Nederlanders in Illigh / Dutch people in Illigh

Illigh was ooit een onafhankelijk staatje in het zuiden van Marokko, een centrum van trans Sahara handel en het werd geregeerd door de afstammelingen van een Soefi heilige. Nu is het niet meer dan een stoffig dorp met niet meer dan een paar honderd inwoners. Een idee voor een historische strip over Illigh werd uiteindelijk een strip over de Nederlanders die contacten hadden met de lokale heersers. Maar er is nog zoveel ongebruikt materiaal over dat er nog van alles aan toegevoegd kan worden.

Once upon a time Illigh was a tiny independent state in the south of Morocco, a center of trans Saharan trade and it was ruled by the descendants of a Sufi saint. Now it is not more than a dusty village of a couple of hundred inhabitants. An idea for a historical graphic novel about Illigh became eventually a graphic article. It is about the Dutch who had contacts with the local rulers. But there is so much material still that it can become anything . 

Hoe kwam ik in de eerste plaats in Illigh terecht? Ik reisde met Bert Hogervorst van het Vliegende Nijlpaard en Heleen Toet vanuit Marrakech naar het zuiden. Bert bracht ons naar een architectonisch interessante plek waar ze al eens eerder was geweest. Het lag in de buurt van Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa een pelgrimsoord. Eenmaal daar bleek het ontoegankelijk en het complex van lemen kastelen leek uitgestorven. Uiteindelijk na speurwerk van Bert ontmoetten we Aisha Aboudmiaa dochter van de eigenaar van de burcht van Iligh in Agadir.

How did I come in Illigh in the first place? In the fall of 2016 I was traveling with Bert Hogervorst of The Flying Hippo and heleen toet from Marrakesh to the south of Morocco. Bert knew an architectural interesting location she had visited before. It was situated close to Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa popular with pilgrims. When there it proved to be inaccessible and the complex of castles made of loam seemed deserted. Eventually after some detective work by Bert we met Aisha Aboudmiaa the daughter of the lord of the castle Illigh.

The Museum of Iligh. Boxes and walls full of documents./Het Museum van Iligh: kisten en wanden vol documenten

Aisha vertelde ons 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. Ze vertelde ook dat haar vader een klein museum in de burcht had ingericht en vroeg ons de plek op de internationale kaart te zetten. Na over manuscripten en boeken gehoord te hebben, was Bert verkocht. Ik dacht aan een historische strip.

Aisha told us about a chest with 1500 old and very old documents in Arabic and Hebrew and also about a library of 3000 books. All this was going to dust in the ancestral home. She also said that her father had made a museum in the castle. Aisha asked if we could put the place on the international map. After hearing about books and documents Bert was hooked. I had an idea for a historical graphic novel.

Eenmaal terug in Amsterdam ging Bert alles over Illigh uitzoeken. Najaar 2017 ging ik met Bert voor een uitgebreid bezoek aan Illigh. We werden allerhartelijkst door de familie Aboudmiaa ontvangen. We kregen vrij toegang tot de burcht. Ik maakte ontzettend veel tekeningen overal vergezeld en bijgestaan door Moulay Imam Aboudmiaa, de vader van Aisha. Bert en de moeder van Aisha ontdekten een gemeenschappelijke voorliefde voor oude Egyptische films en soaps. Maar ons bekroop steeds meer het gevoel dat het belangrijkste voor ons verborgen bleek. Maar wat was dat? We vertrokken uiteindelijk met meer vragen dan antwoorden.

In het hof Van links naar rechts: Peti tekenend, Bert studerend, een dorpsvrouw en Moulay Imam Aboudmiaa/ In the court from Left to right: Peti sketching, bert studying, a passer-by and Moulay Imam Aboudmis

Back in Amsterdam Bert took to the Internet to find out everything about Illigh. A year later we went back to Illigh. The Aboudmiaa family’s hospitality was unsurpassed. We got free access to the whole complex. I made lots of sketches aided and abetted by Aicha’s father Moulay Imam Aboudmiaa. Bert and Aisha’s mother discovered a shared love for old Egyptian movies and soaps. But after a while doubt started to creep in. It seemed that the most important thing was held from us. But what would that be? In the end we were left with more questions than answers.

Om interesse te wekken voor Illigh organiseerde Bert een presentatie van Aicha aan Marokko deskundigen in de universiteit van Leiden. Het bleek dat er veel belangstelling in Illigh was. Het draaide allemaal rond twee historische personen: Michiel de Ruyter en Paul Pascon. De laatste had begin tachtiger jaar onderzoek gedaan in Illigh. Twee van de deskundigen Paolo De Mas en Herman van der Wüsten hadden daar aan mee gedaan. De andere deskundigen waren Harry Stroomer, expert in Tashelit de taal die in Illigh en omgeving gesproken wordt en Herman Obdeijn voormalig diplomaat die met Paolo De Mas een Nederlandstalige geschiedenis van Marokko had geschreven.

To get people interested in Illigh Bert invited Aicha to Leyden to give a presentation to experts on Morocco at the university. It turned out there was a lot of interest in Illigh. It all centered around two historical personalities Michiel de Ruyter and Paul Pascon. two of the attending experts had worked with the latter: Paolo De Mas and Herman van der Wüsten. Other experts were Harry Stroomer specialist in Tashelit the language spoken in Illigh and environs and Herman Obdeijn a former diplomat and author with paolo De Mas of  a Dutch language history of Morocco.

De volgende stap van Bert was het organiseren van een congres over Illigh in Illigh. Dat vond plaats in het voorjaar van 2018. Hier waren, behalve Marokkaanse deskundigen ook een delegatie van het Nederlands Marokko Instituut en Paul Dahan van het Joods Museum in Brussel waar ze een hele grote collectie over de geschiedenis van de Joodse gemeenschap in Marokko hebben. Helaas leverde het niet op waar Bert op gehoopt had: het openen van het archief van boeken en documenten voor inventarisatie en borging. Ondanks dat hij het eigenlijk wel wilde, stond Moulay Imam er uiteindelijk niet open voor.

Moulay Imam Aboudmiaa talking to people of the NIMAR (Dutch Institute in Morocco)/ Moulay Aboudmiaa in gesprek met mensen van het NIMAR (Nederlands Instituut in Marokko)

Bert’s next step was to organize a congress about Illigh in Illigh. That happened in the spring of 2018. Attending were apart from Moroccan experts also people from the Dutch Moroccan institute in Rabat and Paul dahan of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. There they have a large collection about the history of the Jewish community in Morocco. Sadly the congress did not result in what bert had expected: the opening up the stash of  documents and books for classification and rescue. Although that was what Moulay Imam really wanted, in the end he declined.

Travels to Iligh

114 Writing the Graphic Travelogue

Friday August 9th, 2019 10:52 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

It is a bit as the dilemma about the chicken or the egg: which came first. I made the story Destination Iligh out of sketches without text. Now that Bert is back in Amsterdam for a while, it is all about text. She liked the story, but the outline for the text doesn't quite follow the ramblings of the sketches. It also has to do with the material and the sources. There is little sketch material about some subjects where there is an abundance of text sources. How to balance sketches and text, that is the question. Nothing comes easily. In the sketch: the first meeting between Bert and me and the Imam and Fatima Aboudmiaa. Love for Egyptian Movies and Soaps was the common denominator that opened the door for friendship.

113 Sketches galore

Monday August 5th, 2019 08:45 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

The original Graphic Travelogue called 'Destination Iligh' was only 4 pages. It was supposed to go into a 'Cahier' Bert was making about Iligh with contributions of different experts. Bert and I were going to do 'something' together. She was doing the text, me the drawings. The 'something' had come to nothing yet. We both were busy with other things. i had given it some thought though and when I needed to 'play' as part of recovery I thought this was a good place to start. It turned out, I had given it already so much thought that it didn't take much time to fill up 4 pages with sketches. Each page of basic A4 size was forming one chapter. There were 4 distinct chapters: View of Iligh from 4 sides, The court, Imam and the Museum and Foreign (in particular Dutch) Interest in Iligh. That done I was eager to continue. Bert was away on the Orkneys. The text had to wait. I decided to add 4 more pages. Highlighting the itinerary to Iligh and Michiel de Ruyter's expeditions to Iligh. That made 8 pages. I discovered that keeping the strickt regime of one page one chapter, I could endlesly extent the story line of the Graphic Travelogue adding pages on ways to travel, slaves, the environs of Iligh, the family Aboudmiaa and flora and fauna. This sketch depicts the wondrous landscape on the mountains between the Rout N ! and Iligh.

112 Starting a Graphic Travelogue

Monday August 5th, 2019 08:03 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

As I will be recovering from surgery for some months and as I need daily care, I'm stuck in Amsterdam and won't get around much, let alone go anywhere soon. This state of affairs I've been anticipating for some years now. That is why I was doing so much traveling and so much sketching. In 1993 we (a group women of which I was one) organized a week long conference on 'a gay old day' (een vrolijke oude dag). One of the organizers worked a lot with the 'Intranet'. At the time it was a cyber network of universities. The World Wide Web wasn't really up and working yet. But we sensed it wasn't far away either. We asked Marleen Stikker who was setting up an email network provider (dds) for the city of Amsterdam to give a talk about the future importance of computer networks when being old and possibly infirm. Well, it all became reality. Being infirm and older for me means I can play. I have hundreds of sketches, I have Photoshop, my own font and I have the time. I'm playing now with the sketches I have made in the last 6 years in Southern Morocco and in Iligh in particular. Of course the graphic story about Iligh is still 'in progress' if not exactly 'having come to a grinding halt'. Doesn't matter: I have now the time to compose a 'Graphic Travelogue'. This sketch of 'Goats in an Argan Tree' is composed of two different drawings.

111 Jeanine Pascon

Sunday August 4th, 2019 02:50 PM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

A number of years ago I received computer files of a number of old snap shots taken when Paul Pascon, Paolo De Mas and the others were doing research in Iligh. One of the pictures was taken during the wedding of Hamdi Aboudmiaa. Dominique Verdugo who at the time was making a map of the White or Women's Castle had written in Hamdi's name into two little rooms. One of the people in the snap shot is Jeanine Pascon, the wife of Paul. Apparently she had come to Iligh for the wedding. She is looking straight at the camera, while her husband is being nice to young Hamdi. I'm glad I could make a good drawing of the photo. Shortly after this picture was taken Jeanine's life took a dramatic turn. First her two sons disappeared during a camping trip. They were never found: probably kidnapped and murdered. In 1985 her husband was killed in a road accident when the landrover in which he was traveling turned over when caught on a sand dune. Paul and his closest associate were sitting in the back and were killed. The other occupants of the car survived.

110 Gevaarlijke kusten

Saturday August 3rd, 2019 05:22 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

It was dangerous sailing down the Moroccan coast. Not only was there the threat of pirates' ships, but also of the local currents and Atlantic storms. There are 17th and 18th century illustrations of ships that run aground on the rocks and sandbanks that litter the coast. While the ship's crew tries to safe their lives in the surf, the local populations has gathered on the shore to take them prisoners. Nowadays one can enjoy a meal of freshly caught fish on the beach of Tifnit while the fishermen are fishing off the rocks that protect the beach from the onslaught of the Atlantic.

109 Back in the Muzeeum in Vlissingen

Thursday August 1st, 2019 06:57 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

After much ado and thanks to the interference of Bert I finally got word that I could come and sketch the model of Michiel de Ruyters ship the Salamander in the Muzeeum in Vlissingen. The Salamander was the ship on which De Ruyter made his profitable voyages to Morocco. The model was taken out of storage and placed on the table in a meeting room. Bert and I were welcomed by Pol Verbeeck one of the curators of the museum. He explained that several models of the ship had been made over the years. They were all made by retired ship builders from the nearby wharfs who modeled the Salamander after descriptions given by De Ruyter in his Diary. The model in the Muzeeum wasn't older than 60 years. While I was sketching Bert had a conversation with Verbeeck about a young man from Eindhoven who had written a book about the 10 years that De Ruyter sailed on the Salamander. Verbeeck did rather scathing about the scientific content of the book. Apparently there was a lot of speculation but he had extensively written about Iligh. Bert's curiosity was peaked. During the lunch break we went to the local bookshop only to find that the book was not only sold out but also out of print. Later Bert had mail contact with the writer, but when she found out he hadn't even visited Iligh, she lost interest.

108 17de eeuwse handelsbetrekkingen

Wednesday July 31st, 2019 07:34 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

When Michiel de Ruyter went to Iligh in the 17th Century he traded in hats. What the lord of Iligh really wanted of course were weapons and lots of it. But the Staten Generaal, the parliament of the Dutch Republic had ordered that there would be no weapons sold to the Sultan of Morocco for fear he would turn them on the Dutch. But Ali Aboudmiaa presented himself as an independent ruler who had nothing to do with the Sultan. That was the arrogance that would cost his offspring and Iligh dearly later on. For De Ruyter Aboudmiaa's word was enough. The hats provided excellent cover for the more profitable canons and muskets. On the other hand hats and other head coverings like helmets only showed the importance of the wearer if decked out with exotic oistrich feathers and that was something Ali Aboudmiaa had plenty of.

107 Destination Iligh

Monday July 29th, 2019 10:55 AM
noreply@blogger.com (Peti Buchel)

A lot has happened in the past year in regards to the continuing story of Iligh, but nothing found its way to the blog. At the moment I'm recovering from major surgery. I'm not making sketches yet, but I did feel like 'playing' with drawings I made for, in and around Iligh. A small booklet in the making: 'Bestemming Iligh', Destination Iligh. Here the cover illustration.

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.



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© Peti Buchel