A program developed by CeRCCa and Marsad Drâa through Platform HARAKAT and Project QAFILA in the frame of KIBRIT

‘The impossibility of perception is a perception in itself’
Ibn Arabi, The Secrets of Voyaging / Kitab Al-Isfar 'an Nata 'Ij Al-Asfar

Beyond Qafila Thania brought together researchers from Sudan, Morocco, Spain, Catalonia, Italy and the Netherlands researching in architecture, sociology and the visual arts actively approaching the cultural, social and geopolitical space of the Sahara desert to trace back the stories of the old caravans and learn about its influence in current day cultures and societies.

Beyond Qafila Thania facilitated an inspiring frame to exchange and research further on the participants on going projects focusing on topics such as contemporary nomad cultures and architectures, current immigration routes, history of slave trade, the concept of blackness and trans-Saharan book trade and the mobility of knowledge(s) within the Mediterranean, the Maghreb and West Africa.

Through its development, Beyond Qafila Thania has dis-centered artistic production as well as research methodologies normally located in the realm of contemporary art into a space of in-betweenness, away from conceptual and methodological comfort zones. This characteristic of 'Beyond Qafila Thania', which was framed by a phenomenological approach to knowledge production and had as focus activity the practice of walking, became in itself a catalyst for new ways to look at our surroundings and at ourselves. Indeed 'Beyond Qafila Thania' brought us to the lands of precarity and exhaustion. Physically, the desert showed us its traces, its shadows and its remains as the tools from where to start understanding that these subtle signs are the bases of its nature. Conceptually these peripheries, fragments and remains became also alternative forms of knowing.

Beyond Qafila Thania has been a collaboration between CeRCCa and the Moroccan organizations Marsad Drâa/Project QAFILA and Le18 and was funded by SouthMed CV, a programme cofunded by the European Union within the framework of the regional programme MedCulture, the SGSAH and the Departament de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

Beyond Qafila Thania has developed through different stages:

From February 2017 : ARCHIVE

Research and archiving of texts, films, sound recordings and other material related to the investigations on the Sahara. One of the several achievments of this transdisciplinary shared archive has been the creation of a Trans-saharan trade routes cartography.


Research trip with focus visits, collaborative readings and expert tours to different oases, kasbahs and ksours in the Draa Valley. During the research trip Beyond Qafila Thania team was joined by the following artists and curators: Olì Bonzanigo (Italy), Laila Hida (Morocco), Francesca Masoero (Italy) and Leire Vergara (Spain) as part of the collaboration between Beyond Qafila Thania and Qanat (see page…) . The trip focused on researches on the Draa Valley crossing different investigations dealing with water politics, praxis and poiesis and caravan routes, critically exploring issues connected to slave trade, draawa social contracts, the valley political ecology, indigenous and Islamic epistemologies, colonial legacies and black radicalism, among many others.

1st stop: Tamnougalt

Surrealist ethnography / Africa phantom / Haratani - free again-slave-son / dir’e / orientalism-exoticism / Qanat / #halaqahreadings1: 'Exploring halaqah as a research method' (new epistemologies - holism - essencialization - Islam) / watermelon protests / silence

2nd stop: Tinzouline

Zawiyas / Marabout / Ketara / Alawit expansion (Mauritania-Mali) / #halaqahreadings2: 'Black Marxism' ortodox Anglo-american scholarship - Who Is Africa? – Hegel 'At this point we leave Africa not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the world. It has no movement or development to exhibit' Hegel in 'The Philosophy of History' 1784 / 1912 - 1955 / from Tribes to Kingdom / Caid Arabí / Taahir / Liberation Army and Caids in Ouarzazat / Haratin / 4x4

3rd stop: Tamgroute

Kingdom of the Jews / 1573 / #halaqareadings3 / Elm - Sikr / Non autoritative-open to diversity-organic / Morabitin / Zawiya / scholarly tribes / Sufi lodges


4th Stop: M'Hamid / Festival Taragalte

Zawiya Tamgrut / Ibn Arabi (from Him, towards Him, within Him) / Atīh / Caravane Culturelle pour la Pax / M'Hamid-Segou-Toumburktu / New Institutions for Mediation / Colonial Borders / Amin Maalouf / Tuaregs-Amazigh-Sahrawis / Laetitia Chantrait / Jung / Moktar / Barzakh / Oli


A crucial part of Beyond Qafila Thania was the nomadic Residency. Lasting 10 days and walking the 200Km from M’hamid to Tisint in the southern Moroccan Sahara region the residency participnats traversed the paths traced by the old trans-Saharan trade caravans with overnight stopovers in several Zawiyas, Tikeyas, Kasbahs and Ksours.

Beyond Qafila Thania team walk through the lands of scarcity, abundance and exhaustion. Physically, the desert showed us its traces, its shadows and its remains as the tools from where to start understanding that these subtle signs are the bases of its nature. Conceptually these peripheries, these fragments, became also alternative forms of knowing.

From M'Hamid to Tisnit = 200km 10 days walking AIR caravan Talha as square / hadithe adakik / Caín+Abel = crow / exhaustion / Sidi Najy theological school / Who do you belong to? / Arksmer = slave souq / Etayeb Sadiki = Halaqah = Jmad / Iriqui dry lake / Alive within / AIRs with no location-institution / Othernes-Identity / traces-shadows-bones / Exhaustion/ Snake (disruption) Camel (resistance) Goat (sacrifice) / Zawiya-Mussem-Hajj / Visible-Invisible / Exhuberance/ Collaborative Nomadism from the margins / Marroc util-inutil / Mohamed-Said-Abou-Sheik / 1978 / Charles de Foucault / Autonomy / Té Electricité / Tisint

Diaries excerpts:


Untaken images

Day 2
Sidi Nagi’s shrine. It was laying on the far left of the long extended grave like an old snake that sits and dwells in his place.
A woman-shaped tree trunk, the limbs were painted in a color of green mixed with black magic spells, shaped like hooves.
In front of it, a piece of red velvet cloth seemed like it belonged to a woman, and remains of tobacco mixed with hash lay on a ceramic tray.

Day 3
Started to feel a lump on my right leg, I thought it was because of the long walks we had to take, he was following us above the dunes, no one noticed him but me, he walked with the same limp. He seemed like a slave that used to serve at the slaves cravens.
He looked at me with his cataract eyes, like he wanted to say something. Desperation and age appeared on his face; saw him again near the slave market in Aka.


I walk, I rewalk, Surveying this territory, that I had never explored before, I expected to live in a secondary state, at best a melancholic one. Nonetheless, my memory rapidly rectifies me, making me reminding of a number of things I thought were forever buried in the recesses of my self.
And it is just, but simply, by moving in it, as a kid learning how to walk and finding an undescribable pleasure in speeding up, one foot after the other, just because of the pleasure of feeling finally alive, free from any tutelage, from any right of its own gaze. Free to commit those childish follies that age prohibits and that by simply being in open air suddenly brings us to repeat.

Though, this space, with its infinite stretch never left me and I could never get rid of it. But where does this feeling of exile and abandonment, secretly nourishing me as a remorse, come from? Is this sentiment that, in spite of myself, pushes me to mentally represent this space to put myself in intimate relationship to it by furnishing it not so much wuth artefacts, but with stunt ideas, dreams and reminescences?

As every time, in the presence of the desert, a crazy envy intimates me to unveil and discover myself to my own eyes.
The caravane also brings me to all possible states of mind: it makes the genes of nomadism born again in me, it directs me to pastoral paths that my ancestors certainly walked, except that instead of rare commodities, my caravan discharges ideas, emotions and sentiments all over the place. Through it I rediscover the primary vocation of man: being in eternal movement and stopping only to share fears and hopes at dint of questions.



The impossibility of perceiving is already a pereception. The impossibility of perceiving the desert, this landscape, Its components and functionings, Its already a perception. The signs are to be found in its traces: The remaining fragments, the fragmented remains, its bones.
The dried branches, big and small, growing from nowhere, everywhere, impossible to percieve remain invisible besides their shadows. Thin black lines traced on the hot sand or the cracking land conforming new lifes and fantasmaories move almost impossibly with the giant orbit of the sun, tracing dayly circles, no one witnessing the lonely halaqahs. 
Movement is percieved through its traces. Cocraches, snakes, little birds and reptiles leave their testimony: intrincate, subtle, repetitive alogaritms of life, impossible to percieve, eresed everyday through the persistent action of the saharian winds that slowly displace the particles of sand, moving silently the huge dunes.
And the squeletons, the fosiles, the bones of history of milions of years and yesterday, spread along half buried or totally exposed, tell us about the fragility of life, impossible to percieve, of meteors, ancestors, peoples: constelations of feelings lost forever live within.
The impossibility of perceiving is already a perception. Its signs are to be found in its traces: The remaining fragments, the fragmented remains, its bones.


Instances of a landscape


Beyond Qafila Thania round table in Le 18, Marrakech.


Presentation of the project as part of KIBRIT final exhibition ‘In Between Wells_Reloaded’ through the collaborative installation ‘On traces, shadows and remains’. The installation was composed by excerpts of diaries, drawings and sketches, a display of the ceramic pieces collected by M’Barek Bouhchichi which became the strating point for his collaborative project with Noureddine Ezarraf, a trans-Saharan route map created by Carlos Perez through the material collected during the research face of the project and a soundscape by Heidi Vogels composed by fragments of conversations and other sounds recorded through the journey. While approaching the materiality of the artistic form with suspicion, the instalation gave space to the non-objectual too by providing a testimony of the subtle traces encountered during our journey, as precarious and precious guidelines to understand and experience a state of being in between wells.

Photo © Pau Catà

Final publication and poster


The project's final publication 'Beyond Qafila Thania: Walking as immediate and preterit empathy' was presented as part of the 'Trading Places? Empathy in Material Culture and Critical Methodologies Conference organized by the Center for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS) at SOAS School of Oriental and Africa Studies which took place in London on the 18thand 19thJune 2018.
Trading Places?

The project's final publication 'Beyond Qafila Thania: Walking as immediate and preterit empathy' was selected to be part of the 100th issue of Interartive Walking Art / Walking Aesthetics.



CeRCCa, the Center for Research and Creativity Casamarles is an organization created in 2009 and based in a small village south of Barcelona (Catalonia/Spain). The organization works with a double strategy. On one hand it offers international artists and researchers a space to work and live for 2 months.
Since 2009 more than 100 artists have benefit from CeRCCa AIR developing projects on history, ecology, urban space, landscape and memory in collaboration with the local community. On the other hand CeRCCa develops collaborative curatorial and research projects with a special focus on intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean region. Some of these projects are NACMM_North Africa Cultural Mobility Map, ‘The Art of Getting Lost’ or Platform HARAKAT. In orther to develope these projects CeRCCa has the support of Anna Lindh Foundation, South Med CV and Departament de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya and has been selected to participate in EYE, Dawrak and Tandem Shaml programs.

Marsad Drâa

MARSAD DRÂA is a group of university students and professionals from Morocco and abroad, having as objective to learn and to research on lifestyles and cultures of the desert regions, promoting and preserving tangible and intangible heritage from a contemporary perspective. Due to the complexity of the topics, teams use to work in a transdisciplinary way (architects, artists, engineers, biologists, sociologists, historians, archaeologists ...).

Marsad Drâa organise since 2015 Caravane Tighmert, a laboratory for contemporary oasian culture with artists residencies. In 2016, MARSAD DRÂA started Project Qafila.

Platform HARAKAT

Named after the word movements in Arabic, Platform HARAKAT embodies the inherent contradictions of travelling : movements occur despite and because of a paradox simultaneously promoting, impeding, and forcing mobility. From a situated and cross-disciplinary perspective, Platform HARAKAT proposes to retrace the past and contemporary mobility of knowledge(s), bodies and practices focusing in the Mediterranean, Sahel and West Africa. The purpose of Platform HARAKAT is to reflect upon different approximations to the journey , the heritage of its traditions and its erasures. Platform HARAKAT wants to set in motion concepts and practices derived from mobility and its shadows, to document forgotten histories and invisible stories and to stress the important connections that shape these territories, while providing a space for critical reflection and action.
In order to do so, Platform HARAKAT constitutes itself through an online portal gathering a selection of resources branched in four different categories: Knowledges, Tools, Cartographies and Actions and develops through collaborative research, creative cartographies, curatorial projects, a series of publications and a web platform.

Project QAFILA

Project QAFILA is a research platform on Saharan caravans founded by Marsad Drâa that develops a series of practical researches on caravans with several aims: to learn about nomad ways of life nowadays, to walk through the routes used by caravans from the 8th to the 20th centuries in Morocco, to explore the landscapes of the south of Morocco, to experience the relativity of time and space in the desert. Qafila Oula was the first caravan organized in October 2016, from Rissani to M’hamid El Ghizlane (300km), connecting the old cities of Sijilmasa and Taragalte. Beyond Qafila Thania is a continuation of Qafila Oula.


KIBRIT is a collaborative research and production program dedicated to contemporary artistic and curatorial practices engaged in processes of reactivation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and collective memory. Involving all its members and their respective local communities, the program aims at fostering sustainable synergies through the exchange of practices and knowledges while generating critical reflection, research and action. KIBRIT is a program initiated and curated by LE 18 (Marrakech), Atelier de l’Observatoire (Casablanca), Maison de l’Image (Tunis), CeRCCa (Barcelona), Rhizome (Algiers), Jiser (Barcelona/Tunis) and Ramallah Municipality (Ramallah).

Photo © Pau Catà
Photo © Carlos Pérez



Amado Alfadni is an Egyptian-born Sudanese artist. His childhood was composed of two environments: the Cairene street and the Sudanese home. The relationship, and sometimes tension, between the two strongly influenced his view of both cultures. The need to express this dual perspective led him to make art initially and has informed his work since. His work discusses the relationship between the included and the excluded, and opens dialogue on issues of identity and politics. By working with forgotten historical events and current state policies, He raises questions of power dynamics between the individual and authority on a social and political level. His artistic practices have been driven into research and documentation of ignored historical events, especially colonial history and re-reading it from the perspective of the native. In his recent projects he focuses on the military slavery history and slavery caravans crossing the Sahara form Al Fasher (Sudan) to Asyut (Egypt) daarb el arba’en.


Using different mediums: paint, volume, drawing M'barek Bouhchichi dismantles the re- imagined narrative towards worlds and issues which call his tendencies. He places his works at the intersection of aesthetics, singular picturing, and social insights exploring areas of possible combinations as opportunities for personal re-writing.
The discovery of other fields and imaginary horizons is an essential issue in his artistic approach. M’barek Bouhchichi has gained, from one exhibition to another, a conscious plastic identity. Exhibiting in various galleries both in Morocco and abroad, makes his plastic work go beyond belonging to a single culture. The artist himself, driven by a universal vision, can not join his work into the boundary of one culture that would be exclusive of other cultures which the artist says owe recognition and gratitude to. His exhibitions openings can't go unnoticed. From Marrakech to Pontevedra and from Paris to Sao Paolo, the artist places his work under the plural and multifaceted look of art admirers, in return his work earns consistency and a constant urge into others to question the artistic practice of painting implemented by the artist and which was up to this point his own .


Pau Cata has been working in the cultural field as facilitator and curator for more than 10 years. He completed his degree in Contemporary History by the University of Barcelona in 2004 with awarded Erasmus in Italy and Greece. In the same year he moved to London where he worked at The British Museum and the White Cube Gallery. He has an MA in Critical Arts Management and Media Cultural Studies by LSBU. Since 2009 he is the founder director of CeRCCa, Center for Research and Creativity Casamarles, an AIR Program and research center outside of Barcelona. As part of his job he has been involved in numerous research projects in the field of artists mobility and Artists in Residence Programs. He is currently a PhD candidate at University of Edinburgh and co-coordinator of NACMM - North Africa Cultural Mobility Map/Platform HARAKAT and KIBRIT.


Carlos Perez Marin is graduated from the Architecture School in Seville, Spain, in 1997, he founded his own office based in Ceuta where he has developed projects in Spain, France and Morocco, related to urban planning, landscape, housing, culture, civil engineering, office, education, heritage... He collaborates assiduously with artists, like Younes Rahmoun, developing art installations. In 2013 he founded Marsad Drâa, an observatory for Moroccan desert regions, researching on heritage, architecture, urban planning, energy efficiency, desertification, contemporary art, anthropology... Since 2015 he co-organises Caravane Tighmert, a contemporary creation laboratory for oasian cultures. He has been Assistant Professor at the National School of Architecture in Tetouan (2010-2013) and at the National Institut of Fine Arts in Tetouan (2017).


Heidi Vogels (1978) is an artist, filmmaker and organiser, based in Amsterdam. In her artistic work she applies photography, film and other forms of research by seeking to redefine the outlook on our day-to-day reality and surroundings. By engaging in projects within a certain place or context for a longer period of time (sometimes years), she constructs an intimate ‘world’ of relations between thought, encounters and situations. Hence rooted in a solid conceptual basis, her work consists of multi-layered stories, shifting between the domains of art, cinema and theory. Since 2011 she works in Fez, Morocco - a research and film project about the space of the garden (currently in the final stages of editing) and pursues further steps in her work to open up the garden as a productive concept.

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