French Raid on Moroccan “Balgha”… What’s the Story?

The issue of the French fashion company “Balenciaga” stealing the design and concept of the traditional Moroccan shoe “balgha” has reached Parliament after widespread debate.

MP Taoufik El Ouazani submitted a written question on the theft of the “balgha” design to Mohammed El Mehdi Ben Saïd, Minister of Youth, Culture, and Communication, emphasizing that the company deliberately stole the design of the “balgha” down to its smallest details and offered it for sale as part of its products for summer 2024, at a very high price, without any reference to the origin of the design and idea, despite it being a registered Moroccan heritage.

The growing cases of imitation and theft of Moroccan cultural heritage raise questions about the effectiveness of efforts made to protect it and prevent its exploitation by others.

In this context, heritage researcher Abdelhadi Lahlu stated that “the theft of the design and concept of the Moroccan ‘balgha’ is another example of heritage theft by designers, contractors, and companies purely for commercial selling and marketing of products under certain brands, without reference to their source or respect for the heritage of peoples.”

Lahlu said that “unfortunately, every time news of thefts of a part or element of Moroccan cultural heritage emerges, we cannot allow it, and governmental authorities, the international community, intellectuals, civil society, and the media must act to reduce and condemn these practices.”

He added that there is “a kind of conflict regarding the protection of heritage and intellectual property protection, and there are gaps that lead to cases of heritage theft, especially as we have not protected our heritage by registering it in tangible or intangible heritage, making it difficult to protect any heritage item or classified as heritage.”

He stressed that it is “essential to respect heritage that reflects a specific identity and spirit of a given people, which requires reducing this trend through awareness, adherence to ethics, and resorting to established legal protection means by UNESCO and international laws.”

Lahlu explained that “it is necessary to note that heritage is alive and can be a source of inspiration and can be used by new generations in contemporary creativity at the level of designs, but it is necessary to emphasize the importance of referring to the source of heritage, which may be common or specific to a particular community, as is the case with the Moroccan ‘balgha’.”

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