Magharebia (Washington DC)

Mauritania: Provocative Video Challenges Attitudes in Mauritania

Nouakchott — Young Mauritanian rappers are at it again. After a notorious music video last fall led police to question its creators, a new clip goes one step further.

"Les yeux dans les yeux" ("Eyes in eyes"), posted online January 2nd, deals another body blow to the more conservative fringes of Mauritanian society.

According to Mauriweb, "The release of this new video, following on from 'It started from Nouakchott' is being seen as a response by Nouakchott's with-it young people to the legal system's condemnation of the release of such videos. The young woman Leyla Moulaye, who appeared in the previous video, was lambasted for having her hair uncovered."

This time, the unidentified producers of the new video have gone even further with their production, where the action involves two young lovers who adopt some quite daringly erotic positions.

"The change in attitudes among young people is an inescapable phenomenon of the modern age, one which is due to globalisation based around the immense power of the new information and communication technologies," sociologist Bouna Ould Moktar told Magharebia.

"Mauritanian society is divided by the far-reaching debate over morals and values," noted Nouakchott University student Ali Diarra. "Young people, who find themselves marginalised, are using today's most commonly used channels to express their frustration."

Marième Fall, another student, said she thought that the new video contained "nothing shocking".

"In fact, it's quite a beautiful artistic effort," she said. "Unfortunately in this country, not only do they fail to help our young people to flourish, but they deliberately hold them back."

Fellow student Mariem Mint Sid'Ahmed had a completely different reaction to the clip.

"This video is an insult to all Mauritanian society," she said. "We are the descendants of the Mourabitounes, and we must not allow our hallowed land to be sullied by alienated and depraved young people."

"Mauritanian society is fiercely conservative, but it cannot escape the changes beginning to emerge," said sociologist Ba Bokar. "And it is these rap groups which seem to be having the greatest effect."

"Take, for example, a group such as Diam Min Teky ('The Bearers of Truth'), from a working-class district of Nouakchott. Their message is to challenge and make people aware, attacking the excesses of Mauritanian society," the sociologist added.

Famous Mauritanian blogger Chezvlane also weighed in, saying: "We need to fight those who want to break the spirit of young people, even though they might have gone slightly off the rails. Life will take care of them."

"We must defend young people, whose natural tendency is towards openness," Chezvlane said.

According to singer Hamet Sarr, rap artists are often misunderstood and portrayed as "delinquents".

"This is a serious mistake, because they are real artists who create beautiful things and help to stimulate society," he added. "When you listen to them and take a close interest in them, you find that they are young people who really understand social problems and deserve respect."

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