Festival of Maroc: Wednesday’s Story-telling Soirée

Tales, Tempests, and Tinkling Jewels.

“That poem will never see the light of day, it’s a remembered, reclaimed thing.”

Gabriel Gbadamosi

From the very beginning of Wednesday's talk, themes of seeing and unseeing, the visible and the invisible, washed over us, as I talked to my beloved friend Gabriel Gbadamosi, African-Irish poet and playwright, about storytelling through time, his memories of living in Morocco and his love of language.

Gabriel recalled the irreversible feeling he experienced when first arriving in Morocco, that of becoming invisible and looking like the Moroccans around him, "for the first time in my life I disappeared, I became invisible, people couldn't see me." It seems poetic in itself, that after writing furiously for a year, looking out of his beautiful house onto the ocean and the never-ending storms, Gabriel's poems would also become invisible in the end. Having to leave with no warning, his poems would be lost forever within this year long tempest, other than the flashes he remembers and reclaims.

We were lucky enough to hear one such poem, a remembered and reclaimed moment that Gabriel performed so beautifully. It was also a complete delight to hear Gabriel's stories of times in Morocco away from his writer's desk. Such as a fateful meeting in a class-room, when he was invited to teach the King's daughters' English at the Royal Palaces. We also talked about the works of Leila Slimani, winner of the Prix Goncourt, alongside Tahir Shah's brilliant novels of life at Dar Khalifa in Casablanca, reading out one of my favourite passages from In Arabian Nights.

Reflecting on the evening since, my thoughts have drifted between that which we choose to record and make visible, versus that which remains invisible, from our inner consciousness to undercurrents of memories that will vanish forever. As well as the ways in which the visible and invisible come together. As Gabriel and I discussed, what we choose to present to the world in a physical manner is often balanced with an inner spirituality that we carry within us

As a jeweller, I am naturally fascinated by the idea of adornment, as something incredibly visible and physical. After all, a propensity for embellishment and decoration exists within so many of us. Gabriel described the ways in which Berber cultures and those of West Africa see jewellery adornment as a thing of power. It is something central to their way of thinking, because the physical being and the spiritual being are seen as one absolute presence of body. Not only is jewellery visually symbolic in these cultures, it also has a kinetic quality. The sound jewellery makes has a resonating energy, reaching far beyond simply the visible.

As I quoted from Tahir Shah's In Arabian Nights, "stories are symbols, they are all around us, look out for them, examine them, and work out what they mean." Over the centuries, so many people have passed through Morocco. All of these people have brought different influences and stories to the region, while creating visual masterpieces for us to admire, from mosaics and Mashrabiya Trellis to Berber jewellery in the mountains. I can't help but wonder, for every visual spectacle in vivid and vibrant Morocco, how many unseen stories will be woven invisibly into the fabric of this special country. Some things are meant to be passed on from generation to generation, while others are destined to vanish, like Gabriel's reclaimed poem, and to be wholeheartedly enjoyed in that one moment alone.

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