Michelle Craig

Lead Faculty in Art History, Cuesta College, CA

Moved by the Ancestors: Processions and Festivals in the Mellah of Fez, Morocco

Jews in Fez, Morocco were historically prevented from overtly expressing religious identity in built environment of the mellah or Jewish quarter, but rites moving in and out of their quarter harnessed multiple senses to assert the significant presence of the religious minority. This presentation examines how a number of rituals animated monuments commemorating ancestors during the colonial period (1912-1956). I explore the rise of the hiloula (pl. hillulot) or pilgrimage festival honoring a Jewish saint on the anniversary of his or her death. The revelry associated with the multi-day festivals held in the cemetery contrasted against the subdued prayer services offered in synagogues. While hillulot were usually associated with rural shrines, the ones in Fez were remarkable because of their presence within a historic urban setting. Hillulot appealed to Jews across the economic spectrum, allowing pilgrims and residents alike to celebrate the plurality of Jewish experiences within the weakening colonial order.


Michelle Huntingford Craig teaches at Cuesta College as Lead Faculty in Art History. She is a scholar of African arts and one of her research has focused on expressions of identity in the mellah or Jewish quarter in Fez, Morocco.