Al Halqa – Intangible Heritage of Humanity

Cultural richness and diversity are manifested not only in outstanding writings, pictorial works, archaeological sites and architectural spaces, but also in much more ephemeral forms of living expression, such as music, dance, song and oral tradition.

Preserving and protecting these intangible cultural forms is the concern of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity program.

These immaterial manifestations - of dance, music, song, narrated stories, ritual healing, mythologically based meteorology, astrology, etc. - are handed down and constantly transformed by people who have acquired this knowledge solely through oral and gestural transmission, in order to pass it on from one generation to the next.

Without paying homage to an insipid cultural pessimism, it can be stated - and this is also the core of the UNESCO program - that the chain of traditions has become fragile today and threatens to break off.

For these traditions and performative techniques it means a considerable difference whether they follow predominantly oral and gestural forms of transmission or are recorded with the help of today's recording techniques and thereby transformed in a significant way. In other words: in the confrontation with the medium, indeed through its sheer presence, these very old traditions are 'animated' in a way not previously experienced by the actors - the artists and present spectators alike.

In 2001, the lively ensemble of the Djemaa El Fna square in Marrakech - was declared an intangible World Heritage Site. On this square, which in its present form is a good thousand years old, storytellers, acrobats, musicians and word artists - all of them people who were called "jugglers" in our cultural circle until the early modern European times - gather daily to delight, inspire and amaze the constantly changing audience with their arts and their performative presentations.

The spatial distribution of spectators and performers, the ring, the circle to which the curious and the idle close around the center of the performances, is called halqa.

In this very busy large square Djemma El Fna - the square of the hanged - the most diverse currents of vital, archaic remnants of the immaterial arts converge; the square is a veritable catch basin, a concentrate of the oral and gestural traditions as they were once widespread throughout Morocco. Here they have survived the longest and relatively unbroken.

Al Halqa Virtual

"Al Halqa Virtual" is based on the idea of the Halqa, the circle of spectators formed around the actors in the Jemaa El Fna square in Marrakech. This internet-based platform is a virtual translation by making recordings, photos, videos, music and stories, as well as texts available and accessible.

Together with various project partners in Morocco and Germany, an archive is to be gradually created that not only houses the circus arts of the Jemaa El Fna square, but rather archives all forms of material and immaterial art in Morocco and makes them freely accessible - in the form of a virtual halqa.