Home Culture Neila Tazi Accuses Culture Ministry of ‘Contemptuously’ Neglecting Gnawa UNESCO Request

Neila Tazi Accuses Culture Ministry of ‘Contemptuously’ Neglecting Gnawa UNESCO Request

Neila Tazi, Gnawa music, Gnaoua, Moroccan ministry of culture, UNESCO

Rabat – In a long Facebook post, the head organizer of the Gnawa and World Music Festival, Neila Tazi, has blamed the Ministry of Culture for “confusion and deficiencies” that she said have undermined the institutional preservation of Gnawa music.

Tazi wrote that she led an initiative back in 2012 requesting the Ministry of Culture to submit an application to UNESCO to classify the Islamic musical tradition as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

However, the festival organizer said that the request was met with “contempt” and a “lack of interest on the part of senior Moroccan officials and administration.”

“After 5 years of requests, letters, and constant appointments,” Tazi learned on October 27, the day of her post, that the file she submitted to the ministry would not be treated for at least two more years.

After it was widely shared on social networks, Tazi’s Facebook post attracted the attention of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, Mohamed Laâraj, who rejected her claims.

“Contrary to what has been circulating on social media, the Ministry of Culture has started the procedure and respected all the steps,” he said on October 30.

The minister said that the ministry had treated the file in 2014, sending it to UNESCO the next year, where it is currently under study.

A Tradition ‘Passing Away’

As the president of the Gnawa Festival and of the Yerma Gnawa association for the preservation of the social rights of Gnawa musicians, Tazi described that she and her team had “worked hard to restore the culture of Gnawa its nobility and grandeur.”

Despite growing over the past 20 years to become one of the most popular festivals in the country, Tazi said the event has faced many difficulties, particularly with financing. Nevertheless, she wrote, “we have persisted to give the art of Gnawa recognition on the international music scene.”

However, with “many senior Maalems passing away, carrying with them a whole repertoire of the Gnawa oral tradition,” Tazi said that the need safeguarding measure like the UNESCO designation was becoming urgent.

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