Gnawa live in all the big towns of Morocco (Oujda, Tanger, Casablanca, Fes, Meknes, Rabat, Marrakech, Essaouira, Agadir etc.). Musicians, officiants and adepts gather in a night ritual called the leela (litt. "one night") which celebrates at the same time God, his prophet Muhammed, Sub-Saharan Africa and many invisible entities divided in seven families. Music, dance and trance are ubiquitous in this ceremony.
This thesis gives the analysis of Gnawa identity, of their representations, their ritual instruments, their performances, their music, their sung texts, their dances and their trances. The way Moroccan society see them, their "pantheon", their rhythms, their dances and trances, all these aspects of their actions and thoughts are object of ambiguity. We will see that the analysis of these differents fields reveals that Gnawa play with ambiguity in a systemic way and at many levels: music, dance, poetics and symbolism.
Hybrid brotherhood which has both carried on the memory of its Sub-Saharan roots and integrated the mystic and political influences of its society of exile, the Gnawa - Black but also Mixed and White people - have raised in art the fact to bring back imaginaries potentially contentious together in the Moroccan society. Paradoxically, they have to maintain esotericism and otherness to preserve their legitimacy of experts of the unseen.