The Roman philosopher and playwright Seneca tells the one story of how the Pillars of Hercules came to be; they were once one great mountain that Hercules had to cross, but instead Hercules tore the mountain in half to go through it. He left one half in the north and one in half in the south. As you probably already know, one half (one pillar) is the Rock of Gibraltar, and the other is likely to be Jebel Musa in Morocco. Two worlds that once were one.
Throughout history these two worlds have always maintained their connection despite the geographical separation caused by our friend, Hercules. Morocco was a lifeline during the Sieges of Gibraltar and it was Moroccan men and women making Gibraltar their home that helped Gibraltar economically when the Frontier was closed. Today, however, these two worlds are in a position not just to appreciate each other out of necessity but rather out of mutual appreciation. The Cultural Exchange between Gibraltar and Tangiers, organised by Gibraltar Cultural Services and the JM Memorial Foundation, does just that.
Earlier this year, the public were invited to glimpse into the Tangiers side of the exchange as performances and art exhibitions were held at GEMA. Two musical acts and two painters came to Gibraltar to carry out workshops around local schools. The singer and songwriter Wadie Ismail, wearing a jacket with both Morocco’s and Gibraltar’s flags displayed together on his back, opened up the evening with his first ever song written in English, which he wrote specifically for the Exchange and then later sang more of his own originals for the highly receptive audience. Wadie was followed by an energetic performance by Dakka Marrakchia, who filled GEMA with the sound of trumpets, percussion, dancing and traditional Moroccan singing. Throughout the evening, two art exhibitions were on display by artists Karima Jahidi, who famously paints with her feet, and Sanae Alami, whose art creatively explores their subject through different styles.
“Music brings people together, It’s a common language, something that you feel.”
The second stage of the Exchange will take place in Spring 2020, when local artists will travel to Tangiers. As part of the exchange, two local singer/songwriters will be collaborating with Wadie in a song that will fuse not only cultures but genres. Musician Adrian Pisarello and Rapper Liam Byrne will both be contributing lyrically and musically to a song that would mesh their talents with Wadie’s. The trio were brought together by Mark Montovio, one of the Exchange’s main organisers.
Spanning genres and languages is something that you would expect to be a difficult endeavor, as if a song that was one dimension now has to evolve to three, but each of the trio are optimistic that it will be a success. Adrian noted that; “It’s going to be like a Spanish, Moroccan, English thing” bringing together the different linguistic landscapes of both sides of this exchange. However, whatever they thing they will be unified musically as Liam explained: “Music brings people together, it doesn’t matter where you are from or what language you’re speaking in. It’s a common language, something that you feel.”
The Exchange spans countries, languages, and even continents, but yet these two nations have been continually been drawn closer together by history. Minster of Culture John Cortes, who spoke at the evening, noted the spirit of the exchange: “Morocco and Gibraltar are very close geographically but we hold each other very close in our hearts too. Gibraltar will never forget what Morocco and Moroccan people did for us when the border closed in 1969 and since then we have become closer and closer.”
Closer and closer is the sentiment of Exchange. Closer and closer so that not even Hercules himself can tear us apart again.