"TRANS-SAHARAN SLAVERY AND GNAWA GUINBRI: FROM CONCEALMENT TO EXHIBITION"
Cynthia Becker, Boston University
Part of the Silsila Fall 2020 Lecture Series, Islam in Africa: Material Histories
This paper uses the Gnawa guinbri to discuss the history of the trans-Saharan slavery in Morocco. As a musical instrument manufactured and played by the descendants of enslaved people, the guinbri has taken on multiple meanings over the years, revealing how Morocco's relationship with the African continent has changed over time. The guinbri was previously hidden by musicians who used it to invoke spirits into possession, a practice considered taboo by many. Today, the guinbri has moved out of the shadows and has become an icon that links Morocco to the African continent due to its very connection to alterity.
Cynthia Becker is Associate Professor in the History of Art & Architecture Department at Boston University. She is author of Amazigh Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity (2006) and Blackness in Morocco: Gnawa Identity through Music and Visual Culture (forthcoming, 2020). Her work appears in many journals and edited volumes, including Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa.