Morocco : Jemaa elFna in Marrakech – “Hanged Man’s Square”
Every day, locals and travellers, the curious and the leisurely gather in Jemaa elFna in Marrakech and let the performing arts of the Hlaiqi, the dancers, singers, acrobats and storytellers wow them in this thousandyearold town square.
The Al Halqa Virtual project – Jemaa elFna as a virtual museum
The richness and diversity of cultures are manifested not just in outstanding writings, images, archaeological sites and architectural spaces but also in much more transient dynamic forms of expression like music, dance, song and oral narrative.
A vast range of different strands of vibrant intangible arts (acrobatics, dance, song, recitation, conjuring, fortune-telling) come together in Jemaa elFna, this large, extremely animated square – “Hanged Man’s Square”; it is a real point of confluence, concentrating the oral and performance traditions that used to be spread throughout Morocco. They have remained in place here longer than anywhere, relatively unbroken. This is a patchwork of living traditions which today are rightly counted among the intangible cultural heritage of humanity as recognised by UNESCO. The spatial distribution of spectators and artists, the ring or circle that the curious and the leisurely join around the nucleus of the performances, is known as the Halqa.
Al Halqa Virtual, the Jemaa elFna virtual museum, transforms these performances through the medium of film, audio and writing, giving them a more lasting presence and making it possible to experience them in new ways. This online platform gives the performances – and, in a way, the square itself – accessibility beyond the limitations of time and space.
At the same time, the virtual museum evokes memories of a circus tradition that used to have its place in a similarly heterogeneous form in central Europe too. The presence of these artists gives an idea of how far our culture has moved away from these arts.
Information about the various Halqas is available via a browser-based platform. Translated extracts from films and audio files create a kind of virtual tour of the square. Visitors are shown a glimpse behind the scenes of the performative experience to highlight the significance of the intangible arts to the culture of Morocco and of humanity.