during the cultural policy training workshop organised by Al Mawred Al Thaqafy in partnership with the University of Hildesheim in Germany, with the participation of UNESCO’s Chair in Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development.
The second time was in Barcelona in January 2016, during the round-table discussion on cultural and socio-economic exchange between Morocco and Spain/Catalonia, organised by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed).
We still look forward to a higher level of partnerships to improve the Moroccan task force’s programmes, and to broaden its horizons with more experiences and expertise.
What are your National Task Force’s most important programmes and areas of expertise? How do you create impact in your country and in the region? Which programmes are closest to your heart, and which are you personally most proud of?
The national conference on cultural policies – organised by the Moroccan task force in partnership with the Faculty of Literature and Human Sciences in Casablanca on 25 January 2014 – was our most important event, in my opinion. Many cultural activists and organisations participated in it. Moreover, it was the first conference to draft a document on cultural policies upon which the whole cultural community could agree. The event that was closest to my heart was the scholar symposium on the role of cultural policy in managing intangible cultural heritage. It was held in Agadir, in partnership with the Southern Writers League on 8 March 2015. I would also like to mention the scholar symposium we organised in Casablanca on 25 and 26 February 2016, on “Culture and Regionalisation.”
Culture Resource works on the Arab contributions to the World CP – the International Cultural Policy Database set up by IFACCA with partners. What do you hope to achieve with your work in the long run?
Indeed, Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy) has broadened the horizon for cultural policy in an unprecedented way in the Arab region. Thanks to the organisation’s initiatives, the cultural policy issue has finally been given the importance it deserves. What I personally hope for is that we in the Arab region arrive at a road map that shows a promising path for culture in its vital links to development and educating citizens about core human values, including diversity and the right to being different.
What is the ultimate goal for the future of your work?
Like any other cultural actor, I aspire to the success of my country, Morocco, in developing a cultural policy upon which all concerned parties can agree. This should be completed with the provision of human, financial, legal and organisational capabilities in order to make this policy a reality.
Further reading from the ECF Library & our partners’ sources:
- Cultural Policies in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia – An Introduction, Boekmanstudies, Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy) and ECF, Amsterdam, 2010.
For up-to-date information about cultural policies in the MENA region, both in Arabic and English, please visit www.arabcp.org