Street Art out of Time

The Cultural Moussem of Asilah and other Entanglements of Public Space, Arts, and Politics

Keywords: Morocco, Asilah, arts festival, cultural moussem, street art


The small town of Asilah in the north of Morocco holds an annual international festival of visual and performance arts, including exhibitions, workshops, conferences, and other parallel activities. However, it is best known for the murals that are painted every year anew by invited artists on the facades of old town houses. Founded in 1978, the Arts Festival or Cultural Moussem of Asilah qualifies as the first street art festival in Morocco and has significantly shaped the cultural context for arts to interact with public spaces. It has, in particular, linked street art manifestations to ideas of cultural dialogue and south-south alliances as well as to urban regeneration and social development. At the same time, the Festival has been criticized for using the integrative concept of the moussem, a traditional communal festivity, for cultural marketing and for connecting arts and culture to the power of the monarchy. By focusing on political, aesthetic, and urban aspects of the institutionalization of the Asilah Festival, this article draws a genealogical perspective on entanglements of art, public culture, and urban politics in Morocco. It thereby analyzes the cultural context in which street art finds its place, meaning, and critical potential today.

Author Biography

Sarah Dornhof, Humboldt University Berlin

Sarah Dornhof is a junior researcher at the Humboldt University of Berlin. She received her PhD in cultural studies & anthropology and works at the intersections of memory studies, contemporary art, gender, and postcolonial theory. Her current research examines relationships between art and memory practices in Morocco. Among her publications are Alternierende Blicke auf Islam und Europa: Verletzung als Rationalität visueller Politik (Fink 2016). She co-edited Contested Urban Spaces: Monuments, Traces, and Decentered Memories (Palgrave 2022); F(r)ictions of Art (Paragrana 25/2, De Gruyter 2016); Situating Global Art. Topologies – Temporalities – Trajectories (Transcript Publishing 2017); and Islam and the Politics of Culture in Europe. Memory, Aesthetics, Art (Transcript Publishing 2013).

How to Cite
Dornhof, S. (2022). Street Art out of Time: The Cultural Moussem of Asilah and other Entanglements of Public Space, Arts, and Politics. Manazir Journal, 4, 74–97.