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El Hizjra foundation and the emergence of a generation of Dutch-speaking Moroccan writers

Monday, 27 April 2015

Abdelakader Benali, Mostapha Stitou Hafid Benbouazza and Naima Bezzaz, Moroccan Dutch-speaking writers, among others, are well-known in the Netherlands. Their reputation is not by chance but due in part to "a breakthrough" made possible a few years earlier by the foundation El Hizjra, founded in late 1980 by a Moroccan-Dutch couple.

This is a tribute to this institution, initially a space for the promotion of art and culture ,a meeting was hosted last Wednesday by the Moroccan writer Fouad Laroui and Dutch academic Marjan Nijborg on the role of migration in the Dutch literary scene.

Fouad Laroui, winner of the 2013 Goncourt Academy Award for the novel "L'├ętrange affaire du pantalon de Dassoukine" explained the increasingly growing role of literary institutions such as Al Hizjra in the emergence of talented writers, poets and artists by reference to the definition of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu the "field of cultural production", where the success of a writer is not determined only by his work, but by extratextual factors defined by literary institutions.

"If these young writers of 2nd generation immigrants went back then to look for a publisher, they probably would not have found", told to MAP news agency, the Moroccan novelist and essayist, who won in 2014 the Jean Giono Grand Prix for the same work, emphasizing the role of Al Hizjra in the emergence of a Dutch literature, written by Moroccans

President of Al Hizjra, Abdellatif Cherribi stressed in a similar statement that since its creation ,nearly 20 years ago, the foundation has worked to promote the Arabic and Dutch literature, welcoming the fact that at least seven winners of the annual award of the institution Hizjra (Al Hizjra Literary Award) have now become very busy writers in the Netherlands.

Writers from Moroccan immigration have great success in the Netherlands and contribute greatly to improving the image of the Moroccan community, said Mr. Cherribi.

For her part, Marjan Nijborg, PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, traced back the evolution of the foundation of Al Hizjra from a simple center for books and a space for the promotion of Arab culture and art to a springboard for many writers from Morocco into the closed world of the Dutch edition.

The works of many Moroccan winners of the Al Hizjra prizes were published by Dutch publishers, she said, adding that things have changed a lot in the middle of the 1990s in that they are no longer perceived as writers of the Moroccan community in the Netherlands, but as Dutch authors.

The institution El Hizjra organizes an annual competition for the selection of young literary talents in addition to lectures and discussions.

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