AICHA RACHATI born in Antwerpen in 1975
y name is Aicha Rachati and I grew up in a lovely neighbourhood in Antwerpen called SintAndries. When I was 12 , me and my 2 sisters and little brohter moved with my parents to another town in Antwerpen, called Kiel, where we swapped our small appartment for a bigger was known for itâ€™s public housing and its high appartment . concentration of people originating from spain, turkey and morocco. It took me some time to get used to the social control that was going around in this new town we moved to. Actually I never really got used to it and didnâ€™t feel comfortable about the fact that people you donâ€™t know , thought they had the right to tell you something. I felt kind of emprisoned, even though my parents were always very liberal. But I scented a pressure on them too. When we got the opportunity to buy a house we moved to another town ruled by social control, called Borgerhout. I realized back then that freedom was very important for me, so I went out of town to go study in Mechelen and took a job to pay for my room and studies. The older I became , I found myself allienated from Moroccan culture and feeling more comfortable in the Western one, where rules and traditions where not so important anymore.
Me and my father had only a few things in common. One of them was our love for Oum Kaltoumâ€™s music
My father moved from Morocco to Europe in the sixties’. First he went to France and then to Belgium. to work in the coal mines. He was a strong man. When he was 40 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At that time they didn’t know what it was and they experimented with him. His last job was in the harbour of Antwerp, painting boats. That was really toxic. He had worked very hard since he was 16 years old. I didn’t have such a good relationship with my Dad because he was very closed as he was carrying a lot of suffering. He was never happy . I never saw him laughing, Never.
My uncle Mohamed sent this street portrait to my father in France
Housing in Zwarcherg. Coal mines in Limburg. 1965
â€˜Grieken in Limburgâ€™ Documentary film over the mine workers in Limburg. Maria Dermizaki, 2010
Workers In the Harbour of Antwerpen. 1970
My mother in Morocco worked at the hospital in Rabat
My father and some friends during the period that he was living in France. He was working in a restaurant. He was good cook.
My father married a Moroccan girl in Belgium in the sixties and they had two kids but It didnâ€™t work out for them. He took the kids to Morocco and gave them to his step mother. They never came back to Belgium until the year 2000 to obtain legal status. He was a good cook.
My mother was the second wife. She suggested to taking the kids back to Belgium but he didnâ€™t want to. When we went back to Marrocco there was always tension between the family there and us. Now I understood that we were the kids that had had the chance to live with the father. It was very hard for them.
My grandfather Brahim come from Guelnim, close to the Sahara. When my father was 12 years old, they moved to the capital, Rabat.
My mother was living in the countryside. My parents met in Rabat. Their families were neighbours. She was 19 when she married and came to Belgium. It was an adventure to come to Belgium. When she arrived it was really hard for her. She had no family, no friends, and did not speak the language.
Rahma in her â€˜20th birthday
I borned in the hospital of Antwerp in 1975. First we were living in the center of Antwerp, near Sint Andriesse plein. The appartment was very small : two rooms for four people. Then we moved to Kiel.
1975. Sint Andriesplein
1981. Aalmdezenierstraat. Our morrocan dresses were brought by my grandparents.
On holidays with my motherâ€™s family in Rabat
In Morrocco with my family. We are not pressured to use the headscarf. My mother did it maybe because her hair was not ready.
arabic. My mother lost her sister and husband. I loved to go to paris to visit my uncle. She was very opened mind. She spoke french with her kids. Itâ€™s a pitty they donâ€™t know the mother language. I think it is important. My mother send me to the school in Kiel to learn arabic.
My mother and her sister Aicha in the main shopping street in Antwerp.
When my mother arrived here, â€˜Zuster Lia en Zuster Greetâ€™helped her very much. She helped my Mom to find a job. It was a great experience for my Mom to be helped by two catholic women, that is how she became very tolerant.
Madame Janine was a n important person in my life. She was our Belgian neighbour; she was always around to play with us and help us with our homework. We used to have a lot of Belgian friends. I think every immigrant family should have their own â€œMadame Janineâ€?, to help them feeling more comfortable in this new country and to help them get along with each other, instead all the segregation we have now.
My first glimpse of freedom. hre I was spending a week with my class. It was very hard to convince my parents to send thair first daughetr away from home for 4 nights, but I succeeded.
My Mum and I with some neighbours at Sint Andriesplein
My mother speaks “darija”, that’s how I learned it. I think it’s very important for children to learn the language of their parents. I learned how to write Arabic in the evening at a special school.
My mother worked as a cleaning women at my school. â€˜Onze Lieve Vrouweninstituut in Antwerpen. Amerikalei, 38.
My mother was a cleaner in my school. I always went to visit her when I finished.
It was not easy going from a â€˜girls only school to a mixed public school, but I got us students
sed very quick and most of all enjoyed the advance I had only on my fellow
Aichaâ€™s 31 anniversary
My mother has always supported me in my studies. When I found a job at the airport, I wanted to get my own place. I was afraid to tell my Mom because I wasn’t married yet. I would like to marry some day, but I don’t want to do it the Moroccan way. I don’t like the tradition.
My urge for freedom and to break free from traditions and religion resulted in an urge for me to explore and travel. An urge my father seemed to have too, when he left Morocco when he was 16. So 11 years ago when i graduated from school, i applied for a job as a Stewardess, and until today it is still the perfect job for me. When we where younger , i often heard my mother say , what she did wrong to God for having these â€œnot so traditional â€œ children . But I can say i am very grateful that my parents supported us in our studies and choices in life, which was not very easy for them and i think they did a very great job in raising us into 4 independent and openminded children. Therefore I dedicate this album to my 2 heroes : my father Mohamed (may you rest in peace ) and to my mother Rahma (may you stay with us for a long time) .