Morocco/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.2.1 Conceptual issues of policies for the arts

The huge number of festivals organised in Morocco have been subject to heavy criticism about the sort of artistry they promote, the ethics of festival promoters, and the legality of the festivals themselves. Having monitored the funds spent on festivals, the National Agency for Public Funds Protection (a non-state organisation) addressed an open letter to the Prime Ministerial Council. The letter inquired about the so-called “squandering of public funds” on festivals and demanded that all expenses and funding sources be made public. The letter criticised the government for being contradictory.  It itied its simultaneous silence about sinking public funds on festivals while calling for austerity measures. 

The Agency provided some examples of misused funding. The Tetouan Festival—organised under the title "Women Voices"— had an MD 11 million (US $ 1.4 million) budget for its three days of operation. Such a huge amount, the agency argued, could have been spent to restore the dilapidated theatre Spain abandoned when pulling out of Morocco.

The Timitar Festival in Agadir was allocated a budget of MD 11 million (US $ 1.4 million), and the Fez celebrations which marked the city’s 1,200th anniversary  cost about MD 350 million (US $ 50 million).

However, apart from the challenge which is taking place concerning some festivals, their funding methods and organisations, it should be noted that some cultural and artistic festivals have been able to draw attention for being distinctive and original such as the Love Kings Festival in the Moroccan city of Sefrou. During the seventh session of the Inter-Governmental Committee meeting, held in the organisation's headquarters in Paris from 3 to 7 December 2012, it was recognised for its quality maintenance and preservation of non-material cultural heritage.. The festival, which is organised during the month of June of each year, is the oldest national cultural festival.

In October 2012 a group of Moroccan intellectuals signed a statement calling for the unity of the Moroccan left. The statement, carrying the signature of 46 names mostly from leftist sensibilities, emphasised the need for intellectual, political, and ideological clarity as a condition to bring society out of what has been called a “never-ending hindrance.”

The statement criticised the left for deviating from the subject of religion and standing behind secular views. It states: “Duty and integrity call upon us today to criticise those decisions which are far from any purpose of justification, especially given their highly subjective nature and apparent simplification (the ultra-secularist trend, Westernisation and contempt for heritage under the pretext of modernity, absolute ignorance of the religious and cultural history of the people and nation, control by the francophone elite of state institutions and party decisions across most parties)".

The statement called for the necessity of introducing a combative social program for the left that parts ways with elitist and technocratic platforms and returns to the “regulatory traditions and moral standards” that distinguished past experiences of the left. First among these is the service of citizens by working directly with them and carefully working to expand the party’s popular and leadership cadre instead of the regulatory flimsiness, elitist exclusivity and immoral inspectorate behaviour that are endemic to the left today.

It is also worth discussing the large rivalry seen in Moroccan cultural life (18-20 October, 2012) between the Amazigh and the Salafis, evinced by the Amazigh Union for Human Rights’ claims of a Salafi attempt to destroy historical monuments. They specifically cited attempts to destroy an Amazigh stone engraving known as “The Tablet of the Sun” at the Yaoughour site (about 2,800 metres above sea level) from the era prior to the arrival of the Phoenicians in Morocco (8,000 years ago, in the Houz region near Marrakech in south Morocco). They stated that the local population had detained the Salafis and handed them over to the local authorities, which then freed them. The Union claims that the MoC fallaciously denied the event in an official communiqué.  They also claimed that three ministers from the government would fly to the site to cover up any evidence of Salafi foul play. 

Chapter published: 05-05-2016