Morocco and Spain, a millennial, enriching and unstable neighborhood

The busts of Juba II, in marble from the Prado and in bronze from the Rabat museum, stars of the show. / CR

The Archaeological Museum reviews the deep connection between the territories on both sides of the Pillars of Hercules in a sample that covers almost 400,000 years

Michael Lorenci

So close, so far sometimes. Morocco and Spain maintain a millennial and enriching neighborhood, but often conflictive and unstable. Now that the wounds between the two kingdoms have been healed with the balm of diplomacy, the normalization of relations is sealed and greased with the exhibition 'Around the Pillars of Hercules', on display until October 16 at the National Archaeological Museum (MAN).

Through more than 300 pieces and in a time span of almost 400,000 years, from the Lower Paleolithic to the 16th century, the exhibition covers and analyzes the connections of all kinds between the territories on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, the union of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and the end of the land known in antiquity, at whose ends the mythical and Herculean columns rose.

Phoenicians, Punics, Greeks, Romans or Muslims populated the territories that open to the north and south of the Strait only in the last four millennia, leaving a deep mark on the Iberian and Maghreb cultures, whose human and material contacts have marked their anthropological evolution. , cultural and political.

Bronze dog in city attack position

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It is evidenced through 335 pieces coming mostly from large Moroccan museums, from Rabat, Fez, Tangier or Safi, which have rarely left Morocco, and from MAN's own collections. Divided into six large thematic areas, the exhibition goes back to prehistory to later analyze all colonizations, with special attention to the two that unified both territories: the Roman and the Islamic expansion through the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages.

The speech ends with the transition to the Modern Age, when the West and Spain look at the American New World, Europe and other areas of the Mediterranean, so that the relations between both territories are altered by the new world order.

bronze and marble

Among the stellar pieces, the sculptural bronzes from the ancient Roman city of Volubilis and two busts of Juba II. King and lord of Mauretania and Numidia, the last before the Roman domination, Juba married Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Marco Antonio and Cleopatra. Morocco treasures a bronze bust of Juba "which is like the Lady of Elche from the Moroccan collections", according to Eduardo Galán, curator of the exhibition and chief curator of the MAN. For the first time this portentous bronze is exhibited next to the marble bust of Juba that the Prado Museum conserves and that allows us to appreciate its resemblance. "He is a fascinating character, linked to Gadir (Cádiz) and Cartago Nova (Cartagena), educated in Rome and who is supposed to have been the first discoverer of the Canary Islands," explains Galán.

Ali Ibn Yousse's gold dinar from the Fez Mint (above). Terracotta female figure, from Ibiza, and 'Efebo bronze pourer', from the Roman city of Volubilis. / CR

"What is happening today between Morocco and Spain is not representative of a closeness that goes back to prehistory," says the curator, distancing the celebration of the exhibition from the new and sweet stage in Spanish-Moroccan relations. "We are neighbors for all intents and purposes and our cultures have been connected since the dawn of time." Even so, "it is obvious that the exhibition is a symbol of normalization," acknowledges the curator. "Perhaps two years ago it could not have been done," adds Galán, emphasizing that the exhibition "goes beyond political ups and downs." "This is a neighborhood story and sometimes the neighbors get along badly and others very well," reiterates Galán.

“She is ambitious and wants to tell a lot of things. It has had a slow and complex gestation due to the years that we have lived and that we all know, which complicated the work, but which has never stopped it, ”admitted the curator of an exhibition organized by the Ministry of Culture, the National Foundation of Museums of the Kingdom of Morocco and Acción Cultural Española (ACE).

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