“The Magic Carpet” is a new work produced by Borderline Theatre Company- a new mobile, transnational theatre collective.
We develop new works based on classic stories, myths, legends and oral traditions, and center them around contemporary border conflicts. For example, Orpheus and Eurydice in the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, the story of the "Sarajevo Rose" in Bosnia, Persephone in Israel/ Palestine, and the Odyssey in Havana. We’re currently devising the story of Romeo and Juliet set along the militarized border between Morocco and Algeria, and told from the perspective of their daughter as she discovers their story. It's called THE MAGIC CARPET, and it unfolds as she discovers the weavings her mother and father made to communicate from either side of the border.
Our aim is to produce a high quality piece of theatre that showcases the unique elements of these cultures to a Chicago audience, and that raises awareness of the geopolitical realities of peoples sequestered by historically arbitrary borders, through an easily accessible storytelling technique.
We are currently fundraising for THE MAGIC CARPET through a partnership hosted by the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Joyce Foundation, and Chicago's 3Arts initiative. Donations up to our current goal of $5000 are matched by 3Arts through the Joyce Foundation, and our earlier trip to Morocco was funded by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. To see more information, and watch avideo outlining the project, see here: http://3arts.org/projects/magic-carpet-story-music/
When bombs exploded in Marrakech, in April 1994, the Kingdom of Morocco closed the border with neighboring Algeria. The long-standing issue of the Western Sahara territories, a conflict that dates back to the Spanish decolonization project of the 1970s, and Algeria’s alleged support of the “Polisario Independence Movement” culminated in the rapid militarization of the Moroccan- Algerian border. The border town of Oujda, the economic hub of north-east Morocco, went from a well-to-do border town where Algerians came to purchase goods not available at home to a notorious smugglers' den of cheap smuggled gasoline, human trafficking, and cut-rate Algerian cigarettes.
Her parents, Zineb and Abdelqadr, had just met at a wedding in Oujda when they heard the news of the Marrakech bombing, and the Algerians rushed back across border. Fearing for their lives, the newfound lovers resort to an age-old method of communication, rug weaving. Abdelqadr enlists the help of his younger sister, Khadija, to painstakingly interpret Zineb’s messages and learns to weave his responses. They agree to meet secretly one night, under the cloak of darkness in a small strip of no-mans-land along the 900-mile border. Abdelqadr, upon learning of Yasmine’s imminent birth, contacts a trafficker in hopes of making it to the other side in time to ask for Zineb’s hand. Khadija refuses to let him go by himself. When the trip goes awry, Khadija and Abdelqadr are separated. Zineb, anxiously awaiting her betrothed’s arrival encounters her future sister-in-law instead, carpet in hand. Night after night they wait for Abdelqadr to arrive, but he does not. Zineb swears not to finish the rug until she knows her lover’s fate.
When Zineb dies in childbirth, Khadija is left to raise the young Yasmine. When Yasmine comes of age and confronts Khadija with her desire cross the border, Khadija knows that it’s time for Yasmine to finish the weaving. As she teaches this impatient, cycling-crazed, youth her craft, she relates this story. The carpet Yasmine weaves is a magic one, to be sure, but not because it flies. Its beauty is in its strange mix of Algerian colors and Moroccan patterns, and its magic is in the story it tells. In a diplomatic coup, the governments agree to open the border for a few short hours and the rug makes one final journey across the border- not flying, but strapped to a bicycle.
Thanks to the generous support of the DCASE IAP grant, the creative team was able to take a research trip to the Morocco-Algeria border. After spending several weeks driving from the southeast corner of Morocco–Figuig–to the northeast beach town of Saidia–a Moroccan town separate from Algeria military police atop a lifeguard stand and a rope in the sand–and working with residents of these communities to ascertain how life changed since the closure of the border, we are now deep in the writing process. In conjunction with the piece, I have been writing pieces and creating video for muftah.org and Signs of Seeing to share the physical and political realities of residents of these border regions. Over the course of December, January, and February, I will finalize the working draft of our text, in addition to continuing this supplemental work.
!With the generous support of the 3AP program, I hope to produce a staged reading of this piece in May. Following the reading, and the script workshop process that would accompany it, I plan to return to Morocco in June to conduct a complimentary workshop of the piece in Oujda, the largest Moroccan city on the Algerian border. I feel this step to be integral in creating a piece avoids simple cultural appropriation, and encourages genuine cyclical cultural exchange. Thanks to these opportunities, our goal is to fully produce the piece by the end of 2014.