Moroccan Theatre Award Winner: "Lalla J'mila"

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From the introduction -

Ben Bouchta’s play was written for and co-produced by an active feminist network right after the implementation of the new (Moroccan family) law in 2003. In its persistence upon problematizing the old-fashioned division between public and private space, the play also searches for a better correlation between space and women’s corporeal existence; and in so doing, it calls for a complete shake-up of paternalistic policies of the family.

International Centre for Performance Studies (ICPS)
Tanger, Morocco

From the back cover -

Acknowledgments -

This publication was a collective endeavour that involved numerous people. First and foremost, I would like to thank the author of Lalla J'mila, Zoubeir Ben Bouchta for writing such a groundbreaking masterpiece and for consenting to this translation (making it available to Anglophone readers for the first time.)

Also crucial was the editorial contributions of Pamela Balfanz whose experience in North American publications and her appreciation for the wonders of language and drama are evident in the present undertaking. Also, I offer my warm thanks to Dr. George F. Roberson, who was in Tangier on a Fulbright grant and graciously served as co-editor. I express my deep feelings of gratitude to my lifelong friends Todd & Sharon Balfanz, Dr. Mohammed Benammi, and the Altopress team: Mohammed Kerach, Ali Khalouki and Naima Chentouf.

Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of my mentor, Dr. Khalid Amine, who first encouraged me to work on this play and assisted me all the way to this book. My gratitude to all of them is nevertheless beyond measure. This publication was made possible by the financial support of the International Centre for Performance Studies.

Mustapha Hilal Soussi
Translator and ICPS Archivist

Why Lalla J'mila?

Many people know Tangier as a merely a touristic city, or rather a transit city, and a crossing point between Europe and Africa. Not so many know, however, that Tangier has also played an important role as a creative sanctuary. Artists including Eugene Delacroix, Henri Matisse, and Claudio Bravo and writers William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, and Walter Harris all prospered here. Likewise, numerous great Moroccan writers, like Mohamed Choukri, Tahar Ben Jelloun, and Mohamed El-Mrabet have all drawn inspiration from this city.

In recent years, a wave of young talented Tanjawi writers, inspired by these great writers have emerged, and wonderful works, such as Lalla J’mila by Zoubeir Ben Bouchta have been produced. Although highly acclaimed in Morocco, most of these new works have not had a chance to be introduced to the world, nor even cross the borders of Morocco, because they exist only in the Arabic langauge.

By translating one of the most prominent examples of this trend, namely Lalla J’mila by Zoubeir Ben Bouchta, I aim to achieve three major objectives: Firstly, I want to serve my native city by showing the world some of its history and social traditions which are integral in works such as Lalla J’mila. Even as it traces the past, it explores current city dialogues, challenges, and changes. Secondly, I want to pay tribute to our prominent playwright, Zoubeir Ben Bouchta, for his persistence in writing despite the difficulties he faces on all levels. This is as an encouragement to him and an incitement to other young writers from other regions of Morocco who wish to follow suit. And thirdly, I want to contribute in a small way to the exhaustive work of Dr. Khalid Amine. Through his efforts, particularily by hosting the annual Tangier International Conferences, interest and dialogue about the city now reaches worldwide.

This work is in four parts: The first part is an introduction by Dr. Khalid Amine which places the play in current theoretical terms and social context. The second part is a complete translation of the Arabic source text. I tried as much as possible to convey to the reader a simple and understandable translation without loosing the meaning and the flavour of the original. To that end, the third part is a glossary of some Moroccan dialect words such as Bz’izila, F’qaqesse, Fasoukh, and Z’aboula etc., which, if not retained, would lose crucial aspects of Moroccan culture. Also included are the names of key historical figures and events mentioned in the play. And finally, there is list of characters in which I have provided brief notes on each character mentioned in the play, their historical background as well as their symbolic significance and giving further meaning and context to certain Moroccan names and titles.

Mustapha Hilal Soussi
mhsousi (at) yahoo (dot) com

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