The Atlas-Workshops of Agdz, Morocco: A model region for the scientific-cultural dialogue

The Faculté des Sciences et Techniques (FST) at the University Moulay Ismail, Meknès and the Faculty Polydisciplinaire de Ouarzazate (FPO) at the University Ibn Zohr, Agadir in Morocco together with the ITT and the Centre for Contemporary Dance (Zentrum für Zeitgenössischen Tanz – ZZT) at the University for Music and Dance Cologne bring in their expertise and networks to establish a scientific-cultural dialogue based on a scientific and artistic exchange. The four universities cover a broad spectrum of activities to address challenges related to the relevance of traditional land use practices and tangible and intangible cultural heritage in times of global change and transformation.

The model region of Agdz – a town located in the South Moroccan region of Souss-Massa-Draâ – was a main historical crossroad for the caravan routes from Marrakesh to Timbuktu and an important meeting point of different cultures. This is documented by the impressive loam (adobe) architecture and the 3,000 year old Ahwash ritual of the Berber tribes. Agdz is seen as a natural laboratory, where Moroccan and German scientist, artist and students work together on questions related to sustainable rural development and cultural identity. Against the background of rural exodus, ageing society, loss of cultural heritage, and inefficient use of natural resources, the region is facing tremendous challenges. In September 2016, a student group from ITT and ZZT visited the region in the frame of a joint student project. Based on the concept of inquiry-based learning, the students work on four main topics: (a) Art and Communication, (b) Natural Resources and Development; (c) Tangible Cultural Heritage, and (d) Society and intercultural Dialogue. The project is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Auswärtiges Amt) in the programme: ‘University Dialogue with the Islamic World’ and executed by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Project head is Dr. Udo Nehren, project coordinator Dr. Claudia Raedig. Prof. Vera Sander and Holger Mertin are the artistic-scientific directors of the ZZT.