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nº51 / 1:54 MARRAKESH 2020 / PART-II

What is outside the ochre wall? Visiting the satellite exhibitions of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2020 throughout Marrakesh. Interviews, reviews and the most prominent artists and art galleries.




A VOYAGE THAT SHOULD HAVE LASTED FOR MONTHS




Interviews and featured galleries, artists by Zoltan Alexander


PART II.


Interview with Firouz FarmanFarmaian (Marbella) at the Royal Theatre (Marrakech).


Followed by Jacques Azéma at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent (Marrakesh), Jardin Secret (Marrakesh), the Maison de la Photographie (Marrakesh), the Orientalist Museum (Marrakesh), Bertjan Pot and Amie Dicke at Palais Bahia (Marrakesh), Hicham Benohoud and Amina Agueznay by Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca) at El Fenn (Marrakesh), Yoko Ono (New York), Kapwani Kiwanga (Paris), Rahima Gambo (Abuja) and Amina Benbouchta (Casablanca, Paris) at MACAAL, Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain al Madeen (Marrakesh), Mohamed Bourouissa at DADA (Marrakesh), Mustapha Azeroual at Dar el Bacha and Deborah Benzaquen (Casablanca) at 47 Galerie Dar el Bacha (Marrakesh)


Other artists and galleries are featured in PART I. and PART III.





1:54 Marrakesh 2020 / © video by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA




A hard two months have passed since my visit to Marrakesh and it seems a light-year away. I returned to a collapsing, doomed world from an amalgam of cultures, colours and magical people that felt more like a volume of space essentially empty of dark matter. In the midst of the lockdown, it appears that there are more hours in a day. I have grasped time itself - another world with no meaning and made it stand still to replay those precious moments again, over and over.


Last week, in PART I. I looked through the ochre wall and visited some of the exhibitions in the Medina and Guéliz. Although, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Marrakesh is traditionally held at La Mamounia, there were dozens of satellite exhibitions outside the ochre wall throughout the city. In PART II. I will be continuing my tour in the Medina and visiting art galleries in the other part of Guéliz and La Palmeraie.


Guéliz, the new district of Marrakesh, is radically different compare it to the Medina. It’s kaleidoscopic spectrum of culture, traditional and industrious market places, large buildings, noisy wide avenues dates from the French-era. Guéliz is filled with Moroccan and European cafés, restaurants, bars, mainstream fashion stores as well as Artsi Ifrach’s exquisite space, the Maison ARTC and a circle of contemporary art galleries (Galerie 127, David Bloch Gallery, Galerie Comptoir des Mines) complementing its European-style new architecture.



Photo © Courtesy of Artsi Ifrach of Maison ARTC Marrakesh


Before the Art Fair opened, we stopped by at two art installations organised by the same artist Firouz FarmanFarmaian, at the Palais Aziza at La Palmeraie and the following day at the Royal Theatre of Marrakesh.




"Memorandum of the Unknown Path" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


FIROUZ FARMANFARMAIAN / Marbella

The first day of my journey to Marrakesh started with an invitation of Persian multidisciplinary artist Firouz FarmanFarmaian to "Traces" curated by We R the Nomads at Palais Aziza and a post-tribal installation "Memorandum of the Unknown Path" at the legendary Royal Theatre of Marrakesh.


The preview reception of "Traces" as part of the palace's bi-annual fine art exhibition was followed by a beautifully orchestrated dinner held in a tent surrounded by palm trees and exotic flowers alongside a candle-lit swimming pool.


Firouz FarmanFarmaian is a journey himself, bejewelled and dressed impeccably. He wears traditional, colourful caftans mixed with unlabelled sportswear. His looks are just as striking as his art. His belle table had guests from the four corners of the globe; curators from Tate Modern, as well as collector Vanessa Branson, the Swedish gold-handed PR-agent of Marrakesh Patrick Benjaminsson, London gallery owner Janet Rady, writer Marc Hostier and Camilla FarmanFarmaian, the wife of the artist.


Later, Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi accompanied by Ladan Mina came to admire his exhibition at the Royal Theatre of Marrakesh.




Patrick Benjaminsson, Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi, Firouz FarmanFarmaian, Ladan Mina, Camilla FarmanFarmaian


The following day, "Memorandum of the Unknown Path" was opened at Charles Boccara's Royal Theatre. The theatre is an architectural gem, it is something to be admired even from the outside with its Roman-inspired details. It is a part unfinished opera house, part outdoor theatre, the Theatre Royal is now merely used for cultural events.




"Traces" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of Firouz FarmanFarmaian


Firouz FarmanFarmian was born in Iran and currently lives and works in Marbella.


Descendent of the Quajar dynasty which ruled Iran from 1794 to 1925, Firouz FarmanFarmian relocated following the Islamic Revolution to Paris and Spain, where he grew up and turned his political exile into art. He very much awed by the careers of both his grandfather, architect Abdol-Aziz FarmanFarmaian and his grand-aunt, contemporary artist Monir Shahroudy FarmanFarmaian.


New York, Paris, London, Washington, San Francisco, Dubai and Tehran are just a few places where his work has been exhibited and many of his exquisite art pieces are now in private collections of royalty and celebrities all over the world.




"Massachusetts Study" by Firouz FarmanFarmian / Photo © Courtesy of Firouz FarmanFarmian
"Woman With A Veil" by Firouz FarmanFarmian / Photo © Courtesy of Firouz FarmanFarmian


Nominated for the Jameel Prize 2021, "Memorandum of the Unknown Path" is a site-specific installation in the middle of the Royal Theatre's main hall with a giant metal ring and large-scale tent elements, knotted, hand-painted fabric panels held together by Touareg raw camel wool including "Banners of the Unbanished", a series of textiles involving Moroccan and Persian tribal cultures with Sufi-inspired textures and post-tribal and military symbols sourced in the Atlas mountains at Draa Valley and the Sahara.




"Memorandum of the Unknown Path" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


The installation was exploring cross-cultural themes and the question of identity in the face of a change, and also included a 10-minute video "Talkhimt-Tadounit​" documenting the artist's path to sourcing the material for the installation, alongside sonic signatures inspired by contemporary Sub-Saharan sonorities recorded and composed by FORRM. History and memory are the core themes in the art of FarmanFarmaian, whose lifetime of living in exile in Paris and Marbella has profoundly influenced both his creative practice and individual character.




"Memorandum of the Unknown Path" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


"Identity is a central segment to the growth of one's art. This body of work stems from an urge to create a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, a total body of art. It is a circumstance that ultimately shapes lives," declares the artist whose work actively engages in a dialogue with the past and possesses vivacious energy as well as a deeply symbolic quality, which speaks to a multiplicity of current politics, art and philosophy.


"Memorandum of the Unknown Path" reflects on a vision of the path ahead, probably the last virus-free art exhibition for a long time.




Firouz FarmanFarmian at the Royal Theatre of Marrakesh / Photo © Courtesy of Firouz FarmanFarmian


Firouz FarmanFarmaian with Vanessa Branson

Firouz FarmanFarmaian's latest project is an online VR-gallery of selected contemporary artworks. The virtual exhibition started only a few days ago with his solo show "Lets Get Lost / Let Them Send Out Alarms” and continued with a group show, “Vaccine For World War III” a fine collaboration with his contemporary fellow artists.


ll faut être absolument moderne / you have to be absolutely modern" Arthur Rimbaud said it famously.


"VR is the new frontier of art, from creation to exhibition, curated in borderless fashion. “Lets Get Lost / Let Them Send Out Alarms” is my first VR solo show followed by “Vaccine For World War III” a group show which I co-curated for an online presentation imposed by the current lockdown.” Firouz FarmanFarmaian



/ VIDEO INTERVIEW


Zoltan Alexander talks to artist Firouz FarmanFarmaian about his life, work, exile and current installations in Marrakesh in an over-passionate, Wagnerian style at La Mamounia Palace and walks through the artist's studio in Marbella.

The conversation is lightly interrupted by Iranian-American artist Sholeh Janati from New York, accidentally falling into a fountain at La Mamounia, right beside our interview. (a scream)


Duration: 20min10"

Director: Zoltan Alexander

Featured Artist: Firouz FarmanFarmaian

Language: English with a touch of Farsi

Location: La Mamounia, Marrakesh and the artist’s studio in Marbella, Spain

Video Edit & Music Arrangement: ZOLTAN+MEDIA London

Post-production (video/sound): Mr Skok of George Smoog

Video Content: Courtesy of Firouz FarmanFarmaian

Still Photography (artworks): Courtesy of Firouz FarmanFarmaian

Still Photography (installation at the Theatre Royal): ZOLTAN+MEDIA London

Music: Courtesy of Kelsey Lu (live) performance / Omotesando, Tokyo, Japan

Music: Courtesy of Stavroz (live) performance / Fort Saint Eynard, France

Resolution: HD full screen

Production: © ZOLTAN+MEDIA London




Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


MUSÉE YVES SAINT LAURENT / Marrakesh


"Une Aventure poétique" an exhibition presenting the works of Jacques Azéma at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh.


In 2018, the he inauguration of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech was orchestrated in 2018 by the foundation's president Madison Cox, Pierre Bergé's widower and by Dominique Deroche, YSL's attachée de presse for decades. The twin-museum in Paris is set in the former haute couture house on the Avenue Marceau.


The museum is the outstanding work of the duo, Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty of Studio KO, their adventurous use of materials, and the synergy of their design with bricks of 30s modern villas that once surrounded the museum's site. The museum was inaugurated by King Mohammed VI's wife, Princess Lalla Salma and for the opening ceremony, La Mamounia Palace provided the nest to some of the most distinguished guests including Marisa Berenson, Catherine Deneuve, Paloma Picasso, François and Betty Catroux, Anthony Vaccarello.



Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh

In the museum, only a few steps away from the noisy streets of Marrakesh, we are surrounded with Parisian elegance and the iconic pieces of YSL precious collections dedicated to Matisse, Picasso, Mondrian, Russian–inspired dresses and smokings. Unseen in the basement the museum's climate-controlled storage for the rotating masterworks where the treasures are preserved.







Jardin Majorelle / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


The museum is situated at the corner of the magnificent Jardin Majorelle filled with palm trees, sculptural cacti, exotic flowers, water fountains and the striking Majorelle Blue and yellow colours are applied throughout the garden. Jacques Majorelle was the son of the celebrated Art Nouveau furniture designer Louis Majorelle. Suffering from tuberculosis, he moved to Marrakech in 1919, not just to improve his health but to continue his career as an artist. It was here, in 1924, that he began his greatest masterpiece the Jardin Majorelle. Majorelle's house and garden were eventually acquired and restored by YSL to make what is a breath-taking Orientalist treasure, the Villa Oasis, Pierre Bergé's and Yves Saint Laurent's last home.



"Une Aventure Poétique" by Jacques Azéma Musée YSL

In 2018, for the opening, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech presented "The Sculptural Dresses", an exhibition dedicated to the works of Moroccan couturier Noureddine Amir.


This year, the museum has mounted the first retrospective "Une Aventure poétique" devoted to the work of Jacques Azéma (1910- 1979), a French artist who made Marrakech his home in 1930. As a professor of painting in Marrakech, and later at the École des Beaux-Arts in Casablanca in the 1960s, Azéma greatly influenced the Moroccan artists of his time. He remained in Marrakesh for fifty years before returning to France. He lived modestly and shied away from any artistic or social circles. Straying away from orientalist tropes, he chose to focus instead on daily life in Morocco, leaving works that are unique, mysterious and sensual.




Jardin Secret / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


JARDIN SECRET / Marrakesh

Le Jardin Secret is another astonishingly beautiful garden in the Medina. Although it was not in the programme of 1:54 it is a must-see place filled with love and poetry. It is an elegant, ornate 19th century palace with a café and two sumptuous gardens.




Jardin Secret / Photo © Video © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA




The origins of the Jardin Secret go back to the second half of the 16th century when the Saadian Sultan Moulay 'Abd-Allah commenced upon the urbanization of what is now the Mouassine district. However, the palace, which stood on the grounds of the Jardin Secret, was destroyed towards the end of the 17th century, after the decline of the Saadian dynasty. In the 19th century, Kaid U-Bihi came into possession of the land and a new palace was built with great respect, however, shortly after, he was viewed suspiciously by Sultan Muhammad IV and was killed with poisoned tea. Following several owners, the property was ceased and soon fell into a state of disrepair. The restoration took place in 2008, and the Jardin Secret came back to life again.




Jardin Secret / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Today the Jardin Secret is divided into an exotic garden and an Islamic garden. The exotic garden is filled with plants coming from all over the world, recalling the experimental aspect of the great gardens of Marrakech, a rose among the palm trees, an oasis in the desert of Al-Bahja, the city of peace.


The larger Islamic garden was restored following the 18th century layout with a structure of a Riad, an oasis of peace, where one could allow oneself to rest and indulge in the shade of palm trees. The four-part layout of the Islamic garden is a metaphor of heaven; it is a sacred place, laid out accordingly to rigid geometrical rules, in which the Muslim order asserts itself over the wild disorder of nature.




"Hommes" by Nicolas Muller and "Jemaa el Fna" by Gabriel Gillet at Maison de la Photographie / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


MAISON DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE / Marrakesh


THE ORIENTALIST MUSEUM / Marrakesh


None of the two museums were included in the official programme of 1:54 however they belong to our cultural tour. The two exquisitely restored Riads are only a few steps away from each other in the heart of the Medina.


The Maison de la Photographie displays a rare collection of original photographs taken between 1870 and 1950 showing the multiple aspects of the Moroccan society.




The Orientalist Museum of Marrakesh / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


The Orientalist Museum of Marrakesh was recently restored by the same owner as of the Macma Museum in Guéliz, offering a wide spectrum on the cultural history of Morocco through an exclusive collection of Orientalist paintings, (from Delacroix, Majorelle to a rare piece of Henri van Melle), and precious antique art pieces of Moroccan art crafters. The building is a typical Saadian Riad from the end of 17th century and from the terrace, one has an exclusive panorama of the city and the Atlas mountains.




Palais Bachia / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Palais Bachia / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


PALAIS BACHIA / Marrakesh

"One Square Meter Berber" an exhibition presenting the collective works of Mina Abouzahra and Nina Mohammad-Galbert, gathering Moroccan weavers and Dutch designers Bertjan Pot, Wieki Somers, Amie Dicke et Mattijs van Bergen.


"One Square Meter Berber" is a cultural and social project that aims to protect and sustain the ancient cultural heritage of the weaving Berber Community of Morocco through a collaborative art project.


Morocco has an incredible range of heritage craft skills but many of these skills are in the hands of an ageing population and at risk of fast disappearing. The carpet industry, one of the country's strongest and most lucrative exports, is literally in the hands of the weavers, communities of empowering women, who are the artisans supporting the industry and their families.



"Masks" by Bertjan Pot / Photo © Courtesy of Bertjan Pot


"Masks" by Bertjan Pot / Photo © Courtesy of Bertjan Pot

"One Square Meter Berber" has selected four different weaver tribes in rural Morocco and paired them with artist from the Netherlands. Under the creative direction of Amie Dicke, Mattijs Van Bergen, Wieki Somers and Bertjan Pot, the craft took an increased sense of cultural awareness and modernity, recognizing the importance of heritage as a way to inform a better future. They shared techniques, knowledge, experiences and life, an intense experience of working hand in hand to gain respect for the vivid beauty of the Berber craftsmanship.



Bertjan Pot’s work shows a fascination for techniques, structures, patterns and colours. The Rotterdam-based designer’s products span the space between work and play; he believes: “Never working, never not working”. Most experiments start quite impulsively, led by curiosity, subsequently, objects explore the parameters of everyday materials. Pot’s created many woven works such as his celebrated Mask series pushing the boundaries of contemporary design.

Bertjan Pot is a young Dutch designer who is especially famous for his “Random Light“ pieces. Many of his extravagant lamps and furniture pieces have been produced by Moooi and Arco. His designs are characterised by experimental shapes and a playful approach to materials.




Amie Dicke / Photo © Courtesy of Amie Dicke
Amie Dicke / Photo © Courtesy of Amie Dicke


Dutch artist Amie Dicke is best known for cutting and altering fashion magazines, cuttings and nail-pierced publications and Bauhaus catalogues share her cluttered studio with wrapped furniture, objects covered in foundation, water tanks filled with colour prints, and a fur coat stashed in glass closet.


Based in Amsterdam, Dicke found her approach while still a student at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam when she used marzipan and icing to cast the negative space between her legs – rendering herself at once visible and invisible. With How sweet is the space between my legs” Dicke signalled her profound and enduring interest in presence and absence, solids and voids.


In early 2000, she was living and working in New York that saw her literally de-facing the advertising imagery of Madison Avenue, obscuring the features of famous models and driving nails through glossy publications. Ironically, it is her imposition of anonymity that allows images to meet and merge somewhere between the confident dualities offered by our aesthetic culture. Her current work she explores the interaction between physical space, objects, history and people.




El Fenn - Roof terrace / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
El Fenn - Courtyard / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


EL FENN / Marrakesh

"Moroccan Landscapes" an exhibition presenting the works of Amina Agueznay and Hicham Benohoud by Loft Art Gallery Casablanca at El Fenn Marrakesh.


Although the Riad El Fenn is in the heart of Media, it is a no place to be found, no matter how hard one memorises the path before. From the main street, we have to enter a hidden alley then another, step over some steaming fish stalls and musicians to get to a half-hidden door, the hotel's entrance. In fact, the only way to find it is by relying on your senses. I was able to find El Fenn just by spotting a Moroccan man in a beautifully tailored caftan standing in the middle of the road like a sculpture unmatching the busy alley's scenery. When he spotted me, he pointed at the right direction with a slow gesture. It totally felt like being in a movie. Once the hotel’s door opened, I was taken by the breathtakingly beautiful and luxurious interior, orange trees and lantern-decorated courtyards.




Private view at El Fenn - David Daim, Nathalie Yacob, Firouz FarmanFarmian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
El Fenn - Bay Collonade / Photo © Courtesy of El Fenn

Combining grandeur and historic architecture, the hotel was conceived as a result of a dream of entrepreneur, art collector Vanessa Branson and her business partner Howell James while they were travelling to Marrakesh in 2002. Today, the hotel with 28 individually styled rooms and suites, tree-filled courtyards and fountains, swimming pools, a fine restaurant, bar, spa, a library and a 7000ft2 roof terrace are run by director Willem Smit, and without exaggeration, El Fenn is one of the most exquisite palaces in Marrakesh.


As part of the cultural programme of 1:54, El Fenn and Loft Art Gallery from Casablanca organised a cocktail to present landscape photography by Hicham Benohoud and large-scale knitted fabric installations by Amina Agueznay.







Amina Agueznay's academic training in architecture fuelled her passion for the intersection of art and design. Graduating from the Catholic University of America with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1989, she went on to lead several architectural projects in the United States. Since 1999, Agueznay has been exhibited internationally, in cities such as Rabat, Marrakech, New York, Paris, Algiers and Berlin, and has been shown in various international fairs. At El Fenn, Agueznay exhibited her large-scale natural wool sculptures with metallic, sequinned beaded details.




"Untitled" by Hicham Benohoud / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
"Untitled" by Hicham Benohoud / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Self-reflection at El Fenn / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Hicham Benohoud's practice is rooted in Moroccan culture and social structures, exploring notions of individual and collective identity. Benohoud began his artistic journey with self-portrait photography, a medium he continues to practice, expanding his current process to incorporate mixed and new media. Humour, surrealism, performativity and self-deprecation staged in unexpected modes, are recurring elements in his work. His is series takes youth as a point of departure to cast a critical eye on the sociocultural disparities prevalent in Morocco.


Another magical evening not to be forgotten.




MACAAL, Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain / Photo © Courtesy of MACAAL


MACAAL MUSÉE D'ART CONTEMPORAIN AFRICAIN AL MADEEN / Marrakesh

"Have You Seen a Horizon Lately?" a group exhibition presenting the works of Yoko Ono, Kapwani Kiwanga, Rahima Gambo and Amina Benbouchta.


The museum space has been transformed by the architecture firm Lazraqbret into an immersive environment inspired by the traditional architecture of Moroccan medinas. Othman Lazraq, a barely 30-year-old president along with his father Alami Lazraq, is the founder of MACAAL, Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain al Madeen, a dusky-pink museum that opened in late 2016 and fully launched in 2018. The museum displays the family's 2000-piece collection of African art.




"Have You Seen a Horizon Lately?" © video by MACAAL




Installation by Ayana V Jackson / photo © Courtesy of MACAAL

Alongside with its collection, the museum opened with the exhibition "Africa is No Island" in 2018, dedicated to life on the continent which explored national identity through photography.


In 2020, MACAAL collaborated with 1:54 Art Fair with a group show "Have You Seen a Horizon Lately?" taking its title from a song by Yoko Ono. The exhibition explores the politics of space and place, inviting the viewer to see the world differently. The museum featured work from a selection of emerging and established international artists including Yoko Ono (USA), Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada-France), Rahima Gambo (Nigeria) and Amina Benbouchta (Morocco), presenting a number of new commissions for the exhibition and through a variety of media including painting, installation, sculpture and video.


Meryem Sebti, editor of the journal Diptyk said "The Moroccan scene is more dynamic than ever. More and more foreign artists come here like the Belgian Eric van Hove, take up residence to work in excellent conditions".




"Have You Seen a Horizon Lately?" / Photo © Courtesy of MACAAL


Othman Lazraq, founder and director of MACAAL: "Marrakech has already had a certain importance in art well before Cape Town, partly because it attracted so many artists and creative people like Saint Laurent from Paris, but now we want to attract African artists from our continent. The fact that a private collection opened to the public is very new in Morocco, and you can see the mentality is changing. MACAAL is a strong and impactful ally, an institutional partner and a museum one of its kind on the continent."


Whether inspired by architecture, urban archaeology and landscape or personal geographies in relationship to the body and history, the work of these contemporary artists resonates strongly with some of the most pressing issues in the world today. Questions around ecology, the unequal distribution of wealth and power, the colonisation of territories, situations of oppression, and fixed and reductive conceptions of identity are all themes explored in the exhibition.



Video projection of "Hamdoulah ça va!" / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


DADA / Marrakesh

The evening continued at Dada Marrakesh at the fashionable club constructed in a brutalist architecture style in the heart of the Medina, just a few steps from the noisy, overwhelming Jemaa El Fna square, celebrating the diverse and buzzing art and club scene of Morocco, and showcasing "Hamdoulah ça va!" one of 1:54's Special Projects.


"Hamdoulah ça va!" an exhibition, a group show around "Horse Day", a series of installations and video projections presenting the works of four young artists, Gaëlle Choisne, Neïla Czermak Ichti, Rayane Mcirdi and Sara Sadikand, whose works question the ideas of belonging, territory and identity. The exhibition is curated by Mohamed Bourouissa and presented by Sonia Perrin.


"It is making the possibility of imperfection as well as the loss of meaning ... In order to be surprised by the collisions of meaning and ideas, words and languages, which become the leitmotif of the exhibition. You see, it's like drinking tea on a rooftop looking at the world as multiple impossibilities." Mohamed Bourouissa




The Bacha Tea Room at Dar el Bacha / Photo © Courtesy of Hassan Hajjaj


DAR EL BACHA / Marrakesh

Following a traditional Moroccan peppermint tea at the sumptuous tea room at Dar el Bacha, I had a look at the current exhibition, part of 1:54's satellite programme.


Built in 1910, Dar el Bacha was the residence of Thami El Glaoui who was given the title of Pasha of Marrakech from 1912 to 1956. Some illustrious guests who visited Dar el Bacha include Colette, Maurice Ravel, Josephine Baker, Winston Churchill amongst others. Dar el Bacha represents a beautiful example of Moorish architecture with fountains, orange trees, traditional seating areas, a hammam and the Bacha Tea Room in the central courtyard. Following the renovation, the palace was now converted into a museum which holds temporary exhibitions highlighting the different facets of Moroccan culture.



47 GALERIE DAR EL BACHA / Marrakesh

As part of the Special Programme of 1:54, Dar el Bacha presented "Monade" the work of Mustapha Azeroual and showcased "Alter Ego Uprisings" the work of four Moroccan women artists Seloua Ejjennane, Amina Benbouchta, Soumiya Jalal and Deborah Benzaquen at the location of Dar Moulay-Ali.



"Monade" by Mustapha Azeroual / Photo © Courtesy of Mustapha Azeroual


"Monade" was showcasing the experimental photographic work of Mustapha Azeroual. The self-taught Franco-Morrocan artist used his training as a scientist to present his work that analyses photography.


The work of Mustapha Azeroual seems to entirely deploy the etymological characteristics of the verb photography; he writes with light. His work is abstract, rigorous and radical, and rejects the figurative motives and values.


His scientific background helped him examine traditional shooting techniques against present-day styles. Painting is never too far from him, in his laboratory Azeroual uses photosensitive emulsions, fluorescent pigments, ultra-violet rays and intense flashes to create unique effects of light prints on paper. His work focuses on four themes: studying light, patterns, the restitution of colour, and the question of support. He always questions photography tools, the process, and the point of view of the spectator. His signature technique involves using old bichromate gum drawing. The process requires patience, concentration, and improvisation, leaving much to chance.


The exhibition “Monade” brought together a set of photograms, resulting abstract compositions with polychromatic geometric shapes resembling luminous halos.




Textile by Soumiya Jalal / Photo © Courtesy of Soumiya Jalal

The exhibition "Alter Ego Uprisings" was presenting the works of four Moroccan women artists Soumiya Jalal, Amina Benbouchta, Seloua Ejjennane and Deborah Benzaquen at Dar Moulay-Ali organised by 47 Galerie Dar el Bacha.


The role of imagery is to help create a collective imaginary around the female figure in response to social issues, rejecting any form of stigmatization. Though the artists didn't consult with each other, the colour red was the common thread in their work. The colour circulates between them, in their veins and their architecture. Amina Benbouchta's work questions the devastating things left unsaid and Deborah Benzaquen's intimate exploration "La Désenchantée" deals with the loss and the fragility of life.



The multi-talented artist Deborah Benzaquen lives and works in Casablanca. In her early years she lived in Paris, later in New York. Her passion for cinema has inspired her photographic images and use of accessories. It is an endless source of inspiration in the development of her striking style. Light is of the utmost importance in her photographs. Benzaquen comes from a country where light is magical and woven into every second of life. In her images she plays with staged photography allowing different times and worlds to collide. Although, Benzaquen is sensitive and nostalgic, her strength shines through her work.




"La Désenchantée" by by Deborah Benzaquen / © video by Deborah Benzaquen




“I was born in Morocco, where lights and colours are magical. Only when I take photographs, I feel complete. I love images, the beautiful and the ugly, in all forms. Today, being in Casablanca is a very different life experience, it is very intense but fascinating, inspiring and there is a lot to share.” Deborah Benzaquen


In 2019, during 1:54 Marrakesh Dar el Bacha presented “Les Inséparables", based on a series of portraits of twins and the understanding of eternal love.



“Les Inséparables" / Othman and Soufiane (21yrs) by Deborah Benzaquen / Photo © Courtesy of Deborah Benzaquen

"We always dress the same We like to exchange our identities Even our mother confuses us We swim at the beach, that's our passion."


“Les Inséparables" / Lahoucine et Hassan (18yrs) by Deborah Benzaquen / Photo © Courtesy of Deborah Benzaquen

"We love surfing We understand each other without talking To laugh, we sometimes exchange our first names It's hard to separate."


“Les Inséparables" / Houssin et Hassan (34yrs) by Deborah Benzaquen / Photo © Courtesy of Deborah Benzaquen

"We are fishmongers We live together We are both training We really like boxing But when we play tennis at the beach, everyone looks at us We are very strong We want to stay together."




In 2020, in the frame of "Alter Ego Uprisings" her series "La Désenchantée" was exhibited by 47 Galerie Dar el Bacha. The photographs were taken in a slaughterhouse of Casablanca. Benzaquen brought her own props, tables, dresses and flowers, but the minute she entered the place a terrifying feeling hit her, the slaughtering of animals and the pain of losing her mother. She staged innocuous objects plunging in the void, silence and shadow reflecting the loss and the fragility of life, resulting a very personal body of work."Absence makes the heart grow fonder."




"La Désenchantée" (top photos 1/2/4) and “Berberliner" (middle photos 2/5) by Deborah Benzaquen / Photos © Courtesy of Deborah Benzaquen


I finish PART II. with an excerpt from Alex Soth’s photographic book “Sleeping by the Mississippi” with essays by Patricia Hampl and Anne Wilers Tucker / inspired by the readings of Darius Himes, International Head of Photography at Christie’s, New York.


A photographer’s challenge is to develop an eye or a point of you so personal that it becomes his recognisable style




to be continued ...

à suivre ...




INDEX




PART I. / CLICK ON PHOTO

Photo-montage of Moroccan tea ceremony

"Histoires de Tripes 005" by Ghizlane Sahli

Caire” by Denis Dailleux / Galerie 127

/ Photo © Courtesy of Denis Dailleux

/ Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


PART II. / COVER

Photo-montage of Moroccan tea ceremony

Waiter at Dar el Bacha Marrakesh

/ Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA





/ PART III. will present a selection of galleries exhibiting at La Mamounia Palace:


Interview with Jean-David Nkot (Douala) and Florian Azzopardi at Afikaris (Paris).

Interview with Xander Pratt (Accra) at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (Marrakesh).


Followed by Mounir Fatmi at Goodman Gallery (London, Johannesburg, Cape Town), Fabrice Monteiro (Dakar), Malick Sidibé (Paris) and Omar Victor Diop (Dakar) at Galerie Magnin-A (Paris), Lakin Ogunbanwo at Whatiftheworld Gallery (Cape Town, Johannesburg), Youssef Nabil at Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, Bruxelles), Quattara Watts at Galerie Cecile Fakhoury (Paris, Abidjan, Dakar), Yagor Yahaut at LouiSimone Guirandou Gallery (Abidjan), Prince Gyasi (Accra) at Galerie Nil (Paris), Artsi Ifrach of ARTSIMOUS at Maison ARTC (Marrakesh)





DATES




1:54 CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART FAIR MARRAKESH 2020

La Mamounia Palace Avenue Bab Jdid, 40040 Marrakesh Morocco

/ 20-21 February 2020 / Invitation only - preview days

/ 22-23 February 2020 / Tickets free - open to the public


1:54 CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART FAIR NEW YORK 2020

The Caldwell Factory 547 West 26th Street, 10001 New York, NY, USA

/ 7 May 2020 / Invitation only - preview day

/ 8 - 10 May 2020 - open to the public

1:54 CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART FAIR LONDON 2020

Somerset House The Strand, WC2R 1LA London, UK

/ 7 October 2020 / Invitation only - preview day

/ 8 - 11 October 2020 - open to the public



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