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Stammering bubbles

Look of Kenza Sefrioui on the Moroccan comics

The text below, written by Kenza Sefrioui,  is an extract from the issue 31, in June 2013 of Zamane magazine, pp. 92-93.

The pioneer of comics in Morocco has died while the 9th Art is struggling to assert.

” Never again ! ” were the last words by Abdelaziz Mouride in “One starves out the rats”, that was published in 2000 and can be considered as the birth comics in Morocco. “Tarik publishing was created to publish the book” says Bishr Bennani. At the time, it was a real challenge : “This would not have been possible in the era Basri. We did not know if we were going to make it, but we tried. We decided to co-publish the book with Paris Mediterranean, in case of blocking in Morocco. In this album, Abdelaziz Mouride offers a scathing critique of the period of state-sponsored violence. Former demonstrator in the movement of 23 March, he was arrested in november 1974 and sentenced to 22 years of prison and went out only in 1984. The book testifies the horror of the regime. His pictures give substance to « Never again » that militants chant. It has taken almost two decades for him to finalise them. By the late 1970s, his first drawings went out of prison to be published in Belgium by the Committee against repression in Morocco : ”In the bowels of my country” signed by Rahal. At the same time, three French comic authors were publishing an hagiography of Hassan II (“Once upon a time Hassan II”, Fayolle, 1979), to whom they had boasted the merits (after Mobutu and Bokassa and before Duvalier, Ceausescu and al-Qadhafi)  of comic art to show off their “feats” to illiterate populations … The work of Mouride is the opposite of this propaganda, it is a free and dignified speech. It has paved the way for Hassan II reign’s record and testimonies on prison life.

Mouride, who had gone on april 8, 2013, was a pioneer. His work broke new ground, through his courageous story telling and the visual strength. “He had a direct style, plain, his own pencil stroke. He was looking for the real, without prettifying” says his friend Miloudi Nouiga, coauthor of “the barber” (2004) and founder of Nouiga editions. “Comic art saved him.” As it saved Nadrani Mohammed, another former political prisoner who tells “Rabat Complex” in “the Coffin of the complex” (2005) and the prison of Kalaat Mgouna in “roses capital” (2009). The story dominates the Moroccan production. An “History of Morocco in comics”, in three volumes, was created in 1993, but the graphics and narrative realization was nothing exceptional. “The Emir Abdelkrim Ben” (2007) inspired Nadrani while Larbi Babahadi examined cultural history, with the Hajj Belaid (2008) and The Roots of Argania (2010).


Still, the comic is virtually nonexistent in Morocco. In twenty years, ten albums have emerged. Nothing to do with the effervescence of the sector in other African countries. Jean-François Chanson,  a cartoonist who has settled in Morocco since 2000, explains: “Congo, Cameroon, Senegal are poorer countries that Morocco but there the authors manage to make a living from comic art, because small cheap newspapers have been created. The album only comes out that after ten years “. The physics teacher in Rabat leads a very active blog dedicated to comics (leblogdejfchanson.blogspot.com) and goes out of his way to encourage vocations. Because in the absence of viable economic model, there are few fans who does not loose their heart. The winners of Fine Arts in Casablanca and Tetouan wish to pursue a career in professions that enrich their lives.

In addition to the problems of cultural book (lack of libraries, booksellers disappearance, absence of distribution, extreme weakness of sales …), comics suffers from ignorance. It is often mistaken for children’s literature. “The comic was our generation in the 1960s until 1975,” recalls Miloudi Nouiga, nostalgic for the comic market that was standing around Cinema Al Bahia Derb Sultan. On the other hand, comic style is often used for communication purposes. IRCAM has published the first comic book in Amazigh, Tagellit Nayt Ufella from Meryem Demnati (2005). Similarly, the Women’s Leadership Association popularized with pictures the family code (Tell me the news, Moudawana !, Nadacom, 2005), in French and Morrocan dialect, for young people…. But those works where the message takes precedence over the form cannot are anchor the 9th Art in the Morrocan visual and literary culture. “comics is not only the drawing: you need a good writer and a good graphic designer,” insists Bouftass Said, professor at the School of Fine Arts in Casablanca and founder of Alberti editions in 2011. With Mr Chanson, he worked to professionalize young talents. Six projects are under way, as well as the adaptation of the comic series Switchers.

A free genre

But the fundamental issue of the comic in Morocco is freedom of expression. In “the Art of comics” (Citadelle et Mazenod, 2012), the authors recall that the 9th Art has developed from political cartoons and that everywhere, “comic books have something to do with freedom.” Mouride is the only Moroccan quoted alongside Brazilian and Portuguese artists that emerged at the enf of dictatorships. But resistance to many freedoms is still strong. The depiction of naked bodies or religious scenes raises resistance, sometimes as printing. Hicham Habchi and Mehdi Yassire alias Pyroow and Koman, have tpublished in 2012 on internet “Ramadan Hardcore”, a comedy series about the lack of civility during Ramadan. This first attempt could pave the way to digital potentials. As for Khalid Gueddar, his comics “The King who would be king”, published on www.bakchich.info  in 2010, has created difficulties. Comics, like freedom, should be conquered.