COMPOSITION FANTASIA: A HERITAGE OF GLORY AND ARTThe horse and man in Morocco have been very close and faithful friends since the dawn oftimes for fighting invaders and maintaining order in the country of the sun. As time passed byand new generations succeeded the old ones, the Moroccan man kept the horse with a lot oflove and care; therefore, he did not stop such eternal friendship with such noble animal via“fantasia”. But he could maintain peace and stability on this land for many centuries until thepresent.Fantasia -game of powder or “tborida” in Moroccan Arabic- stands for the breath takingequestrian sport and art that has being practiced in Morocco and other Maghreb countriessince the 8th Century and become known by the world in the 18th Century by foreign travellersto the country, especially famous painters such as Eugene Delacroix who created great artisticmasterpieces of fantasia shows in some Moroccan regions.The Origins of the Term “Fantasia”The term fantasia -according to Maghreb languages- means glory and extravagance on onehand. On the other hand, it means arrogance. Yet, the term fantasia was given to theequestrian sport or horse or powder game by the French painter Eugene Delacroix whovisited Morocco during the reign of King Moulay Abdurrahman(1778-1859) when heaccompanied the French Ambassador to Morocco Charles-Edgar, Count of Mornay(1803-1878) who was sent by the French King Louis Philip with a message to the MoroccanMonarch. Eugene Delacroix was extremely fascinated by the equestrian show for greetingCount De Mornay and his company on the gates of Meknès. A third version of using the term
fantasia to the sport comes from the confusion between two words according to Arabic. Inclassical Arabic, it is constructed from the same verbal root: khayal meaning imagination andKhayyal meaning rider.Whatever fantasia is the correct name for that sport or not, it had become worldwide thanks tothe rituals linked to the performances of highly talented riders who immortalise the braveryand glory of their ancestors, by bringing back to the memory the glorious wars of theirancestors against their enemies, which had made Morocco one the most respected and fearedKingdoms in the world for Centuries.DescriptionDuring the game, a number of equestrian evolutions represent military clashes during whichthe riders carry guns that are charged with black powder. The success of the fantasia riderslays in their ability to shoot a salvo from their guns on trotting horses, leaving clouds ofblinding dust behind them.Fantasia is the dramatic repetition of two movements of cavalry in war: rapid charging andretreat. The riders start from mounting on their stomachs on the ground, holding the bridle inone hand, then they raise their guns highly over their heads, turning them around to show theirstrong mastery of their arms. Then they rise as one man, seizing their guns by the two hands,abandoning the bridle, then they charge and shoot towards the front or back; making surethey’re higher than the public in order to avoid any accidents.Getting their guns down towards the ground or keeping them in the air, they carry out a shortand quick volt, and then they return to their starting point for restarting their dishevelled race.The salvos shot by the riders are called baroud.Throughout the history of fantasia, Moroccan tribes used to add, according to the regions,some particular touches such as games with guns, acrobatic movements, and costumes ofsparkling colours to embellish their horses in order to impress rival tribes.For succeeding in fantasia, the team should be constituted of the same number of riders on theleft as on the right in addition to the leader. For instance, if there are five riders on the left,there should be five on the right to maintain harmony and equilibrium so that the shooting ofsalvos can be made beautifully.The Horses
Fantasia cannot be organised without strong, quick, docile, enduring, beautiful, andhighly bred horses. In Morocco, the barb race is the ancestor of the present horses.Researchers had found the remains that are dated 40 000 years ago during the pre-historic era. In addition, the drawings in Saharian Atlass date 9000 years BC, provingthe existence of horses in the Maghreb.Fantasia costumes and decorationsFantasia is characterised first by the importance of its appearance, the richness and splendourof the rider’s dress, his equipment and the harnessing of the horse. The equipment of the horseessentially includes the gun (moukehla) Maghreb black powder gun, an arm of small calibrewith a very long canon; it is special by its several sparkling capuchins and its ornaments ofbones, ivory, pearls or metal, in coloured engravings. The splendour of harnessing isreflected in saddles in red Moroccan leather embroidered and hallmarked in gold.CelebrationFantasia is traditionally linked to celebration of which it is the best part. it is organised on theoccasion of some rituals such “moussems”(annual celebration for honouring a saint, duringwhich cows and sheep are sacrificed and big feasts are held) or some religious celebrationssuch as “Aid el-Fitr”( celebrating the end of Ramadan or “Mawlid” (celebrating the birth ofthe Prophet Mohamed) it also accompanies weddings(especially for escorting the bride to hernew home), births or pilgrimage(when pilgrims get back from Mecca) In addition, fantasiashows are organised for greeting the King ,some notables, or official guests.
And despite the fact that fantasia is still organised on the above mentioned occasions,nowadays, it has taken more touristic dimension as a folk show, which attracts local andforeign tourists every year for the greatness of the show and the awesome ornaments of horsesand riders that become one during the game that takes one back to ancient times whenMoroccan warriors used to defend their lands bravely and proudly, sacrificing their lives forprotecting the future of new generations.Fantasia undermines males’ superiority Since 2000, Moroccan female riders have integrated the world of fantasia that had beenexclusively practiced by men for many centuries; except for some rare cases of women whoused to ride horses and even fight beside men when their tribes were attacked. First, theystarted in mixed teams before a purely feminine team appeared in Mohammedia. Youngfemale riders as Meriem Kouhly, Hanane Boulhimze, and Mounia Taârabet ride their horsesproudly and feel highly enthusiastic about their favourite hobby not only as a sport but also asa way of living. This sport or art is transmitted from generation to generation for preservingequestrian values and traditions that men and women now are passionate about.Many female riders created groups in many regions as Kenitra, El Jadida, Khemisset,Meknès…Although women are encouraged by their families and clans, many men cannot conceal theirdisapproval of women’s practice of fantasia. They do not still accept the idea of a girl riding ahorse. But women insist on continuing the challenge to prove their competence and defeatmen in the practice of their privileged and noble sport.The practice of fantasia is very popular in Morocco, especially that the Royal Stadium ofequestrian sports and tborida (fantasia) was created in 2008 in order to promote the practice ofsuch noble sports, especially with the establishment of a school of fantasia.During the competition of the week of the horse, male and female teams participate accordingto the regions they belong to. In addition to fantasia competition and war games, the tribesand regions compete at the level of ornaments either of the riders’ and their clothes or theornaments devoted to horses, beautiful saddles and bridles….for which Moroccan craftsmenshow their talents by making very beautiful and variable kinds of ornaments to embellish theriders and horses.If Moroccans have abode throughout their history to their values, their cultural and warheritage have been equally preserved by the continuity of the art of fantasia that rewrites theglorious history of their ancestors who built great dynasties from the Idrissit one until theAlaouit that is still faithful to the values that Morocco was built upon.