Moroccan Book & Comics Festivals Promote East/West Dialogue

In Discussion by Olivia Snaije

Rabat Literary Festival

By Olivia Snaije

On a backdrop of political tension between France and Morocco following a series of diplomatic incidents concerning, among other subjects, the Western Sahara, the French literary and film festival, Etonnants Voyageurs opens today in the Moroccan capital Rabat, and in Salé, just across the river.

Etonnants Voyageurs, held each year in Brittany, also travels to cities around the world holding events such as last year’s, in Brazzaville. Africa was chosen once again this year as festival organizers decided that the culturally effervescent Morocco was the place for dialogue between East and West, where the Arab Spring and issues pertaining to the Mediterranean will be discussed as well as celebrating world literature in general.

Under the patronage of heavyweight authors such as Tahar Ben Jelloun, Alaa El Aswany, Mathias Enard, Abdellatif Laâbi, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, Boualem Sansal and Amin Maalouf, international and Moroccan bloggers, graffiti artists, rappers, filmmakers, novelists, poets, storytellers, playwrights and cultural activists will convene for four days to participate in discussions, theatrical and musical events, exchanges following film screenings and run workshops open to the public. Notably absent from the festival is the writer Abdellah Taia, who grew up in Salé and whose film, adapated from his autobiographical first novel l’Armée du Salut (Salvation Army), about growing up gay in Morocco, was presented at the 2013 Venice and Toronto film festivals.

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One month later, from April 18-20th, the National School of Architecture in Rabat will host the International Comics Festival, a young enterprise run by Saïd Bouftass, founder of the first bande dessinée, or comic book publishing house in Morocco, Editions Alberti. One of the founders of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, Francis Groux, will be the patron, and a number of French and Belgian comic book authors will be present.

More interestingly, the festival will give participants a chance to get to know North African and African comic book authors. Workshops will be organized and there will be numerous exhibitions including one celebrating the 75 years of Spirou, 50 years of Algerian comics, and comics from Cameroon. Discussions open to the public will be held on a variety of themes including the rise in women comic book authors and the direction of comics in North Africa. Hopefully this Moroccan-based festival will become as dynamic as the well-established comics festival held in Algiers each year.

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.