Renowned for its peaceful gardens and rich Jewish and Amazigh (Berber) heritage, the market town of Sefrou, near Fez, is home to “Culture Vultures,” an arts organization aiming to unite people from an array of backgrounds, igniting mutually beneficial encounters through arts projects. By facilitating cross-cultural experiences, especially between foreigners and locals, they can explore and celebrate Sefrou’s local traditions.
Fez – Renowned for its peaceful gardens and rich Jewish and Amazigh (Berber) heritage, the market town of Sefrou, near Fez, is home to “Culture Vultures,” an arts organization aiming to unite people from an array of backgrounds, igniting mutually beneficial encounters through arts projects.
By facilitating cross-cultural experiences, especially between foreigners and locals, they can explore and celebrate Sefrou’s local traditions.
Jess Stephens, a visual artist and culture coordinator from the UK, runs Culture Vultures with her small, local, gifted team. Founded in 2009, the organization was initially a residence for artists.
Thanks to the support of their community, visiting artists, and many collaborators—cultural cafes, educational institutes, and religious festivals, Culture Vultures has since provided enticingly rich projects, events, and tours to residing artists, students, tourists and locals alike.
The artist’s residence, called AiR Sefrou, along with their Studio Sefrou, offer a space for artists and academics to research and create in the heart of Sefrou’s medina. Culture Vultures recently opened the space to academics wanting to explore fields such as anthropology, sociology, architecture, and urban planning.
Unintentionally, the organization has mostly attracted women, charging it with a strong feminine energy. One of their most recent workshops, “The Poetics of Craft,” was a collaboration with Earth Speaks’ Karmit Even Zur from Andalusia. The all-female group delved into the ancient art of storytelling through the artisanship of textiles, learning from Amazigh weavers, experts of the craft.
By listening to stories that surface during the activities as well as engaging with traditional tales from around the world, the workshop highlights the crucial spiritual and meditative role of weaving as a method of healing in Moroccan culture.
The organization frequently hosts workshops in Sefrou, Fez, and other areas in the Fes-Saiss region. Immersive cross-cultural experiences, available to Moroccans and foreigners, support local businesses and provide a constant flow of knowledge of traditional techniques both from Moroccans and visiting artists.
With the aid of a huge community of local artisans, weavers, metal smiths, and woodworkers, these types of workshops thrive along with Sefrou’s community. However, few people in the younger generations are willing to learn these classic crafts.
Culture Vultures showcases work inspired by everyday life in the quaint market town through its platforms online. With Sefrou as a muse, the organization lives, breathes, and grows from the stimulating everyday experiences, amplifying old Sefroui stories and traditions as well as telling new ones.
The organization says that Sefrou’s “most honorable attribute to the world today” is the deep, colorful heritage left by diverse cultures that have lived in Sefrou throughout history, including the Amazigh natives, the Romans, the Jews, other African influences from old trade routes as well as Europeans and now modern immigrants from all over the world.
Culture Vultures highlight the importance of reinforcing the remaining patrimonial aspects of Sefrou while establishing other forms of presenting the heritage, such as pop up galleries and open studios. A new museum in the market town’s old medina will also open this month, yet another form of exhibiting the multicultural heritage.
The Sefrou Museum of Multiculturalism will be a small display space that honors the town’s harmonious history between distinct ethnic identities in the past and now. Culture Vultures promotes conservation and research into Sefrou’s deep roots and rich culture, while also appreciating it and celebrating it.
The mellahs, or old Jewish neighborhoods, throughout Morocco are the most at-risk areas of being torn down by the Moroccan government as derelict and unstable buildings, making Culture Vultures’ vision of conservation critical.