MASNAA: Language Melting, Merging, and Crossing Boundaries

Last month in Casablanca, the largest and one of the most crowded cities in Morocco, L’école de literature hosted trilingual art and translation workshops under the umbrella of “MASNAA:  Literature in the Making.” Aya Nabih was there:

By Aya Nabih

Photo from one of the “Cartography of the Ecstatic” workshop sessions. Credit: Aya Nabih.

The MASNAA residency included a schedule full of various workshops on cinema, performance, and music — all in relation to writing. Among the workshops I attended were a comics and narrative figuration workshop, moderated by the painter and musician Mazen Kerbaj and “Cinematic Occupation,” run by the Palestinian director Kamal Aljafari, in which he introduced his upcoming projects and discussed some of his cinematic views.

“Cartography of the Ecstatic” was the title of another workshop about the intersection between music and poetry, where poetry was performed by the workshop participants mixed with music and sound effects. It was moderated by the musician Ambrose Bye with the American poet Eleni Sikélianòs and Khalid Moukdar. On the last day, they produced a musical poetry night for the audience.

A typical day started in the morning with two workshops in different sites around Casablanca, then, in the evening, we had some lectures on literature and cinema. One of them was mine, titled “The Fresh Voice of Experimental Arab Literature,” which suggested that there is no specific definition of an experimental literary text, as it cannot be confined to one description and that is exactly why it is experimental. It is free of all writing rules, so each text presents an experiment of the writer’s choosing.

It was unfamiliar not to understand Arabic speakers, as the Moroccan Arabic was a little difficult in the first few days, and we had sometimes to use English and French. But this is, I think, one of the most significant aspects of being in Casablanca; for the Arabic language to melt and merge, crossing the boundaries and getting to the point of mutual understanding.

Aya Nabih is a translator and Worldscribe country manager in Egypt. She has translated a number of documentaries and children’s TV series and her literary translations have appeared in Egyptian and British journals. She also has participated in poetry nights in Cairo and France, and some of her poems have been translated into French and English.