Historische strip in de maak: De Tranen van Iligh

Het idee voor een historisch stripverhaal.

historische strip. de tranen van Illigh 82 Maison d'Iligh 2016

Plans for a Graphic Novel

Het begon allemaal in maart 2016, na een bezoek van Bert Hogervorst aan Maison d’Iligh, een burcht in een afgelegen uithoek van Zuid-Marokko,  maar er was niemand thuis. Een paar dagen later ontmoette ze Aisha Aboudmiaah dochter van de eigenaar van de burcht van Iligh in Agadir. Aisha vertelde Bert over een kist met 1500 oude tot zeer oude documenten in het Arabisch en Hebreeuws plus een bibliotheek van 3000 boeken die in haar voorvaderlijke burcht lagen te verkommeren.

Aisha on the phone/Aisha over de telefoon

Bert Hogervorst visited the stronghold of Iligh on the edge of the Sahara desert in March 2016. Nobody was at home. A few days later in Agadir she met up with Aisha Aboudmiaah the daughter of the owner of Maison d’Iligh. Aisha told Bert about a chest containing 1500 documents in Arabic and Hebrew in addition to a library of 3000 old books. All of which are in grave danger of  falling apart with age and neglect.

historische strip de tranen van Illigh. De synagoge van Ighlio 'N Orglio die helaas tijdens het noodweer van 2015 is ingestort.

De synagoge van Ighlio ‘N Orglio die helaas tijdens het noodweer van 2015 is ingestort.

Bij terugkeer nam Bert contact op met het Joods Historisch Museum in Amsterdam die in 2009 een belangrijke foto expositie had gehouden over de Joodse gemeenschappen van Zuid Marokko. En ze nam contact op met de directrice van het Musée du Judaisme Marocain in Casablanca: Zhor Rehilhil. Maar zij had toen zoiets van: bestaat die kist wel? In oktober bezochten Bert en ik haar. Het was een interessante informatieve ontmoeting, maar het lukte toen niet haar in contact te brengen met Aisha.

At her return in Amsterdam Bert contacted the Jewish Historical Museum. They had organised in 2009 an important photo exhibit  about Jewish life in Southren Morocco. She also contacted the director of the Musée du Judaisme Marocain in Casablanca: Zhor Rehilhil. But Zhor reacted doubtful: is there proof the chest really exists? In October Bert and I visited her. It was an interesting and informative meeting, but we didn’t succeed then to bring her in contact with Aisha. 

Twee weken later bezochten we Maison d’Iligh. Wederom was ondanks van te voren gemaakte afspraken niemand daar en wederom was er uiteindelijk een ontmoeting met Aisha in Agadir. Bert vroeg naar bewijs van de kist. Aisha beloofde een foto. Het aapje kwam uit het mouwtje: haar vader had het ministerie van culturele zaken in Rabat gevraagd de documenten en boeken te borgen. Dat wilde ze wel, maar onder de voorwaarde dat de boeken en documenten ondergebracht zouden worden in de National Bibliotheek. Dat was een station te ver voor de laatste afstammeling van het illustere huis van Iligh.

historische strip. de tranen van Illigh. De Zaouia van Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa de stichter van het Huis van Iligh

De Zaouia van Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa de stichter van het Huis van Iligh

Two weeks later we visited Maison d’Iligh. Although contact was made beforehand again nobody was there and again we finally met up with Aisha in Agadir. Bert asked her for proof of the chest. Aisha promised a photograph. Then the problem was revealed: her father had contacted the ministry for culture in Rabat, but they only want to make the documents and books safe for the future if they can stay in the national library. That was a bit too much to ask of the last descendant of the illustrious House of Iligh.

Moussa Aboudmiaah wants his daughter  to put Maison d’Iligh on the international stage. It is his only hope to safeguard the place, treasures and history from oblivion. But Aisha has a busy job and it is not an easy task to honor the wishes of her father and save Iligh. After looking at the sketches I made in Iligh and the Zaouia she asked me to come back and made a book of drawings of Iligh. Preferably soon. However there are no funds.

Moussa Aboudmiaah wil nu dat zijn dochter Maison d’Iligh op de internationale kaart zet in de hoop het voor totaal verval te behoeden. Maar Aisha heeft een drukke baan en het is geen eenvoudige taak het erfgoed te redden. Na het zien van de tekeningen die ik van de burcht en de nabijgelegen Zaouia gemaakt had, vroeg Aisha of ik terug wilde komen om een historische strip  over Iligh te maken. Het liefst zo snel mogelijk. Maar er is natuurlijk geen geld.

historische strip de tranen van Illigh. De typische architectuur van Iligh die aan gebouwen in Mali doet denken

De typische architectuur van Iligh die aan gebouwen in Mali doet denken

In het vliegtuig terug naar Nederland besloten Bert en ik dat een boekje bestaande uit tekeningen niet genoeg was. Bert was al in de geschiedenis van het zeventiende-eeuwse koninkrijk aan de rand van de Sahara gedoken en de heilige Soefi die het gesticht had en had de connectie ontdekt met Michiel de Ruyter en de Sefardische gemeenschap in Nederland. Een besluit was snel gemaakt om van de geschiedenis van Maison d’Iligh inderdaad een historische strip te maken.  Dat is het nieuwe project voor 2017/2018.

historische strip de tranen van Illigh Aisha Aboudmiaah in Agadir

Aisha Aboudmiaah in Agadir

In the plane going back to The Netherlands Bert and I decided that a booklet with drawings of Iligh wouldn’t do. Bert had already researched a bit the history of the small kingdom at the edge of the Sahara  that dates back to the seventeenth century and its Sufi saint founder. She had also discovered the interesting connection Michiel de Ruyter had with the place and a tentative link to the Sephardic community in Holland. It wasn’t difficult to come to the conclusion that only a graphic novel about Iligh and its history would do. 

Reisplannen/Planning a trip to Iligh 2017

Gesprek met/contact with Aisha Aboumdiaa

Reisplannen/travel itinerary Iligh 2017

Route naar/itinerary to Iligh and the Zaouia

Travels to Iligh

106 The Harem and Seraglio

Wednesday July 25th, 2018 10:56 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

According to Fatima Mernissi the Moroccan Muslim feminist there are two distinct kinds of Harems: the Harem where the wives and concubines of one man lived and the Harem were the extended family of a patriarch lived. In ‘Dreams of Trespass, tales from a Harem childhood’ Mernissi as a young girl constantly tries to define the concept of Harem. One definition was: a safe space for women where everything was kept out that was ‘Haram’ or bad. Another definition was that women who according to male perception were cause of all disorder (Fitna) had to be kept hidden away from the world. The most famous, politically savvy and enduring Harem, the one that inspired horny western painters in the nineteenth century like Ingres and Delacroix, was the Harem of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul the Seraglio in the Topkapi Palace. It is said that the Ottomans were for a century or more looking from the other side of the Bosporus jealously at the fabulous city of Constantinople with its visible domes and invisible royal ‘Seraglio’. The women of the Christian Byzantine ‘Seraglio’ were not allowed out at all and if they for some reason had to go out they had to be heavily veiled and accompanied by armed eunuchs. Western writers criticize the 12th century Byzantine biographer Anna Comnena as being terrible vague on locations, dates and battles. They obviously didn’t take into account the fact that she wouldn’t have had the necessary knowledge locked up as she was in the Seraglio of the palace. When Constantinople finally fell into the hands of the Ottomans in 1453 they introduced into their culture two things: Domes and ‘Seraglio’. Read all about it in: The Imperial Harem: women and sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire by Leslie P Pierce. However Harems were already introduced into the Muslim world during the Abbasid Califate (8th to 13th century). The drawing is of the White or Women’s Stronghold, the building that housed the Harem of Iligh.

105 Women and the public space

Wednesday July 25th, 2018 08:55 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

I grew up in the fifties and was an adolescent in the sixties. My idea was that the world was standard ‘normal’ and that I was crazy. Because how was it otherwise possible that my reality did not correspond with how it should be? As a girl/woman I was supposed to have the same access to the ‘world’ as my male counterparts, but in reality that was not true. Public space was one example. Women filled the public space at will but in reality men dictated how women experienced their sojourn there. Men set the rules and behaved accordingly: self-serving. If women didn’t like how men behaved and complained about it, men were quick to tell them it was their fault. While walking her dog my mother was sexually assaulted by a boy of about thirteen. She went to the police. The police laughed at her and said she must have fantasized the incident. She was in the menopause for sure and would have ‘liked’ the attentions of a youth. As I wrote before it was a relief when in the sixties I started to travel in Muslim countries. There the dividing line between male and female space was clear. I didn’t mind to be condemned a perennial trespasser as a western woman in Muslim lands. It was better than unknowingly crossing boundaries that weren’t supposed to be there in the first place. It was only after I had read ‘The Feminine Mystique’ by Betty Friedan in my twenties that I realized that it was not me who was crazy it was the world I had to live in. Fatima Mernissi one of the most important Muslim feminists has made the definition of the boundaries set for women, the ‘Hudud’, and its hysterical enforcement by men the subject of her studies. In ‘Dreams of Trespass, tales of a Harem childhood’ she describes the source of her fascination: growing up in the strict confines of an urban Harem in Morocco.

104 Muslim women strike out

Thursday July 12th, 2018 09:20 PM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

After The Koran, the life of Mohammed and the Hadith I went on to some Muslim philosophers, historians and the like. It was interesting stuff, but it couldn’t hold my interest till I got to the Islamic Feminists. Now that was something to get excited about. I’ve reached adulthood during the second feminist wave in the seventies. The feminism of the white, secular, educated middle classes some people called it and I think it was true. Although it didn’t feel that way when I was living it. This feministic wave petered out after some offending laws were changed and the ‘military industrial complex’ got hold of it, to express it brutally. Feminism became a dirty word once again. However it caught on in unlikely places and in different guises: with women of colour and with religiously inclined women. Ever since Modernism struck the Islamic World there have been women speaking out on misogyny in Islamic society. Among them were Nawal Al Saadawi from Egypt and Fatima Mernissi from Morocco. In the eighties with the hardening attitudes towards Islam and the heightening confusion and identity crisis within the male dominated Islamic World Muslim women also became stirred up. They wanted change but they wanted it on their own terms. They knew as no other that Islam has little to do with modern western thought. That said: they abandoned any notion that western feminism could help them. They felt they needed to go back to the essence of Islam to be able to make the leap forward. In academe they were initially supported by similar movements among Jewish and Christian women. But soon enough they were out on their own as Amina Wadud calls it fighting ‘Inside the Gender Jihad’.

103 Mohammed and women

Thursday July 12th, 2018 10:37 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

In ‘Religion: a discovery in comics’ Dutch graphic artist and theologian Margreet de Heer compares the ‘men’ behind the five biggest world religions for their women friendly reputation. Is it really a surprise Mohammed wins hands down? And him being a ‘child molester’ according to Geert Wilders. Reading about his life and accounts in the Hadith he loved the company of women. His first wife Khadija was not only considerably older than he, she was also his employer and socially and financially superior to him. He could have resented this. Instead he let himself be tutored. They seem to have had a happy marriage. They had six children. Three girls survived to adulthood. Fatima became the best known. When Mohammed started to get revelations, he was afraid and unsure. He didn’t turn to other men for advice but to his wife. She was very supportive and so became the first Muslim. After Khadija’s death and Mohammed’s subsequent move from Mecca to Medina at the request of his mother’s people his life changed completely. There were only a few people who followed him to Medina. Among them were Abu Bakr and his small daughter Aisha. Aisha was the first child born in a Muslim household. It was fitting that she became his new wife and yes: she was only 9 when they married. In Medina he became a statesman and a warrior. His other marriages reflect that. There are many stories in the Hadith about Mohammed and his wives and the women among his companions. They are often rather funny. At least that’s my opinion. Some Muslims might find it blasphemy. In their eyes he is ‘perfect’, but I see him as a man who sometimes is bumbling and tries to get out without scratch. Mohammed also liked to have sex and cared that his women were equally happy and satisfied. And yes, he had also concubines. Mohammed was strictly Hetero and that wasn’t very common at the time. His position on women must have been so strong that it has survived all misogynist interpretations by the men who collected testimonials for the Hadith.

102 The messenger and the message

Wednesday July 11th, 2018 10:58 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

According to the Hadith his wife Aicha testified that Mohammed ‘lived’ the Koran. That made him at the same time a man, a lover and a Prophet. But in his youth in Mecca he was an orphan who became by marriage the foreman of a caravan and after his move to Medina he became a statesman and a warrior out of necessity. These eight ‘roles’ are very important to keep constantly in mind when reading the Koran. He clearly was a man who knew what was going down in the world from hands on experience. One could speculate about why this man at that time and place was the chosen human to channel the Divine message. But reading his life and how he dealt with the challenges the revelations presented it fits. Of course it could have been made to fit by either God or if you are cynical, by subsequent writers, but one way or the other this man acquitted himself of his difficult task. The question is: is it God who forms the words of the revelations or Mohammed? It must be God because Mohammed’s human (fallible, time shackled) brain would not be able to process what is Divine. At the same time the message must have been made superficially understandable for Arabs living in the 7th century and given an eternal quality as it would be the last Divine communication. That should make the message multi layered and extensive. It had to address urgently the wrongs of the moment but it had also to have a lasting validity, guiding humanity on its merry and erratic way through time and forever changing circumstances. This way one had to expect that not everything could be understood equally always and not everybody could be happy with its meaning at all times. A meaning could become clear over time when circumstances demanded it. Anyway to me it seems like a giant jigsaw puzzle: extremely complicated but meant to be solvable… somehow… eventually, Inshallah…

101 Getting acquainted with Mohammed the Messenger of God

Friday June 29th, 2018 03:55 PM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

There are quite a number of books in English that have the life of the Prophet Mohammed as subject. Both Karen Armstrong and Tariq Ramadan have written acclaimed biographies. There is also a book called The People versus Mohammed by J.K. Sheindlin that sets out to prove that the Messenger of God was a dangerous mental case with a germ phobia. I didn’t think that book would be of much help. In the end I choose Muhammed his life from earliest sources by Martin Lings (1909-2005) a British convert to Sufism, Arabist and Keeper of. Oriental Books and Manuscripts at the British Library: another one of those weird and wonderful enthusiasts who colour the western Islamic firmament. Lings’ biography of Mohammed reads as a story from the Thousand and One Nights. But most importantly it gives a comprehensive picture of not only the life and times of the man but also the customs and circumstances of mid first millennium Arabia. The Surah in the Koran may not be chronologically presented. The biography of the Prophet adds enormously to understanding the content. Quite a bit is known about his life from testimonials of his wives, his close companions and other believers. All the stories, sayings and experiences were collected after his death in three books of what is called the Hadith. Still there is some debate if Mohammed was a historical person or not. There seem to be no contemporary accounts of him except those by the believers. Some suggest that he is a made up character to give Divine credence to stories from Mecca and Medina made up by people with the sole purpose to bring the frisky Arabian tribes together under one banner and challenge the Byzantine power. I heard an online talk in which Wilders’ advisor on Islam Hans Jansen made a suggestion to that extent. It sounds a bit as explanations after the fact.

100 What’s going on?

Thursday June 28th, 2018 03:17 PM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

After my breakfast reading of the Koran was completed I was reeling. Although one professes to be open to the unexpected and wants to be surprised one really wants to be confirmed what one always thought one knew. What I had learned from reading the Koran was something I did not expect at all. Okay, I was never negative towards Islam and I didn’t share Geert Wilders’ prediction of ‘our culture’ loosing out against a normative, violent and invasive religion. Had I read a different Koran from the one he (or rather his Koran advisor Hans Jansen) portrayed in his short film ‘Fitna’? Or had poor N.J. Dawood the Jewish Arabist from Bagdad been so enamoured with ‘his’ Koran that his willingness ‘to increase the understanding and pleasure for the uninitiated’ had won it over a straightforward translation? Had I been blinded by my ‘Lesbian Feminist’ viewpoint, my historical interpretation and my intra-textual endeavours? I had expected writings that would confirm what I had seen everywhere in the Islamic world. I had taken for granted that the Koran would be a Divine acknowledgement of male superiority over women and allocate a subservient role to women in all things starting with religion. After careful reconsideration I came to the conclusion that I had been too fanciful in reading the text. I should have done less ‘reading’ between the lines and setting it in a historical context. Some subconscious sympathy for the vilified religion had coloured my judgement, I was sure. I resorted to Wikipedia again and found that there were extensive writings about the man through whom the Koran had been channelled: the Prophet Mohammed. I set myself to find out more about the man Geert Wilders characterizes as a child-molester and a pig.

99 The emancipation of women

Thursday June 28th, 2018 02:54 PM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

The biggest surprise I got from my reading of the Koran at the breakfast table was how emancipatory and revolutionary the text is. Early in my reading I discovered that I could not read the text as a monolithic timeless structure. I constantly had 7th century Middle Eastern society in my head with Christian Byzantium as main trendsetter together with Coptic Egypt coloured by Hellenism and African Christian Ethiopia who were surrounding hungrily frisky heathen Arab tribes. I saw the riches of Syria and the decadence of Byzantine overlords. Reading the Koran text I also got a vivid picture of how the 7th century Arab tribes treated their women worse than their beloved camels. How they buried infant girls alive if there wasn’t enough food to go around or if they deemed there were too many of them. How orphans were robbed of their dead father’s property. How males preferred each other to females whom they abused and neglected. How group rape of innocent travellers was their idea of hospitality. How mercy, compassion and solidarity with the unfortunates wasn’t on the agenda. How greed, violence and exploitation reigned. Through The Act Of Recitation, Allah urged any man who would listen to change their ways and become decent, God fearing and considerate. Men were in particular urged to do good by women, girls and orphans. Allah let it be known through his Messenger Mohammed that women were equal to men in everything except in child making and rearing. In the historical setting of 7th century Arabia this was so revolutionary it was neigh impossible to demand. The obvious strategy for immediate change was taking one privilege or custom from men and granting them another lesser damaging thing. That’s why the Koran is directed equally to men and women in all things spiritual, ‘intellectual’ and communal while talking to men solely when it is about daily life, the treatment of others and acceptable behaviour. Or so I understood as a female and Lesbian reader.

98 A book of admonitions

Thursday June 28th, 2018 02:35 PM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

Dawood’s translation of the Koran is 430 pages of densely written text. That promises a lot of content. But a hefty portion of the text is repetitive admonitions; something that had put me off the very first time I opened its pages 45 years before. Passages abound like this one: ‘Allah knows those who are truthful and those who are lying. Or do the evil-doers think that they will escape Our punishment? How ill they judge!’ Still all the warnings didn’t make for an aggressive tone, because in the same breath the do-gooders are assured of the rewards that await them. One could say that Allah was a ‘Mad man’ avant la lettre. He used near endless repetition to sell his product. The admonitions are the commercials in a TV program: ten minutes of every hour broadcasting. In seventh century Arabia it helped the Koran ‘reciters’ to let the audience reflect on what they heard ‘between commercials’ and in the meantime be subconsciously influenced by the repetitive ad-monitions. One could call it also ‘the chorus’. The whole Koran is one long warning: don’t do this, but do that. And what was one supposed to do to please Allah? The Koran was the last rescue operation of Allah for hopelessly erring humankind. Through the Koran the God of Abraham gives us earthlings a definitive guidance and directive. In the seventh century peoples ‘of the Book’ and Arab tribes had replaced the worship of the one God in favour of a pantheon of tribal gods, saints and holy rabbis. The main aim of the Koran was to get people to do away with idolatry and bow once again for the God of Abraham. That was the first easily understood meaning I got from my daily reading.

97 On reading the Koran

Thursday June 28th, 2018 02:29 PM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

Of course when I started reading the Koran to get at its meaning I hadn’t realized what I let myself in for. There is a giant body of work written over the ages and is still being written trying to understand the meaning of the revelations. Who was I to ‘do’ it over breakfast 10 pages a day and ‘get’ it? Maybe it was a good thing that I was a total innocent. I set out with the brightly positive attitude that I would take God and his Messenger for granted. However I had forgotten to set aside my other biases. I tend to look at everything from a woman’s and a Lesbian’s point of view and I was aware that I could run into all kinds of terrible things written about women and LGTBs. In my own experience Islamic society was very male oriented and patriarchal. I braced myself for the onslaught. The only way to read a book like the Koran without prior knowledge or feedback and as only guidance the footnotes in the translation is to listen to the tone. What does the tone say? Is it aggressive or forgiving? According to the accusations of Wilders Islam is an extremely violent and unforgiving religion. He likes to refer to reports about stonings and beheadings of women accused of adultery and self-proclaimed atheists coming from Sharia ruled countries like Saudi Arabia and Sudan and warns that it’s coming ‘our’ way. I open the Koran and see that every Surah opens with the proclamation: ‘In the name of Allah the Compassioned and Merciful’. How so?

Tekenend door Marokko

Marokko| Morocco

© Peti Buchel