CCME PAVILLON Moroccan culture in plural societies: the experience of Moroccans in the Netherlands

Friday, 09 June 2023

The Council for the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME) organized a round-table discussion on Wednesday 7 June 2023 at the Book Fair in Rabat on the theme of "Moroccan culture in plural societies: the experiences of Moroccans in the Netherlands". Ilham Cherradi, decorator and influencer specialising in Moroccan table art, Nadia Zarouali, author of several books on Moroccan culinary art, Hanane El Ghazouani, community activist and designer of the "Nora's Bags" handbag brand, and Hassan El Ammouri, urban planner and artist, President of the Arte Ganza Foundation (House of World Culture, Art and Creation), took part in this meeting moderated by Mr Jaouad Achakouri, Doctor of Comparative Studies in Islamic Jurisprudence and CCME representative.

The participants, who came from the Netherlands, explained how their attachment to their Moroccan roots and culture is the keystone of their success and a means of setting themselves apart, each in their own field.

For Nadia Zerouali, cooking in particular has been a tool for integration, thanks to her mother, who was able to forge links with her Dutch neighbours because of the fragrance of her cooking. Ms Zerouali says she realized early on that sharing a simple meal at her mother's house could bring together communities from different cultures and backgrounds, and was an effective form of communication. A source of inspiration that led her to create a 'couscous bar' and launch a Moroccan line selling Moroccan spices and oils in particular.

For her part, Ilham Cherradi, who has lived in the Netherlands since the age of 22, uses her decorative art and tableware programmes to pass on the values of sharing, aesthetics and making the most of simple products in the kitchen. Products that "for us were normal but impressed those around me in the West".

In 2017, she was encouraged by her children to share her knowledge of the Moroccan art of living on social networks. It was a step that "took off to such an extent," says Cherradi, "that she felt like an ambassador for the Moroccan art of living in the Netherlands". As a result, she was much in demand by the Dutch media, "curious to learn what makes us different, especially during the religious festivities and the month of Ramadan, when shopping markets are very busy and consumer spending soars".

It is in this spirit that Hanane El Ghazouani, "like all of us, a woman of strong values and a deep-rooted historical civilisation", wanted to share her experience and pass it on to the other members of her host society.

"I've always been impressed by Moroccan craftsmanship, the zellige patterns, the riads and the beauty. So I had the idea of putting it into practice in an everyday object, the handbag, where I paint motifs that take up Moroccan culture". And it's not just a commercial act: "I've launched a showroom where I sell my bags, but where I present Moroccan culture above all. I talk to customers about our cities, and serve Moroccan tea and cakes, to raise awareness of our culture".

Hassan El Ammouri, an artist and musician with a scientific academic background, drew much of his inspiration from his hometown. "I grew up in Fez, a city steeped in history and music. You can feel on a daily basis that Moroccan art is mixed with several world cultures, because we have lived with other cultures and religions for centuries. I also felt that culture is a vehicle for living together, because where there's love and art, there's peace".

He recalls an important moment of sharing, when "the King of the Netherlands came to celebrate the country's bank holidays in my town, and we presented him with an exhibition that showcased the 130 nationalities that coexist here, and I presented the Moroccan costume, the Jellaba and other "tamaghrabit" elements that impressed the public".

MR. Abdelouahab Bellouki, former Moroccan ambassador to the Netherlands, and the musician Haj Youness, who was awarded the Medal of Culture for Peace by the United Nations in New York and the title of Ambassador of Moroccan Culture to the United States of America, were also in the audience.

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