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7

This site is dedicated to the Gnawa, (or Gnaoua, French spelling) a mystical brotherhood of musician healers based primarily out of Morocco, and their recent representation on the Web. From marginalized subculture to "official" representatives of Moroccan culture, many Gnawa have undergone a dramatic transition in the past decade as their music has been "discovered" by western "world music" lovers. Consequently, the Web has been a central mean of disseminating information about this culture.

My objectives here are two fold. First, I'm interested in providing a service by gathering together and assessing a large sample of the myriad sites dedicated to the Gnawa. This idea came to me while surfing the Web for information about the Gnawa and finding out that there weren't any portal sites dedicated to this subject matter. My hope is to facilitate the user's navigation by offering a representational sample of what the web has to offer. The sites are presented by subject matter and are annotated.

Second, I would like to provide a critical perspective on the issues surrounding the representation of the Gnawa on the Web. Today, refugee populations, exiles, and migrants around the globe have created what Anthropologist Arjun Appadurai calls the "global ethnoscape", a condition primarily driven by heightened intercultural contact, transcultural exchanges and hybrid cultural formations.

How are these exchanges then to be negotiated?

The question of Western hegemony - in this case, the success of a dominant power to impose their definition of reality and their view of the world on others, in such a way that it is accepted as 'common sense' - becomes a central issue when trying to understand the effects of Globalization. How do local cultures situate themselves within this transformation? How do they negotiate their traditions in the face of change? How do they incorporate the global and still retain control of their own representation, their own historical narrative, and therefore their own lives? How do you retain your traditional concept of self while incorporating a new global self? I believe the Gnawa offer a telling example of this modern dilema. Will their representation on the web exemplify old colonial patterns of representation? Will those modes of representation which reproduce and reaffirm a Western Hegemony over the rest of the world be the norm?Or does the Web, with its free form devoid of gatekeepers, have the capacity to take inter-cultural communication to a more democratic level? To a place of resitance where old patterns a subverted and exchanges are made not on the basis of exploitation but collaboration. In the words of Hakim Bey, "Collaboration - not appropriation. Translation - not interpretation. Life - not lifestyle...World Culture is either true co-creation or it is nothing. Or worse than nothing - a sin against the holy spirit. There is no exotic other. Planet earth - love it or leave it."

For the most part I have found that the representation of the Gnawa in cyberspace tends to favor those groups who are turned toward the West. For example all the Gnawas reprented on the Web have travelled outside Morocco and the majority of the musical groups (81%) have collaborated with Western musicians. At the same time there's an obvious lack of real Gnawa voices (other than their music) on the Web. This is a trend which has a few notable exceptions that in some way approach Hakim Bey's ideal. Come and find out for yourself.