Diaspo #152 : Anna Mahjar-Barducci, the journey of a Moroccan-Italian writer based in Al Quds

Based in Jerusalem, Anna Mahjar-Barducci is a Moroccan-Italian writer who is interested in migration and identity issues. Embracing both her European identity and her cultural heritage, she believes that «looking at the world through the prism of tolerance is a Moroccan trait».

Anna Mahjar-Barducci, a Moroccan-Italian writer and journalist. / DR
Estimated read time: 3'

A journalist and a researcher for the American think tank Middle East Media Research Institute, Anna Mahjar-Barducci published in June, her new book «Identità italiana» (Italian Identity, Melagrana). The book is a collection of poems and essays on issues that particularly affect her and are linked to migration and integration.

Anna Mahjar-Barducci is Moroccan-Italian. Born on January 23, 1982 in Viareggio, a coastal city in Tuscany, Anna’s mother is a Moroccan from Kenitra and her father used to work for international cooperation projects.

Born in Italy, Anna spent her childhood between Africa, Asia and the Arab world. These trips shaped her and influenced her professional and personal life, without forgetting about her Moroccan heritage and culture. «I spent my childhood in Zimbabwe, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia and Tunisia. I have also lived in Pakistan for several years», she told Yabiladi.

The last two countries marked her the most. «Tunisia is a modern and fascinating country, rich in history, art culture and literature. Tunisian thinkers, like Mohamed Talbi, had an impact on me both personally and professionally», she said. She recalled having had «the chance to meet in Tunisia with a number of intellectuals who encouraged her to reflect on interreligious dialogue».

On the other hand, she believes that she encountered «obscurantism» for the first time in Pakistan, a country she describes as «very colorful and very intriguing, but also full of contradictions». This is also the reason why she devoted one of her books to it.

Looking at the world through the prism of tolerance, «a Moroccan trait»

In 2009, while collaborating as a journalist with several Italian, American and Arab media, the Moroccan-Italian published «Italo-marocchina: storie di immigrati marocchini in Europa» (Moroccan Italians: Stories of Moroccan immigrants in Europe, Diabasis). That first work addressed her Moroccan-Italian heritage and the place occupied by these two countries in her life.

«Morocco has always occupied a central place in my life. The link with my Moroccan roots is very strong. My daughter Hili is also a Moroccan citizen and she is very proud of her cultural heritage», she said.

She remembers, moreover, «the moments spent with family, while chatting and sipping a glass of hot, sweet mint tea». This is one of the most vivid memories of her trips to Morocco, where her parents had an apartment in Rabat, which she often visited.

«The openness of Moroccan culture to other beliefs and traditions has greatly influenced my personality and my professional life.Looking at the world through the lens of tolerance is a Moroccan trait.In addition, Moroccan art and architecture are the desired quality standard in my search for beauty in life».

Anna Mahjar-Barducci

The journalist, researcher and writer also explains how her interest in identity issues and her quest to find out how immigration affects the cultural identity of each other «surely starts from the need to understand and find a balance» between [her] European identity and [her] attachment to Morocco.»Being a Moroccan living abroad, it is important for me to understand how identity can be reinforced or redefined within the diaspora», she added.

Morocco and Moroccan migration to Al Quds

Anna Mahjar-Barducci also says that she «started writing for dailies a bit by chance» when she was finishing her master’s degree. However, for her, «being a writer is not a profession, but a need».»I think writing can be an amazing tool for catharsis, which is the process of releasing strong or repressed emotions. We should all learn how to write in order to learn how to release our emotions, and interpret them», she said.

Currently living in Al Quds with her husband and daughter, the Moroccan-Italian also delivers a detailed description of a holy city with «a complex identity, but also and in a certain way with a surprising and well-established Moroccan identity».

Regarding her move to Jerusalem, she said that she «thought it would have been very special and unique if [her] daughter could be born in this thrice holy city».

Born to a Muslim mother and a Christian father, and having married a Jewish man, she also believes in this regard that «if there is love, respect and tolerance, all challenges can be overcome».

Sensitive to migration issues, she says that she finds «many Moroccan Jews live in Jerusalem» and «are very attached to their Maghrebi roots».»Being Moroccan is their identity and their pride. Morocco is in their hearts and the majority of Moroccan Jews in Jerusalem speak Moroccan Arabic fluently», she explains.

Anna Mahjar-Barducci said that it is «also possible to buy Moroccan cakes almost everywhere, such as Chabakia and Sfenj» and that in downtown Al Quds, «it is also possible to taste authentic Moroccan couscous».

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