Al Halqa – The Last Storytellers
An exhibition about the Moroccan art of storytelling in the market-place of Jemaa el Fna in Marrakesh

11.09.2015 to 25.10.2015
Ethnologisches Museum

Every day a unique spectacle takes place in the Jemaa el Fna, or 'Place of the Hanged’ in Marrakesh. Townspeople, travellers passing through, the curious, the idle; everyone gathers here in this two-thousand-year-old town square to be spell-bound by the 'Hlaiqi’ performers. Dancers, singers, acrobats and storytellers, their acts form a patchwork of constantly self-renewing traditions, which have now rightly been inscribed in UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Vying for the favour of the public along with the snake-charmers, magicians and soothsayers are the last Moroccan storytellers. Whetting the curiosity of onlookers about the tale they are about to tell, they draw a crowd into the Halqa, or storyteller’s circle. Their tales often feature kings, beautiful women, temptations and riches, but also tell of beggars, thieves, poverty and wisdom. They are intended to entertain, but at the same time to instruct. The skill of these artists lies in drawing the public into their thrall by addressing something deeply rooted in all human beings: the desire to be told a story.

In the exhibition in the Ethnologisches Museum visitors can glimpse this still vibrant Moroccan culture of storytelling, a culture similar to that represented in Europe until the 19th century by travelling groups of jugglers and singers. The exhibition format, with large-format photographic prints and audiovisual installations, creates an immediate, sensual experience. Listening stations invite visitors to hear stories, told in the original Arabic and in German translation, which until now have only been handed down by word of mouth. A 'Storytelling Box’ encourages visitors to become storytellers themselves.

More information about the exhibition can be found at:

The exhibition is part of a larger project entitled “Al Halqa” (; by the Berlin filmmaker and media artist, Thomas Ladenburger. The project began in 2005 with a documentary film, followed by several exhibitions, installations and media productions with DVDs and an audiobook. The presentation in the Ethnological Museum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is the final part of the project.

The exhibition is sponsored by funding from the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Friends of the Ethnologisches Museum.

Other sponsors and supporters of both the exhibition and the project as a whole are the German Foreign Office, the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Studio for Electroacoustic Music of the Akademie der Künste.

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