Visual Stories of Displacement in Morocco
Sebastien Bachelet (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores visual representations of flight and exile in Morocco. It engages with scholarship on refugee narratives and participatory, creative arts to explore representations of displacement which depart from dominant accounts of victimhood.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores how visual representations by and of refugees and migrants can expose fraught power dynamics and debunk misrepresentations. It generates from our inter-disciplinary project 'Arts for Advocacy: creative engagement with forced displacement in Morocco' - led by a team of anthropologists and cultural studies scholars in partnership with Morocco-based artists, NGO practitioners and migrant leaders. Our team co-organised a series of video and theatre workshops with Moroccan artist Amine Oulmakki involving participants from Morocco as well as sub-Saharan migrants and refugees living in Rabat. This formed of the basis of 'Migration. Récits. Mouvements' (Exhibition in Rabat, December 2017), a video installation - conceived as a collective project - directed by Amine Oulmakki. Our paper explores how Oulmakki's work displays mismatched and broken up visual and oral accounts by the participants - who partook in decision-making regarding the production of the videos. The visual and oral experience is a challenging one: viewers are invited to navigate a space where bodies trace their own emotional and physical journeys, while the emboldened presences emerging from the screens are unsettled by the displaced temporality and sequencing between frames and sound. Drawing on scholarship examining refugee narratives in anthropology and beyond, the presentation explores how this exhibition proposes counter-narratives of displacement which depart from confessional and 'authentic' accounts of victimhood, and in doing so offers novel ways to engage with exile and flight.