African energy

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« One day, the Prophet’s daughter was sad.
Nothing cheered her up. So Bilal
approached her with his rattles. He sang,
he danced, and the Prophet’s daughter started
to laugh. She was happy again. Bilal
was the first Gnawa. And he was already a therapist. »

Georges Lapassade, Derdeba, la nuit de Gnoua,
Ed. Traces du présent, Morocco, p.28

The Maghreb African? Isn’t it geographically more Mediterranean? Why, indeed, persist in making our journal the expression of the cultures of all of Africa, black and white? What unity transcends the immense dunes of the Sahara? Above all, what reciprocal contributions exist in the present and the future?
An innate ambiguity lies beneath the question of the Africanness of the Maghreb: an ambivalence of words, in the relation to Black, to the African continent. It is, of course, precisely this ambivalence which interests us. The answers again lie in History, of course. The Black descendants of slaves perpetuate syncretic rituals in North Africa: the stambali in Tunisia, the diwan in Algeria, and the derdeba in Morocco. Their laughter, dances, songs, trances, and possessions are therapeutic. Here again, black cultures draw the energy that makes them the vehicles for, the vectors of, values, of sense, of the sacred, from their lived experience. Not so as to propose a new religion in some kind of crusade: neither throngs nor clergy. But, by the simple fact that we can identify with them: the people (and notably the women) who feel at odds with the established order, and who, as a result, develop revolts or disorders, find an outlet for them in these rituals, for want of being able to express them through conventional social interaction. This is an essential contribution: it is not a matter of eliminating disorders, as in Western therapies, but, by mastering them, of living with them, using them, managing them.
This opposes dogmas of all kinds. We can sense the extent to which Africanness is thus inscribed in a subversion of the social relation, or even in the rejection of a mimicry of the West. The energy drawn from the South is a creative force, which is necessarily disturbing. Perhaps the ambivalence lies here: the fascination in this energy is accompanied by a fear of losing one’s integrity. In short, a quest for identity that is truly unsettling as it risks calling into question the mainstays of one’s own identity. But, as the diverse participants in this dossier suggest, this is well worth it.

///Article N° : 5323


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