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Cultural news from articles published in "Al Maghrib"

This English translation is still under review and subject to further improvements to ensure enjoyable reading with maximum accuracy and fidelity to the original document.

Al Alam - december 11, 1988

"Almaghrib" granted a particular interest to the publication of special issues devoted to studies and articles in the fields of literature, history and science. These issues constitute as many documents recalling the cultural life of Morocco for this period. They deserve a specific study to put forward the variety of the cultural concerns of the youth of this generation. But, what interests us here is to emphasize the literary and cultural news in the broad sense, which were continuously echoed by the newspaper, as well on the national as on the administrative level, to show how "Almaghrib" demonstrated, on many occasions, a spirit of moderation and a will of opening, as it has already been mentioned during this study.

However, before reporting these news which reflects the state of the culture in Morocco during the thirties, I would like to quote the names of the writers and men of letters who contributed by their literary, historical and scientific productions to enrich the pages of this newspaper as well in its daily publications as in the above mentioned special issues. These writers are:

"Chakib Arsalan, Abdallah Guennoun, Saïd Hajji, Ahmad Ziyas, Abou Bakr Zniber, Abou Bakr Kadiri, Mohammed ben Ali Doukkali, Mohammed Bahanini, Ahmad Bahanini, Abdelkabir El Fassi, Ahmad ben Ghabrit, Dris Kettani, Hachmi Filali, Ahmad Cherkaoui, Mohammed El Abdi Kanouni, Mohammed Nacer Kettani, Abdelkader Hassan, Allal Jamai, Mohammed ben Brahim, the poet of the red city of Marrakesh, Abdallah Ibrahim, Mohammed El Fassi, Abdeslam Alaoui, Abdelghani Skirej and Kacem Zhiri."

To this list we must add a certain number of writers who wished to remain anonymous and used to sign their articles with their initials, but we must also be aware that some of these initials belonged to the names above quoted. The topics approached by all and sundry were many and varied, going from the creation in the fields of poetry, novel and literary article to the writings devoted to the history and the civilization of Morocco, to the principles of Moslem right and social reforms. [26]

In addition to the editorials and other articles, "Almaghrib" published productions emanating from any activity of research, a manifestation of creativity or a sense of the measure in literary and artistic criticism. In the spirit of the newspaper, the heading "the cultural news" included all kinds of activities which were regarded as an innovation in the fields of art and culture. It covered the events organised by literary Clubs, announced the conferences to come, the theater and musical evenings, informed of the passing of intellectual celebrities, and of any event linked near or afar off the field of culture.

At the top of "the cultural news" came the activities of the Literary Club of Salé, which was chaired by Abou Bakr Sbihi who organized without slackening literary evenings with conferences, talks and debates which often turned into real confrontations of ideas between the young intellectuals and their elder and largely contributed to bring together the currents of thoughts constituting the apple of discord which nourished the conflict between the two generations. The intellectuals of the third age who participated in these literary evenings were not only open to the manifestations of progress, but were even the most enthusiastic defenders of the revival process. They were entrusted to preside and direct the conferences and seminars which were devoted to the themes selected among the branches of knowledge which could have a certain similarity with the current political and socio-cultural situation of the country.

"Almaghrib" never omitted to publish in the heading of "the cultural news" poems inspired by the death of celebrities of the world of culture as well as the speeches pronouced during the commemoration of their passing. It was the case after the death of the historian Mohammed Kanouni in 1939. The death of Abderrahman ben Elkorachi was an opportunity to publish a series of articles starting with the number 128 and extracted from the study dedicated to this jurisconsult and great man of law by his disciple and biographer Ahmed Chbihi. In the same order of ideas, the newspaper "Almaghrib" which was still fighting with the publication of its first issues in 1937, has published a series of articles on the painful circumstance of the death of the writer and analyst Mohammed Hassar who counted among the pionneers of the National Movement. The newspaper greeted in him the reformer who worked with as much abnegation as a high sense of duty on the awakening of the consciousness of our national identity and the historical heritage that we owe to the prestigious past of our country.

Mohammed Benbrahim, the poet of "the red city of Marrakech", provided on his part an autobiography that the newspaper published in its number 396, informing us that he was born in 1918 and was originating in Marrakesh where he learned the Coran and the scientific precepts (Almoutoun Al Ilmiya) as well as the précis devoted by Khalil to the Malekit rite. He continued his studies at the university Ibn Youssef in Marrakesh, then in the Karawiyin in Fès, and he had always a leaning towards literature. As far as his own literary production is concerned, he wrote about it the following remarks:

"My production would be practically reduced to nothing if I had not to mention a series of poems I composed in 3560 verses in the mode of versification of the poet Almaarri, called "Luzumiyat" in which he imposed to himself the discipline of respecting in the final word of each second verse not only the letter and the movement of the rime, but also the return of the last or the two last syllables of the last word in the preceeding verse. My production would be still poorer if I do not have to mention the few poems left in my collection of poetry. This collection could have been far more consistant if the totality of my poetic production were in my possession. I hardly dare speak about a certain number of poems I exchanged in an improvised way with poets of Egypt and Hijaz and which I brought back in form of a small poetry collection of my voyage in the region."

The newspaper announced in its number 637 of the year 1940 the birth of a newcomer in the family circle of "Almaghrib" , namely a new review called "Al Taqafa Almaghribia" (The Moroccan Culture) the conception of which as well as the choice of the topics and the drafting of the articles will be planned and ensured by the editorial team of the daily newspaper and its literary supplement.

The same number published an odd advertisement referring to our subject and entitled: "Who can provide the explanation of it?" Hereafter is the text of this advertisement:

"The poet Abdeslam Alaoui, author of the poem published in this number, offers a sum of 200 francs to any person likely to compose an identical poem to the above mentioned one, by respecting the rythmic movement, the filling of the verses and the return of the same sound of the rhyme, and explaining the state of mind which he describes in this poem and the origin of the sadness which is the cause of such a feeling."

The poem starts with these verses:

Why is my heart groaning, and why all this sorrow?
Why do I drown in tears, in both ways to and fro
Is it sadness, is it the doubt, or is it love?
I ignore what I feel, do not know what I have
It is the void, alas, and yet I still complain
Oh! is there any soul which can explain my pain?

In addition, the newspaper published in its number 640 a study on "the theatrical art in Morocco" of its author Ali Mouline. This study includes substancial informations of historical interest such as the first visit of an Egyptian theatrical troop to our country in 1922 to give a representation of "the foolish lover of Leila" (Majnoun Leila) in Apollo theater. The same troop returned to Morocco in 1928 to give a representation of "Saladin" in the Renaissance theater.

"Almaghrib" contributed also to promote the activities of the Cultural Alliance of Salé by ensuring the cover of a conference organized by this association on the problems of the marriage. Many intellectuals and men of letters from Fès, Casablanca and Rabat took part in this cultural event. At the end of the conference, the participants carried to the High Appreciation of His Majesty Mohammed V a motion asking for the limitation of the dowries brought by the bride to her husband. The newspaper published in its number 758 of the year 1941 the text of a communiqué informing that the association was going to organize, during the marriage of one of its members, a cultural event aiming at studying the problems of the marriage which started to seriously worry the Moroccan families because of the situation in which the evolution of the habits and customs placed them by obliging them to engage more and more expenditures, if they do not want to be classified among the remainder of the social structure in which they were taking part. The communiqué specifies, moreover, that the intellectuals do not grant much importance to this question which, however, constitutes an essential element of the social education, and points out that it was precisely in the purpose of sensibilizing them with the problems arising from the higher bids which surround the institution of the marriage that the Cultural Alliance of Salé organizes this day of study to the attention of the intellectual milieus.

The pamphleteer Ahmed Ziyad, who attended this demonstration, did not manage in the heading "Little but convincing" the intellectuals who run after the victuals and do not judge useful to make act of presence in a demonstration which has, after all, not more than a cultural character.

The newspaper did not restrict its activity to the publication of the news of the Moroccan culture and its promoters; it gave also a full account of foreign cultural events of a certain importance. Thus, when Rabindranath Tagore passed away, the newspaper did not limit its role to inform its readers of his death; but it threw a flash of lightning on the life and the work of the indian poet. In the same spirit, when Tantawi Jawhari, author of the famous explanation of the Coran in 24 volumes and of several other works died, "Almaghrib" devoted to the Egyptian scientist a study which reflected perfectly the scientific fame of the passing author.

On another plan, "Almaghrib" covered the activities of the Association of the ancient pupils of the College Moulay Youssef in Rabat which was chaired by Abdeljalil Kabbaj. Among these activities, it granted a particular interest to the commemoration of the eight centennial of the death of the famous geographer Sherif Al Idrissi. The ceremony of this commemoration was held in the plenary meeting room of the Chamber of Commerce in Rabat.

Special issues were devoted to question of historical, philosophical, literary, jusisdictional and sociological nature. Some numbers were dedicated to one subject when the country was celebrating a particular event such as the royal visit to Marrakesh to which the newspaper devoted its number 964 of may 29, 1942, or the royal visit to Meknès, Sigilmassa and Fès to which it devoted the number 680, or the visit paid by the Sovereign to the areas of the Atlas Mountains to which it dedicated the special issue of number 719. These special numbers contain a mine of informations of historical and social interest on the cities and the areas covered in the frame of the skilfull reportages prepared by the newspaper on each of these occasions. "Almaghrib" did not fail to give full reports of the principle military zones as well as a geographical and historical overview of the strengethened forts, or the zones being under occupation of the allied forces or under the control of the Germans during last world war II. We must also notice that the newspaper devoted a permanent heading entitled "Know your country" to a methodical presentation of the principle cities and regions of Morocco.

When Saïd Hajji died in 1942, "Almaghrib" concentrated all its activities in publishing the articles of consternation emanating from the intellectual milieus, and echoed their comments when they were under the shock caused by the sudden disappearance of the director of the militant newspaper. "Almaghrib" devoted a special issue to the ceremony of commemoration organized on the occasion of the 40th day of his passing away. It was an opportunity to gather in the same document the poems dedicated to his memory as well as the speeches pronounced by the representatives of the political and cultural sceneries, who were unanimous to express a deep feeling of affection for him.



[26] The author of the study did not mention those, among the occasional correspondents of the newspaper, who signed their articles with their pseudonym. This omission made him forget to add the name of the first woman who pioneered the profession of journalism: Malika El Fassi. As a young girl at the age of 17, she was the first among the female readers of Almaghrib to hold the pen to denounce the miserable condition of the Moroccan girl and woman, both deprived from the right of education. Her first article which was published on the columns of Almaghrib at the end of june, 1937, under the title of "Alfatat" (The young girl) is considered as the first act of feminin journalism in Morocco. Malika El Fassi continued her press activity by writing a series of articles on the theme of the emancipation of the Moroccan girl and woman. In 1944, she was the unique representative of the Moroccan Women to sign "the Manifest of Independance." In 1946, the Istiqlal party called upon her to preside the feminie section of the party.(Source: www.leconomiste.com - Dossiers: Le statut des Femmes.)


Raouf Hajji