Arts for Advocacy: Creative Engagement with Forced Displacement in Morocco

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Social and Political Science

Abstract

This project will develop innovative, interdisciplinary, and participatory arts-based methods to facilitate creative engagement with forced displacement in Morocco. Morocco has become a country of transit and immigration, notably for sub-Saharan migrants fleeing persecution and poverty and for those fleeing conflict and persecution in Syria. Morocco is a strategic partner for the EU in the 'management' of trans-Mediterranean migration. Nevertheless, Morocco has featured little in recent depictions of the 'migration crisis' and has been overlooked by research. In this context, interculturality, migrants' rights, violence, and racism in Morocco urgently require new modes of critical engagement for research oriented towards the generation of new knowledge for policy-making and advocacy alike.

Researchers, practitioners, and activists support the emergent deployment of arts-based methods as social research tools to engage with displaced communities, pointing to the positive contribution and transformative power of creative arts for research and advocacy on forced displacement. However, this growing emphasis on participatory and interdisciplinary arts-based methods is usually limited to the 'global north'. In contrast, this project will adapt this methodological approach in Morocco. Four research questions drive this project:

1. To what extent and how can engagement with creative arts generate fresh insights on displacement in Morocco?
2. To what extent and how can arts-based methods enhance traditional social research on forced displacement?
3. How can engagement with arts disrupt power relations and enable co-production of participatory methods?
4. How can creative participatory methods generate synergies between research, advocacy, and capacity building?

Our four Project Partners are 1) an NGO supporting forced migrants in Morocco (GADEM), 2) a forced migrants' association in Rabat (ALECMA), 3) an artists' collective in Morocco (DABATEATR), and 4) a UK-based refugee, asylum and migration network (GRAMNet). Our Project Partners in Morocco are invested in fostering critical engagement and improving political discourse and social acceptance in Morocco. Research activities co-designed and co-delivered in Morocco in collaboration with our Project Partners include a seminar for practitioners working on forced displacement, creative arts-based workshops for members of the 'displaced' and 'host' communities, and transnational knowledge exchange forums for practitioners. Project objectives are:

1. To deploy creative arts-based methods to generate fresh empirical and theoretical insights on displacement and migration in Morocco as a case study, and to evaluate the potential for application in other ODA contexts;
2. To co-design participatory activities to enhance the capacity of NGOs supporting displaced communities in Morocco to pursue sustainable engagement, research, and advocacy programmes;
3. To enhance the capacity of grassroots migrants' associations to engage, mobilise, and support migrants;
4. To build relationships, develop partnerships, and exchange best practice transnationally between Morocco and the UK and across academia and the third sector working on forced displacement.

Led by Dr Laura Jeffery (University of Edinburgh), the team consists of researchers from across the humanities and social sciences with experiences in forced displacement, arts-based methods, NGO partnership, knowledge exchange, and capacity building within and beyond the Moroccan context. Through its inclusion of migrants and practitioners in the research process and in the development of research methods, this study builds the research and advocacy capacity of Project Partners. By deploying a multidisciplinary approach, and devising an innovative, participatory method, the project will have economic and societal impacts within and beyond the project's life cycle.

Planned Impact

This project aims to have first and foremost a direct impact on the lives of those affected by forced displacement in Morocco. It will develop and deploy innovative methods to respond to the current migration crisis and influence working practices at organisational levels. The project will foster dialogue and knowledge exchange between displaced people, activists, practitioners, academics, and policy makers, impacting upon the following groups:

1. DISPLACED PEOPLE AND THE WIDER PUBLIC. The project will generate positive societal impacts by developing new modes of creative engagement to support displaced populations.
a) Participants from 'displaced' and 'host' populations will benefit from the creative workshops to overcome currently tense and fraught interethnic relations and enhance social cohesion in Morocco.
b) Access to the project's non-academic outputs (such as the 'Arts for Advocacy' training toolkit) will enhance quality of life, cultural enrichment, and increased awareness of the current challenges.
c) Project outreach channels such as website, blog, and social media will improve understanding of issues affecting displaced communities among practitioners and civic society.
d) Migrant'Scène festival (Morocco) and exhibition and dissemination events for Refugee Week (UK) will foster community participation and engagement.

2. THIRD-SECTOR ORGANISATIONS, PROFESSIONALS, AND PRACTITIONERS WORKING ON FORCED DISPLACEMENT in Morocco and the UK. The project's innovative methods will enhance the impact and effectiveness of support structures for displaced populations:
a) The research capacity and skills of Project Partners will be enhanced through co-design and co-delivery of the project.
b) Participants will gain transferable skills in community engagement and advocacy through participation in seminar and workshops.
c) The capacity and skills of the NGO sector in Morocco will benefit from knowledge exchange events by learning about working practices deployed efectively in other ethnographic contexts to support forcibly displaced communities.
d) The enhanced research capacity of Moroccan NGOs will enable them to attract future research and development and engender community regeneration.
e) The transnational knowledge exchange of best practice will improve the organisational culture and practices of the NGO sector and enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of organisations.
f) Long-lasting relationships amongst Project Partners will be fostered through the project's multilingual and interactive website which will showcase findings and our 'Arts for Advocacy' best practice video toolkit.

3. POLICY MAKERS. The project addresses key policy issues. Project outputs (reports, academic publications, the toolkit, and other transferable resources) will be made accessible to research users, lobbyist organisations, and policy makers including (but not exclusively): Centre National des Droits de l'Homme (CNDH), Observatoire Nationale de la Migration (ONM), Réseau euro-méditerranéen des droits de l'Homme (REMDH), Migreurop, European Commission Migration and Home Affairs Department, and European Union External Action Service.
a) Increased access to user-informed research co-developed by practitioners, academics and participants will directly influence policy development at national level.
b) Morocco's recent 'Stratégie Nationale d'Immigration et d'Asile' (National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum) (2014) includes 'Education and Culture' and 'Professional Development' among eleven programmes for action. 'Arts for Advocacy' will generate new insights and knowledge to address these key concerns through its use of creative practices for capacity building.
c) Enhanced engagement with transnational practitioners based in Morocco and the UK will enable policy makers and NGOs with a lobbying remit to gain insights into best practice on forced displacement and influence future policies.

Publications

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Title Arts for Advocacy website 
Description Arts for Advocacy website including documentary films about exhibitions and KEI events. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact N/A 
URL http://artsforadvocacy.org/
 
Title MIGRATION. RE´CITS. MOUVEMENTS. 
Description The exhibition 'MIGRATION. RE´CITS. MOUVEMENTS' is part of a large, international and inter-disciplinary research project called 'Arts for Advocacy' (2016-18) at the Universities of Edinburgh and Keele in the UK. It aims to develop innovative, interdisciplinary, and participatory arts-based methods to facilitate critical engagement relating to forced displacement in Morocco. 'MIGRATION. RE´CITS. MOUVEMENTS' is the result of two participatory video-photography and theatre workshops which took place in Rabat in March and October 2017. The participants were women and men from Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa with varying degrees of familiarity with visual media. The workshops were organised by the 'Arts for Advocacy' UK research team in partnership with GADEM (Morocco), and guided by visual artists Julien Fleurance and Amine Oulmakki, and actor and comedian Dabcha. Under Moroccan skies, participants, researchers and artists from different horizons met to practice photography, theatre performance and video skills and share stories together. We explored issues of togetherness, migration, displacement, loss, heritage, identity and diversity through the creation of visual artefacts. Material from these workshops - which composed part of this proposed exhibition at the Villa des Arts in Rabat - has already seen the light in two successful and well a ended exhibitions entitled 'Narrating Objects of Displacement in Morocco'. The first was during Refugee Festival Scotland at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow (June 2017); the second was at the SPACE Gallery in London (September 2017). 1. CHAIR, 2017 Dir. AMINE OULMAKKI, JULIEN FLEURANCE, DABCHA. Installations. 3 ground projections, 2'36", 5'9" & 8'3". This piece rests on protocols constructed with the participants along three axes: 1) Noticing a chair and its inscription in space, then moving towards it in a back-and-forth as candid and purposeful as possible. Experiencing memory as the conductive thread of our trajectories, between departure and destination. Used as pretext, the chair questions the referents of life's movements, their interchangeability, their fleetingness, but also their surprising similarities. 2) Embodying an animal, totemic element - its narrative gives shape to unexpected body figures. Isn't it through the invention of a spiritual double, conceived between model and icon, that we dream ourselves? 'Chair' deals with what 'animates.' Through movement, it connects anew the notions of animal and soul (from the Latin anima ("wind", "air", "breath")). 3) Inventing an alphabet of the body, which sketches the utopia of a textured community animated by a common approach to living together. Real life experiences are often far from play; they sometimes involve trauma and crisis. In the context of performance, a potentially therapeutic doubling of personalities occurs, where playful bodies part with (break free from) bruised bodies. And in the context of the exhibition, the images projected on the ground seize, in some way, the visitor's movement, making them a participant in the game of bodies: acting bodies and observing bodies in the same composition. 2. ISLI TISLIT, 2017 Dir. AMINE OULMAKKI, JULIEN FLEURANCE, DABCHA Videos, 06'6". Broadcast on 9 screens and sound installation. "Isli Tislit" is named after the Amazigh legend of Isli and Tislit, two lovers whose impossible love forced them to elope and caused them great sadness. It is said that the lakes Isli and Tislit are born out of their tears. The piece presents close-up portraits which use the camera's gaze to take the spectator as witness or make them the direct interlocutor of an interpellation, the recipient of an apostrophe, a song partner, the companion of a memory, the witness of suffering. In this dynamic, the role of gazer is split on either side of the screen, where actor and spectator face each other. In cinema, 'camera-looking' refers to the crossing of an actor's gaze with the optical axis of the camera. Here, "Isli Tislit" prioritizes emotion over technique. The human sight which goes from eye to head suddenly branches off to connect the eye to the heart. 3. MISSED CALL, 2017 Dir. AMINE OULMAKKI, JULIEN FLEURANCE, DABCHA Vide´o, 07'59". Single screen. "Missed Call" assembles phone conversations as seen and heard only from the point of view of the speaker. From phone calls to calls for help to relatives, the video tackles questions of exile and uprooting. The work conjures among other issues: the development of new forms of relationship, the management of heartbreak, the sorrow of neglected relatives, the tortuous path to regularisation, the adaptation to new cultures. 4. AND TIME BREATHES, 2017 Dir. AMINE OULMAKKI, JULIEN FLEURANCE, DABCHA Video, 4'34. Single screen. SYNOPSIS-Oussama plagued by visions. Voices and faces address his origins, suggesting a diversified genealogy. A Cameroonian father, an Amazigh mother, a grand-father from the Bassa tribe and a grand-mother from Congo speak to him in their respective tongues. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact N/A 
 
Title Narrating objects of displacement in Morocco 
Description This exhibition is the result of a participatory Video-Photography Workshop which took place at the 'Centre Culturel Agdal' in Rabat (Morocco) in March 2017. The participants were 16 women and men, sub-Saharan migrants and refugees as well as Moroccan nationals, all with diverse familiarities with visual media. Organised by the "Arts for Advocacy"* research team, and guided by visual artists Julien Fleurance and Amine Oulmakki, the Workshop ran over two weeks. Under Moroccan skies, participants, researchers and artists from different horizons met to practice photography and video skills, share stories and meals together. We explored issues of togetherness, migration, displacement, loss, heritage and diversity through the creation of visual artefacts. Participants focused their creative exploration on three 'objects': a cutting- object, a mobile-phone and a camera. They were involved in all stages of the process: filming, taking photographs, recording, script-writing, scenography, post-processing and editing; the texts below are also the result of collective efforts. Amine and Julien, two international artists, worked together to turn the project into this exhibition. The texts below were written with the participants. CUTTING OBJECT (14 Photographs, fine art mat paper, foamex board) The blade creates borders but can also shatter them. The blade marks identities onto the body, which can facilitate or prevent free movement. The blade identifies family, roots, cultures. The blade plunged in the re marks the skin, so that we recognise and so that we differentiate. The blade creates beauty spots but can also destroy beauty. The blade creates riches for some but can also bar access for others. In the photos, we can see a mixing of signs on the skin, Amazigh signs, Adinkra symbols from Ghana. The lines on sub-Saharan cloths also trace identities, cults, social clans. Lines on the body delineate identities, blades of light and darkness play out on the folds of the skin to enhance and obscure features. These images were taken by participants using different devices (mobile phones, cameras). From the first exercise - with a focus on the body, its parts - to the stages rehearsal of identity making - these images speak of fluid encounters (but not without frictions) between people, places, cultures. AND TIME BREATHES (Video, 4'34") Through the camera we can store histories, lives. This is a story about a journey into time, lives which give and add more sense to another life. A story of motivation which prompts each of one of us to search for a better life, for adventure. Sometimes we have no choice but to look for a better life. Sometimes we have to leave our path despite our own will, but also to forge a new path and become somebody in life, in society. We must know what awaits us on the way. Sometimes integration allows us to inhabit a new society. Sometimes it costs dearly, its distances us from our origins. It entails sacrifice. This mix of cultures, religions and languages - Moroccan Arabic, Amazing, Bassa, Lingala, French - which tie my forefathers from different horizons all the way down to me. Their histories broke into my time when I was lost. And now, time breaths again, it exhales new meanings and new beginnings. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact N/A 
URL http://artsforadvocacy.org/events/rfs-exhibition
 
Title Narrating objects of displacement in Morocco 
Description This exhibition is the result of a participatory Video-Photography Workshop which took place at the 'Centre Culturel Agdal' in Rabat (Morocco) in March 2017. The participants were 16 women and men, sub-Saharan migrants and refugees as well as Moroccan nationals, all with diverse familiarities with visual media. Organised by the "Arts for Advocacy"* research team, and guided by visual artists Julien Fleurance and Amine Oulmakki, the Workshop ran over two weeks. Under Moroccan skies, participants, researchers and artists from different horizons met to practice photography and video skills, share stories and meals together. We explored issues of togetherness, migration, displacement, loss, heritage and diversity through the creation of visual artefacts. Participants focused their creative exploration on three 'objects': a cutting-object, a mobile-phone and a camera. They were involved in all stages of the process: filming, taking photographs, recording, script-writing, scenography, post-processing and editing; the texts below are also the result of collective efforts. Amine and Julien, two international artists, worked together to turn the project into this exhibition. The texts below were written with the participants. 1. CUTTING OBJECT (14 Photographs, fine art mat paper, foamex board) The blade creates borders but can also shatter them. The blade marks identities onto the body, which can facilitate or prevent free movement. The blade identifies family, roots, cultures. The blade plunged in the re marks the skin, so that we recognise and so that we differentiate. The blade creates beauty spots but can also destroy beauty. The blade creates riches for some but can also bar access for others. In the photos, we can see a mixing of signs on the skin, Amazigh signs, Adinkra symbols from Ghana. The lines on sub-Saharan cloths also trace identities, cults, social clans. Lines on the body delineate identities, blades of light and darkness play out on the folds of the skin to enhance and obscure features. These images were taken by participants using different devices (mobile phones, cameras). From the first exercise - with a focus on the body, its parts - to the stages rehearsal of identity making - these images speak of fluid encounters (but not without frictions) between people, places, cultures. 2. AND TIME BREATHES (Video, 4'34") Through the camera we can store histories, lives. This is a story about a journey into time, lives which give and add more sense to another life. A story of motivation which prompts each of one of us to search for a better life, for adventure. Sometimes we have no choice but to look for a better life. Sometimes we have to leave our path despite our own will, but also to forge a new path and become somebody in life, in society. We must know what awaits us on the way. Sometimes integration allows us to inhabit a new society. Sometimes it costs dearly, its distances us from our origins. It entails sacrifice. This mix of cultures, religions and languages - Moroccan Arabic, Amazing, Bassa, Lingala, French - which tie my forefathers from different horizons all the way down to me. Their histories broke into my time when I was lost. And now, time breaths again, it exhales new meanings and new beginnings. 3. MISSED CALL (Video, 07'59") "Missed Call" assembles phone conversations as seen and heard only from the point of view of the speaker. From phone calls to calls for help to relatives, the video tackles questions of exile and uprooting. The work conjures among other issues: the development of new forms of relationship, the management of heartbreak, the sorrow of neglected relatives, the tortuous path to regularisation, the adaptation to new cultures. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact N/A 
 
Title Sounds from Ghana via Morocco and the UK 
Description An evening of music performed by two groups of acclaimed Ghanaian musicians: a live performance by Gameli Tordzro (www.gameli.co.uk) and a prerecorded performance by Reuben Y. Odoi (The Minority Globe). Both musicians combine traditional tunes from Ghana with contemporary musical nuances from across Africa and the West. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact N/A 
URL http://artsforadvocacy.org/events/rfs-concert
 
Description Creative engagements with migration: an international forum during Migrant Scene in Rabat 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This knowledge exchange event, aimed at practitioners, activists and researchers working with migrants and refugees in Morocco and the UK, provided an opportunity to share lessons learned from two diverse contexts. The workshop fostered a sustainable dialogue to identify common issues and develop inclusive practices to address the challenges posed by forced displacement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Displacement in Morocco and UK: best practice knowledge exchange forum at University of Glasgow during Refugee Festival Scotland 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This knowledge exchange event, aimed at practitioners, activists and researchers working with migrants and refugees in Morocco and the UK, provided an opportunity to share lessons learned from two diverse contexts. The workshop fostered a sustainable dialogue to identify common issues and develop inclusive practices to address the challenges posed by forced displacement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2017
 
Description Photography and filmmaking workshop in Rabat for Sub-Saharan African migrants and Moroccans facilitated by photographer/filmmakers Amine Oulmakki and Julien Fleurance 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Photography and filmmaking workshop in Rabat for Sub-Saharan African migrants and Moroccans facilitated by photographer/filmmakers Amine Oulmakki and Julien Fleurance
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://artsforadvocacy.org/people/
 
Description Physical theatre workshop in Rabat for Sub-Saharan African migrants and Moroccans facilitated by photographer/filmmaker Amine Oulmakki and performance artist Dabcha 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Physical theatre workshop in Rabat for Sub-Saharan African migrants and Moroccans facilitated by photographer/filmmaker Amine Oulmakki and performance artist Dabcha
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://artsforadvocacy.org/people/