Posts Tagged ‘essaouira’

THE SENSE OF THINGS (Part 2)

May 5, 2010

Nukila’s post:

The Man Behind The Spectacles

Third meeting with Ibrahim Tijani. We drove off to the sufi village. A simple lunch. My most memorable meal (which deserves another posting for the event itself). We were sitting down on the rugs spread under an olive tree, Ibrahim Tijani sat leaning upon the tree and took off his glasses. Some remarks followed this gesture. He was looking very relaxed and happy to be there. Then Jaka asked Ibrahim for a photograph, he said sure, and Jaka moved the glasses a little further in front of Ibrahim. I suppose he didn’t see this coming. He sat there rather awkwardly in this pose, his glasses on the foreground, as Jaka took the pictures.
This mini-event I found particularly interesting, highly relevant, yet would easily pass unnoticed except from its winning a few remarks that the guy is weird –Jaka, that is, not Ibrahim. I watched Jaka at work in those brief seconds: perhaps there was a parallel feeling towards things, another variation on the same theme, in his way of seeing the ‘thinginess’ of a thing. Glasses are not glasses are not glasses. The glasses just laid there upon the rug. No longer an attribute of the ultimate identity of its owner –the public personage, ultra-person, of this sufi leader. (It was the black robe and the glasses that I first noticed on my first encounter with him at the festival.) And now without the glasses, the man was just being himself, there and then. A regular man, a private self. Telling us personal stories, smelling the red and yellow flowers his daughter picked on the hill.

The man behind the spectacles. Literal and symbolic at the same time in Jaka’s eyes. But again, perhaps… Jaka may have an entirely different take on this. I don’t know.
And let us hope that he will post the photograph.

Unidentified Lying Object

A Berber Market at a village in Essaouira. One of the first stalls near the entrance. I looked at its front part; there was something lying at the counter. Something square-ish, dark red, bits of white, moist, helpless, alone. In a naturalness that was so unassuming. Nearby there were two old men exchanging kisses, and another man, half-hidden behind the counter. This configuration didn’t quite come to me as a common sight in relation to the x thing. That something is hmm something, is… ah, meat. It was only when I saw a huge chunk of leg/shank hanging down near the men’s heads, that the meat-concept came to mind and I finally made sense of the thing. Of course, it’s meat! Zooming out, there were other things: buyers, sellers, bills, transactions, things in their utilized-to-be destiny. Perhaps, in those few seconds there were momentary lapses in a neural circuit somewhere in my brain; some electrochemical signals crossed and got lost –and this created that particular appearance of the meat. Present in its strangeness, a thing-in-itself, bare, unsymbolized, an it. A jamais vu, perhaps. When awareness hangs suspended, untampered by knowledge. A rare moment for me. Too bad, I wouldn’t mind experiencing it on a daily basis.
Afterwards, there came other lying/hanging objects in strange forms. But they came easily identified: animal innards I can’t name, as if created from sweet memories of towels, cylinders, spiral shells etc. Did I feel a relief that my brain was again in its normal modes of operations? Concepts, interpretations, associations –all kinds of references, constructs of thinking, were again there. And with the screams of a goat being slaughtered filling the air, drops and little pools of blood on the ground, I could no longer look at things in their suchness. The rest was a faint familiar feeling of walking around the traditional market at home, yet unfamiliar at the same time.

I Wonder If

travel is one the paths that could provide us with a ‘suchness moment’, to see things as they are. A fresh gaze, like those of saints or children. Traveling would be a shortcut, perhaps, compared to years and years of unlearning and emptying process and disciplines that masters do. Is that why the Monk Kengei, Ibn Arabi, Basho, wandered endlessly from place to place? Perhaps they weren’t looking for answers but questions, and more questions, from within and without, being surrounded by wonders of an unfamiliar world. Perhaps, to wander is to wonder, really.
What Sense Could There Be in Things? …and still, maybe even they didn’t know the sense of things when they saw it.

THE SENSE OF THINGS (Part 1)

May 5, 2010

Nukila AMAL’s post:

Variations on a theme. A few different takes on a few things from Essaouira and Fes, in random order –if not chaotic.

A Repertoire of Moroccan Bestiary

Dead, alive, or halfdead-halfalive animals. At the Berber market. Goats, chicken, donkeys. A limp snake – possibly on strike to demand better work conditions, perhaps down with a nasty cold, or simply charmed no more by the young snake charmer. Sardines, pink eels(?), baby shark at the fish market in Essaouira. A postcard of goats on the Argan tree. A little tiny white worm wriggling near a yellow cheese chunk on the table (and the great kingdom of Bacteria at the cheese cottage-factory). A roasted crab looking pretty on my dinner plate at a French-Moroccan restaurant. Head of a dead camel sprouting mint leaves from its mouth, grinning and hanging in front of a meat stall in the Medina, Fes –one could literally brush shoulder with it. More below on the poetics of juxtaposition of things.

Goats on the Argan Tree

I’ve seen real goats (and ate them), I’ve seen real Argan Trees (and bought a few products at the Cooperative Feminine). I had heard story from Zeyba about goats climbing up the Argan tree to eat the fruits. But to see the combination of both things visually, was something else.
At the herbalist shop in Fes. Hundreds of jars and bottles containing candy-colored liquids. We sat in this asymmetrical circle listening to the owner explaining some of the bottles. At times he would pass around small bottles when explaining a certain kind of herb, followed by a dab of scent on our wrists, or a whiff from small bottles… and then came the “>postcard. I looked at it for a few seconds. There they were, eight or nine goats, standing (or perching?) four-legged on the branches of a big Argan tree. A clear blue sky on the background. A couple of the goats stared straight at the camera in such perfect poise, almost like posing. It was beautiful, yet mind-boggling (to my poor mind only, sadly), so surreal it seemed. I blurted out in a wow moment, ‘Are those real goats on the Argan tree?’ (Yes, Chris and Eddin, Argan tree might as well bear goats as its fruit, goats could naturally come with a tree –in a parallel universe). And being a postcard, the photo had all the graphic qualities par excellence; symmetry, colors, expressions (some of the goats were photogenic and quite cool). Perhaps it was this too-beautiful image that led me to the ontological problem of goats. For some weird moments, those goats did look like a bigger version of Christmas tree decorations that come with little strings –bells, socks, candles, angels, etc. Fake goats with little strings strewn on the branches. Or better, one-dimensional, like paper-cut tinsel.
I imagine it would have been entirely different if I saw the goats up a tree directly in front of me. A ‘second-hand’ image of a thing versus direct experience of the thing with the five senses. The smell, the bleatings, movements, the rustles of Argan leaves, the wind on my face, etc… Now, this would be real.

 

God in Orange Juice

Second meeting with Ibrahim Tijani. We sat at the terrace restaurant at the hotel and talked until midday. The topics roamed from Islam, Sufism, the Tijaniyya tariqa, to the geometry of tiles, the number zero, Darwinian Evolution Theory, etc. Answering our questions patiently in a soft-spoken way, at one point he explained one of the basic tenets of the tariqa, the concept of Immanence. I understood it as an Islamic Neo-platonism concept which traced back from Ibn Arabi’s wahd al-wujud (Unity of Being). Ibrahim Tijani was telling us about the mindset of seeing God in everything everywhere, and after gesturing to our surrounding he pointed towards the white cup in front of him and said, “Even in this. I see God in this orange juice.” I glanced at his cup of orange juice. Earlier at breakfast I’d had the same orange juice, of course in a more secular mood –and guiltily, with an almost Fourierian pleasure. I took a better look at the thing: a white regular cup, regular orange juice (see Jaka Babnik’s photograph series below and check out the cup!). Then I glanced up to the man. I looked at his spectacled eyes, and thought, I would gladly trade those eyes with mine for say, an hour or two, to see things as he saw them. I listened to him speaking, and faintly recalled a verse from a sura in the Quran, ‘Whichever way you turn, there is the face of God’ and uttered it to him afterwards. He nodded and smiled. A beautiful verse. A beautiful concept of seeing things, of looking right through the ‘sense’ of things. You wouldn’t destroy or hurt a thing, and go about humbly.

Sinful pleasure

May 4, 2010

There are cookbooks that will never see a kitchen, and cooks who never saw a cookbook. So was the case at Ville Maroc, when a group of writers with different ethnic backgrounds and “overactive imaginations”, gathered around a table on the patio eagerly waiting for a late lunch. After some time, someone took a peek in the kitchen and noticed that the cook had just started cutting vegetables.

“Moroccan cuisine is one of the most sensual in the world,” said the guide. That may be true, but nobody warned us it is the slowest to make. In Morocco everything takes more time… to talk, to prepare food, even their Internet. We were famished when Zeiba asked us, “What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?”

“The best meal I’ve ever had? It’s called a gastrorgasm,” said Harry. He gets credit for inventing a new word to add to my English vocabulary. No matter where people come from, they love to talk about food since it’s the focus of their day, and often the focus of their culture. It didn’t take long for our group to start talking about the sumptuous Italian bread dough, Hindu soup, Turkish Baklava, et cetera. We were so hungry that these orgasmic dishes almost sounded better then the real thing. The guide’s story was interesting, but like our meal, it was slow to develop.

“Moroccan women can spend a whole week preparing one dinner,” said the guide. This didn’t sound promising. “It’s a diverse cuisine with many influences, so a single meal can consist of as many as fifty courses. It took my grandmother a day to make Bstilla, a crisp pastry filled with chicken and bread. Then she would make lamb Kebabs, a series of salads, followed by Tajine (meat and olives in a stew). Then came the Couscous and Batinjaan- an eggplant salad, accompanied with fruit and honey. The meal would be capped with a hot cup of mint tea.”

When he finished his story, we felt like exhausted lovers ourselves. And then the real lunch came. The meal was a simplified version of what the guide had described about Moroccan cuisine. I don’t know if it was the best meal in my life, but this was certainly the most memorable conversation about food I’ve ever had.