8. Endnotes

(1) Following Peristiany's conclusions (see Magrini 1998) numerous American anthropologists have considered women's reclusion as a social institution, motivated by the concept of familial honour, which was widely regarded as a key feature of a "pan Mediterranean" regional culture. Perhaps more shrewdly, exponents of British social anthropology have treated both marginal female practices and heterodox religious institut ions (including bewitching shour and the evil eye `aïn, as well as predominantly female ecstatic cults) as forms of cultural resistance. Such practices were viewed as defensive strategies within social systems in which unequal gender relationships forced women into positions of subordination and inferiority (Lewis 1971/88). 

(2) Immediately after the release of the CD, the inconsiderate intervention of a French "impresario" profoundly altered the group's make up. He contacted one of the two women "with no uniform", and promoted her to the position of "chef"; maybe in the belief that European audiences would have preferred a group of cheikhat (professional female musicians-dancers) the latter consequently reorganized the ensemble, recruiting four cheikhat to replace the original performers. Subsequently they recorded a second CD under the name of Bnet Houariyat. After a number of attempts to reconstruct the group which had participated in the 1993 recording in Tamesloht (traced with the help of the photos of the four women "in a uniform"), there was a period of tension between the two line-ups with different managers. For a period of time both groups "toured" under similar names: the B'net Houariyat and the Binet Houariyat. The story seems to have a happy ending: the cheikhat, in view of their unhoped for good fortune, decided to stay together and call their group Bnet Marrakech, while the B'net Houariyat "in their original version" (but without the "chef"...) have finally started to reap the fruits of their work. 

(3) The specific nature of Islam as practiced in Morocco is too complex a subject to be adequately tackled here. While I point the reader to a few fundamental texts for reference (Dermenghem 1954, Burckhardt 1969, Ibn al Zayyat 1995), I must at least mention two important aspects in popular religious life. Firstly, the lack of a rigid distinction between religious and "laic" behaviour, and secondly, the central role of the practice of ziyara (the "visit"-pilgrimage to places where a marabout lived or worked). This practice is by no means a substitute of the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the Five Pillars of Islam). Many people of the lower classes consider the pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Islam as a business managed by Mashriqi Arabs in co-operation with American airlines and travel agents. Recently a legal dispute was initiated by a number of Moroccan travel agencies, which manage only 20-25% of the total of pilgrims of their country. It is not rare for families of migrants who return regularly to Morocco to carry out the ziyara, without having ever been on the pilgrimage to Mecca. 

(4) However, at times the B'net Houariyat reveal surprising open-mindedness with reference to themes in current events. Recently, for example, their participation in FrancoFolies in Montreal coincided with the International Gay Pride Day, which was cel ebrated in the same city. When they were asked their opinion on the matter, four of the five women replied that they thought it was fair that male and female homosexuals should have their rights recognised, and only one, the eldest, maintained an air of a mused puzzlement. 

Forward | Main page | References