Sara Mouhi is a 24-year-old teacher-trainee at the American Language Center and a graduate of the English program at Cadi Ayyad University. Her students say that she can teach vocabulary without words by relying upon her expressive gesticulation.
Cafe Clock: What does it mean to you to be among the first female storytellers in Moroccan history?
Sara: Maybe this is how the women taxi drivers feel.
Cafe Clock: Is it hard to translate the humor of Moroccan stories to the English language?
Sara: If I’m telling an American joke to Americans they will laugh, but if I translate that joke to tell it to Moroccans, they won’t laugh. It’s the same if I tell a Moroccan joke to Americans—sometimes humor doesn’t translate. Language is so important to humor—if the words you chose aren’t funny, it doesn’t matter whether the person is funny or not. The other storytellers and I are working hard to find the right way to tell our stories so that English-speakers will find them funny.
Cafe Clock: Can you explain the way the stories impact you?
Sara: The stories are really effective in teaching morals. When I think about the moral to a particular story, I get flashbacks to my life and the experiences related to the moral. I remember a person who envied me who had problems because of his envy and realize it’s like the character in the story who falls in a trap because of his envy.
Cafe Clock: What’s your goal as a storyteller?
Sara: What’s really nice about the stories is that they make you go back in time. The storyteller creates a virtual world. While you listen to the story you get transported to another world. I want the audience to feel as though they’re a part of the experience.
Cafe Clock: What made you want to join the storytelling program?
Malika: I wanted to improve my English and learn the old Moroccan stories.
Cafe Clock: Why are you interested in learning these stories?
Malika: The stories are so interesting! When I hear them I feel like watching a movie. The best part is that I’m able to improve my English by translating the stories. It’s a wonderful mental challenge to translate the stories. The stories help you to be wise by giving examples of other people’s experience. I don’t want to make the mistakes that the people in the stories make. I will be more careful about what I do.
Cafe Clock: What is it like to work with Haj [our master storyteller]?
Malika: It’s so much fun. The way he tells the stories makes me feel as though he’s my grandfather or someone like that. I feel like I’m with my family when I’m working with the team. It puts me in a good mood. Haj tells us really interesting Moroccan stories. Normally, you have to pay to learn to listen to the stories. And, he lets us take notes—normally you couldn’t do that at the Halqa circle. He tells us secrets about human nature. The stories show us how society thinks about women. He tells us how men think about women and how they used to marry many women, but didn’t value them. The stories give us lessons indirectly.
Cafe Clock: Is there a difference between the way that men and women tell these stories?
Oussama: I think it’s the same as when men tell the stories. There’s no difference. It’s the same skills and the same way of telling stories. Maybe we can find women who are better at telling the stories than men, but this is the first time that women have the opportunity to learn the stories.
Cafe Clock: Do you have memories of listening to the storytellers in Jema el-Fna’a?
Oussama: I didn’t go to Jema el-Fna’a square to listen to the storytellers because I’m not the kind of person with the patience to stand and listen. It’s the first time for me to hear most of the stories. But, my mom and aunt told me that when I was six years old I would invent my own stories. They say that I was a good storyteller. But, now my imagination isn’t the same… maybe education limits education.
Cafe Clock: Do you think you experience the stories differently than someone who heard them as a child?
Oussama: The stories are interesting. But, still I’m not a patient person. I can’t wait for a person to tell me a story–I prefer the effect of movies. The first time I tell a story, I expect that the audience might get bored like I do, which is why I’m working really hard to develop my technique for engaging and entertaining the audience.