Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cultural Training in Germany

Reflections on my experience in Germany!

The Beginning:

It all started when I received the application for the Goethe Institute’s six-week Cultural Management Training program. As I glanced over the application, I visualized myself partaking in the program. It was a stressful day, I had to deliver a presentation, prepare for an important visit and then apply for this training. Had hesitated one moment on completing the application, I would have missed out on the opportunity to participate in a vital training in cultural management in Germany.

Fatima Goes to Berlin:

It was a Sunday morning and I woke up excited to start the adventure. I arrived in Berlin and was lucky to witness a beautiful sunset partially covered with clouds. “It is Summer in Agadir and it is Autumn in Berlin,” I told my host when I met her for the first time. The next day I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for the first day of the training. We rushed through breakfast, I learned that I had a commute of almost 45 minutes to get to the Goethe Institute. I had to take three different trains and though it was stressful, I felt exhilarated to be lost in the large, maze-like subway system of Berlin. I was fascinated by the city’s design and cultural life. I didn’t mind the long commute.


In Berlin I stayed with a family: two women, a filmmaker and a painter. As I was busy with the program I did not have much time to socialize. We interacted  each morning over a cup of coffee and the delicious German bread. The encounter enriched my perspectives of German life. After Berlin, I moved to Munich to continue my training and live with a new host family in a new city. In Munich, my host was extremely welcoming. Our conversations consisted of discussions of articles we read, exchanges of intimate stories and long walks on Sundays. I saw the city of Munich through her eyes. I learned much from her and we continue enriching our friendship beyond this German experience.

Oktoberfest in Munich:

After finishing four intensive weeks of training in Berlin and getting used to the daily lifestyle with all the participants, we had to say goodbye to each other and continue our internship in the different cities of Germany. My transition to life in Munich was had its challenges but I was excited to discover a new part of the country. In Munich I worked with the Digital Analog film festival learning all about cultural projects within the city.

Soon after I settled into Munich, Oktoberfest began, the world’s largest annual fair and the city’s most well-known social and cultural event. Upon my arrival, the station was so crowded and incredibly colorful. Men and women were celebrating Oktoberfest with traditional clothing, dancing and drinking locally brewed beverages, such as Germany’s renowned beer variety. It was the first time I witnessed such a huge celebration with thousands of people. It Ambulances everywhere and police helping people who were experiencing some physical discomforts. My host told me that some local residents in Munich leave the city during Oktoberfest because it’s too loud; perhaps they’ve experienced too many Oktoberfests to enjoy this time of year. During Oktoberfest, Munich becomes a destination for all the neighboring countries and even those across the oceans.

Frankfurt, the Book Fair and Arabness:

After Munich, the participants, who came from different parts of Germany, reunited for a day. We laughed together and shared delicious Indian food. We attended the international book fair in Frankfurt, where the whole world seemed to be present, everyone sharing their literary works and networking with one another. This fair is one of those rare spaces where you get to walk for half an hour and pass by several continents and hundreds of countries. I wished I could have walked slowly and spent time with each country, but we had to get through the fair quickly in order to attend a panel entitled “How do Arab Artists Shape their Cities?” The panelists were three young activists and artists representing Libya, Egypt, and Iraq.  The debate was very intense and fruitful.

Cultural Management:

The participants were from all over the MENA region, representing the institutions they are working with. Hearing everyone speaking about their cultural projects, film festivals, cinemas, and theater productions enriched my dreams and boosted my motivation to create an art project which I will take the lead for. We spent four weeks learning about project management, consulting, budgeting and fundraising. I visited several creative and innovative art galleries, cinemas, art schools and museums. Fusing theory with practice is a vital approach to learning.  Learning that the feasibility of a project depends at first hand on the motivation of the people, knowledge and the know-how. The feasibility conveys the relationship between one’s competences and resources and the goal one wants to achieve. For instance, we visited a festival called survival, this initiative started with a group of young ambitious artists using an old train station as a venue for their events. The station serves also an art workshop and work venue for painter, theater rehearsal and concert space. All the artists have part-time jobs to survive and use the rest of the time to sustain their art project. Another example is a couple who built a cinema in the basement of a building. The cinema has 30 seats, with a small bar. I have not seen such initiative at least in the places where I have been in Morocco.  The practical side of the seminar was a display of what our trainers speak about. Study tours and being able to speak with the owners of projects was an amazing opportunity for all of us who are in the pre-preparation phase for our cultural and art project. We would have a seminar about funding opportunities, public relations, and marketing strategies. We would chose one of our colleagues projects and design a marketing plan and get feedback from our trainer. I believe that theory is important and an essential part for any project but practice is what puts the acquired knowledge into reality and sharpens one’s skills the more one learns about real projects.  I am grateful to take part in such a fruitful experience thanks to the Goethe Institute. I am grateful for all the people I met, because they all  positively influenced  my life and thoughts! I am thankful to Dar Si Hmad who encouraged me to pursue my dream and opened up the space to make this training possible.

Fatima Matousse