By Alexander Jusdanis
Rabat – After munching on falafel and listening to Muslim hip-hop, visitors to this year’s New England Muslim Festival in Malden, Massachusetts could sit down for a glass of mint tea and get a first-hand experience of Moroccan arts, cuisine, and handicrafts.
The Moroccan Gallery, organized by the group Moroccan American Connections in Revere, Massachusetts (MACIR), gathered local Moroccan artists on Sundayto bring the best of Moroccan hospitality to the festival’s second edition.
“Visitors loved the idea of the Moroccan gallery, because we made them travel to our country of origin, Morocco, without leaving the festival through food, music and arts,” Rachid Moukhabir, the president of MACIR, told Morocco World News.
Hosting its own tea salon and raffle contest, the gallery showcased handmade artisanal products, traditional painting, jewelry, calligraphy, and decorations. The gallery also provided visitors a chance to talk with Moroccans about Moroccan-United States relations and Moroccan television programming.
“What made the Moroccan Gallery so special is having a well-organized group of Moroccan Americans work together to promote the rich culture of Morocco […] in a fun and loving environment,” said Moukhabir.
The artists and cultural representatives at the gallery were Said Lmaalem (tea salon), Houda Bennou (wedding decor), Jamila Belguedari (artisanal products), Nezha Abdeen (painting), Amal Masoud (jewelry and costumes), Soraya Dendane, (calligraphy),Meriyem Lokriti (handicrafts), Abdelaati Ait Ahad (painting), Ikram Wazzani (US-Moroccan relations), and Yassine and Christine Dinia (Moroccan TV programing).
The New England Muslim Festival has met for two years, to introduce Muslim culture to visitors and to bring together the area’s Muslim community. Artists, cooks, musicians, and others come to the festival to share the diversity of creation and tradition in the Muslim world.
“There is an educational purpose for people to come and explore Muslim cultures, to see that we have fun just like everyone else,” Malika MacDonald, a festival organizer, told the Boston Globe.
Moukhabir stressed that the festival saw the participation of a large number of Muslim organizations. “Without a doubt it is the biggest Muslim celebration that happens in the region of New England,” he said.
MACIR itself hosts a number of events to promote Moroccan culture in the area. Last May, the organization held Moroccan Cultural Day in Revere, inviting many of the same artists that came to this year’s festival.
Since then, the MACIR has received “many requests from multicultural festivals to get them in touch with these Moroccan American artists,” including the New England Muslim Festival.
The Moroccan Gallery proved successful, said Moukhabir.He noted that the gallery concept had been introduced this year“to encourage other nationalities to do the same thing next year,” so visitors to 2018’s festival might just find the Moroccan Gallery in between the Mauritanian and Algerian Galleries.