CEDEJ Khartoum Seminars Series: Music Memory of Slavery and Sudanese Identity in today’s Egyptian Zār


CEDEJ Khartoum Seminar Series at CEDEJ Cairo
Music Memory of Slavery and Sudanese Identity in today’s Egyptian Zār

Date: Wednesday March 6th, 2024
Time: 11am
Speakers: Kawkab Tawfik (IFAO)


Healing practice and ritual of passage, zār was introduced in Egypt in the second half of the XIX century through different migratory waves and mainly through the trade of slaves coming from Sudan, the Horn of Africa and other locations in East Africa (Natvig 1987), when Khartoum was the biggest slave trade center of the Ottoman Empire (Walz, Cuno, 2010). Z ār functions as a mirror of the surrounding reality, projecting fears and anxieties of contingent life and existential dilemmas into specific immaterial figures, the asyād al-zār (spirits of the zār ), which can manifest themselves through ailments of a physical nature or psychological disorders (Nelson 1971). The nature of the asyād al-zār varies according to the times and places where they originally emerged within the cult. Black-skinned slaves, military Turkish and colonial British dominations are thus projected into the world of the asyād al-zār as a reflection of the contiguous social, political and historical environment. Rituals are meant to satisfy the possessing asyād who have physical and psychological control over the humans. Devotees interact thus with them in terms of a relationship of subjugation and constant oppression. Music components, instrumental and compositional elements as well as textual reference in zār songs ( adwār ) and materialization into talismanic objects preserve the memory of slavery and class subjugation of the zār communities who are until today strongly exposed to social marginalization and stigmatization in the Egyptian society . This communication will focus on texts related to the asyād al-Ḥabaš , the Abyssinian/Sudanese masters, and then explore and analyze traces and remembrances of social and historical oppression of zār communities of Cairo and Delta widely preserved in the corpus of the adwār al- zār . It will make use of song cases as samples for slavery subjugation, to be compared with XIX-XX centuries historical sources. A further focus will be dedicated to the continuity of class relegation in which devotees and practitioners are exposed in contemporary Egypt. This research is part of a wider work focused on the zār practiced in the Delta and it was funded by the French Institute of Oriental Archeology in Cairo (IFAO) and the Center D’etudes et de Documentation Economiques, Juridiques Et Sociales (CEDEJ) . The methodology combines ethnographic research, analysis of historical sources, and music analysis;it makes use of private archival materials belonging to the musicians and community members, hormonal history accounts, along with audio and audio-visual documentation produced by the author during the fieldwork that took place in Cairo and the Delta (Banha and Qaliubiyya Governorates), between September 2021 and January 2023.  


Kawkab Tawfik is an ethnomusicologist and research associate at the  French Institute of Oriental Archeology in Cairo  (IFAO) where she conducted a postdoctoral research with participatory methodology on the Zār of the Delta of Egypt (2021-22). She obtained a PhD in Cultural Heritage (2020) from the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” with a research project on music, politics and identity in Egypt post-2011.

Email:  ktawfik@ifao.egnet.net

OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
luisaarango2020 (29 février 2024). CEDEJ Khartoum Seminars Series: Music Memory of Slavery and Sudanese Identity in today’s Egyptian Zār. Researching Sudan - A perspective on contemporary Sudans. Consulté le 15 juillet 2024 à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/vxre

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