Soul Bay Press

Dardasha – chi’t chat

written by Tom Jenkins

I recently attended a film showing that was part of the Nour Festival – a celebration of Middle Eastern and North African culture held every October and November in West London. The film showing was part of AL-HASANIYA Moroccan Women’s Centre’s oral history project Dardasha, which documents the experiences of Moroccan women who emigrated to London between 1960 and 1990.

The event was held at the Leighton House Museum in Holland Park which, along with many of Leighton’s pictures, has some beautiful ornamentation made up of Middle Eastern tiling – and it is worth a visit for these alone. The event was co-hosted by Souad Talsi MBE, Founder of the Al Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre, with guest Rachid Agassim, Consul General for Morocco in the UK. Acclaimed oud player Soufian Saihi entertained attendees before the main event which was the showing of the film Dardasha.

The film allows first generation Moroccan women to share their stories of migrating to Britain. This migration was mostly from northern parts of Morocco; some arrived with work permits for factory and hospital work, some came to join husbands already working here and found work themselves in the hotel and catering industries, some came in the hope of finding work when they arrived. All came in the hope of earning a decent living for their families but knowing nothing of what awaited them. Many suffered and endured hardship. Dardasha enables these brave women to tell their personal and moving stories in their own words.

This is the most important aspect of the film – it allows an almost unmediated platform for the subjects of the film to express their experiences. In the introduction to the book that accompanies the Dardasha project Dr Laïla Ibnlfassi, of the London Metropolitan University, argues, “Representing another is, in its very sense of the word, not void of controversies. The very idea that one can speak for someone else carries a fundamental problem suggesting that the former has no voice of his/her own. Speaking for others is contested as being unethical and politically illegitimate. Dardasha aims to address this debate by redressing the balance of the power of speech. Representation, as argued by Edward Said (Orientalism London: Routledge 1978) is an act of violence in itself; because it has the power to select, include, exclude, translate and interpret the needs of the other, denying the latter all chances of an authentic voice which expresses authentic views. The testimonies in Dardasha are carefully presented so as to minimize any interference with the authentic voices that they carry. Moroccan migrant women, whose voices are by no means absent but rather silent, are in charge of voicing their own stories. Not only do they take the responsibility of expressing their thoughts in their own words, but they also find solace in speaking out loud what for the most part has been suppressed.”

The role of representation, in many forms, is elaborated on further by Edward Said in an interview he did in 1985:

“…representation, or more particularly the act of representing (and hence reducing) others, almost always involves violence of some sort to the subject of representation, as well as a contrast between the violence of the act of representing something and the calm exterior of the representation itself, the image – verbal, visual, or otherwise – of the subject. Whether you call it a spectacular image, or an exotic image, or a scholarly representation, there is always this paradoxical contrast between the surface, which seems to be in control, and the process which produces it, which inevitably involves some degree of violence, decontextualization, miniaturization, etc. The action or process of representing implies control, it implies accumulation, it implies confinement, it implies a certain kind of estrangement or disorientation on the part of the one representing.”

The film Dardasha, by Alan Stepney, and the project it sprang from addresses these concerns by giving a voice to a section of society that is so often silent. A voice that deserves not just to be heard, but listened to.

The film Dardasha can be viewed online at http://vimeo.com/26431955 and the accompanying book Dardasha, edited by Samantha Herron, can be read online at http://www.al-hasaniya.org.uk/docs/dardasha-book.pdf or is available through Soul Bay Press.

 

“Because above all, representation involves consumption…” Edward Said

 

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