Each year in Imilchil, a village in the High Atlas Mountains, a moussem occurs. It's a very odd festival where, during three days over 600 contestants take part in a kind of speed dating, but in the berberian way... In Morocco!
In a society where seduction isn’t looked well upon, where relationships are private, the wedding moussem of Imilchil represents a breath of fresh air for young Berbers who don’t often meet new people. The Berbers, who originally live in the mountains, in rural or urban areas, use the wedding moussem as an opportunity to meet people and escape from social and religious pressure. It is the only time of year where flirting is permitted, and in fact commonplace. And interestingly, even though Moroccan society is patriarchal, in Imilchil it is women who chose their fiancé! "For life or for a year!". Because spending three days getting to know someone is not a guarantee of the relationship's success.
"According to the legend, it's the impossible love of a young man and a young woman that drove the two into deep sorrow. They wept their sadness and died, drowned by their own tears. The legend says it was these tears that gave birth to the lakes of Isli (the fiancé) and Tislit (the bride), the two sources of water for the region of Imilchil.
Their saddened parents decided that once a year, young men and young women could freely chose each other, and that those who decided to get married at the moussem would encounter no objection to their union."
Gender equality in the heart of patriarchy
Objections, interference and pressures on marriage are common in Morocco.
How do we explain that this tradition, which goes against most Moroccan traditions, is valued within Berberian society? What place does the matriarchal Berberian culture have in a patriarchal Moroccan society? How does this tradition resist the overwhelming patriarchal pressures? Do these honeymooners really have the freedom of choice?
Meetings in Berber land
To answer these questions, we would like to immerse ourselves in the culture and to the heart of this event. We would like to understand the true meaning of these three days of celebration. We will leave for the rocky roads of the High Atlas Mountains in the South of Morocco to meet the families during their preparation before the moussem, where they spend time beautifying the participants, prepare the meals, set up dowries, and observe these people’s last moments of being single. We will collect testimonies, and take videos and photographs. A few months later we will follow up with the brand new couples, and see how they are doing once the effervescence of the moussem has passed.
We want to have you on our side to live together this unique annual event. Through the lens of our camera and sound elements we want to immerse you into the heart of a unique tradition. We will stay connected, and would love to know your thoughts and questions throughout the duration of our project.
Visit our facebook page Speed dating à la berbère and our twitter DatingBerbere.
Why this project?
Why would two young women studying journalism at IHECS cover the wedding moussem?
Because love is a universal value, and can help us relate to even the most distant peoples. With this spirit of universality in mind, and a passion for sharing experiences, we would like to forge a unique link that will cross any border, between you and our future new honeymooners.
We both have different motivations that fit perfectly.
Sophie Deprez is interested in the differences between women and men. A culture that seems to leave such room for freewill regarding union is very interesting! She is interested both for the sake of understanding their society against our own, and out of curiosity to understand how do they live out there?
Kahina Meziant, who is of Algerian Berber origin, sees in this project an opportunity to get closer to a culture she knows little of, but one which she feels close to. She is interested in the way minorities manage to maintain their traditions in the middle of a different and stronger national culture.
What brings these future journalists together is above all the passion to better understand what is happening abroad to better understand what is happening here.