Adidas under legal fire for using Moroccan Zelij in Algerian team jerseys

The Moroccan Ministry of Culture delivered a formal notice to the regional Adidas MENA offices in Germany, denouncing “the clear cultural appropriation of Moroccan heritage” by the sportswear brand.

The jerseys, made for the Algerian football team and marketed as being inspired by the Mechouar Palace in Tlemcen, feature traditional Zellij patterns many Moroccan mosques and monuments are known for.

The Palace was rehabilitated in 2010, where during its inauguration, previous Algerian President Bouteflika stated that the reconstruction was possible thanks to the help of Moroccan artisans, “who have successfully managed to preserve their historic heritage.”

For the intricacies of the reconstruction of historic monuments of that kind, Bouteflika said that “you immediately find the answers in Spain and Morocco,” while assuring that “cooperation with Morocco is important.”

The notice, mandated by the Ministry, and delivered Wednesday by lawyer Mourad Elajouti, demands the brand “to withdraw the collection within 15 days from the reception of the present notice,” arguing that the patterns are direct copies of Zellij art in Moroccan monuments, registered in the UNESCO as Moroccan heritages.

Obtained by HIBAPRESS EN, the notice assures that “the Moroccan Ministry of Culture reserves the right to use all possible legal remedies before German and international courts, as well as before the organizations relating to the protection of heritage and copyright UNESCO and WIPO, in order to protect the elements of the Moroccan cultural heritage from illicit attempts of appropriation.”

Cultural appropriation is defined as the act by which a person or organization from a different culture appropriates a traditional cultural expression, adapting it to another culture in a different context, without permission or acknowledgement of the source or origins of the expression, and at times, for financial and cultural gains.

The Ministry maintains that “this is the case” in this instance, adding that glazed ceramic tiles first appeared in Morocco in the 10th century.

“ The motifs used in your creation are inspired by motifs present in the monuments of the Medina of Fez and the Site of Chellah, officially registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981 and 1985.”

“Copying designs without regard to their deep cultural significance and the origin of their creation can damage the identity of an entire community,” read the notice.

The Ministry of Culture retains its full right to pursue both legal action and fair compensation procedures to redeem “having seized these traditional cultural expressions and reused them out of context, ignoring their cultural significance, and distorting them from their origin,” said the notice.

تشكيلة أنيقة مستوحاة من التصاميم العريقة لقصر المشور.
متوفرة من 14 أكتوبر في المتجر وعلى موقع ومن خلال @dzfanstore

The new Algeria culture wear collection, inspired by the iconic El Mechouar palace. Available from 14/10.

📸: @aqbnwr@LesVerts

— adidasMENA (@adidasMENA) September 23, 2022

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