Sunday, April 9, 2017

Learning from zero - Azrou - Rabat
Hussein O'Nassr waited for us at 08:55 sharp, at the Grande Place of Sefrou. His time schedule was so precise and unfamiliar with the local time management culture that we all looked at each other thinking: "this is a change. curious to meet the guy".
The next day, we all stand at the precise time on the Grande Place. He was there, shaking our hands and warmly salute us :"Bslama" and "Bonjour" mixt with "good morning". 
The road was magnificent, up to Azrou, a small city located in the "middle Atlas" mountains, at 1250m altitude. The green scenery along with the good vibe of the team and Hussein, made the journey so smooth and pleasant. First destination was the weekly regional market, where all the tribes and habitants of the region, come to sell their goods, and you can find everything that crosses your mind: from animals, food, carpets, house accessories and just name it.
Hussein, helped us so much in the translations, especially for the carpets bargaining. Most of the traders were Amazigh (the colonial  term is Berbere). They are very sharp bargainers, they do it for thousands of years. The Amazigh are the Galois of the French, they are the natives of all the north African continent, and most of them were forced to convert to Islam only at the 12-13 century, after many resistances and battles. They didn't see themselves as Muslim but as Amazigh, with their own believes, mythology, language, and traditions. Their writing is very illustrative, looking like ancient grecque, Russian or even Indian.
The Amazigh carpets are art pieces. Charged with a whole language made of symbols, that weavers transmit between them for thousands of years. The colors, symbols, material mixtures are varying from region to region, from tribes and families. You understand the richness of those carpet. When you have one at home, you appreciate the time that the weaver spent to make it, the language behind it. A real treasure. Here are some magnificent carpets, art pieces from the region of Azrou.
Enjoy them.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Sefrou – learning to live in a different rhythm
This is Abdelslam, very few people here in the old Medina of Sefrou know that his real name is Ahmed. He has a 8 sqm shop, where he serves mint Moroccan tea, for 40 years. This is his profession, a last lost tradition. He might be probably the last generation that will prepare only tea for so many years. The gestures of cutting the mint, washing it, preparing in advance ready to use glasses with mint inside, then boiling the water, knowing exactly when to turn the light off, watching the steam going up. You see, the steam is very important factor of the tea preparation, if it's too hot, people will burn themselves, it has to be at the perfect temperature between being hot and not burning. Then knowing exactly the quantity of green tea leaves to mixt with the mint. Years of experience. The place is a small meeting points of all the artisans and commercials that work in the Medina. They meet there, they share and discuss, but also argue and even get angry. Those places, where you seat and practically obliged to talk with the others, because it's only 4 tables in 8 sqm. Those places, that the social media try to recreate today, but on virtual platforms. Ahmed, in my eyes, is a master artist! His ways of pouring, measuring, testing, mixing, serving, could be compared to the excellency Caravaggio measured the light for his paintings, or Picasso evaluating the distortions of his figures, or even Grayson Perry did choose the thickness of the wires he used for his tapestries. If you thought art was just the pieces you enjoy at the museums or galleries, then you are WRONG. Art is life, and the excellency of preparing mint tea for 40 years is art. Here in the Medina of Sefrou, Morocco, 2017.
Wish you long life Ahmed.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Residency Sefrou – weaving
The artisanal activity of weaving is very complex. Today I had the chance to meet one of Sefrou's weavers, for four generations, Mustapha.
He is not only talented but also very up to date using the a design application to plan his weaving schemes.
You see, weaving is composed of pedals and drawers, and according to their position, and all the possibilities of combinations between them, they form the design of the textile weaved. Mustapha is designing it on his computer (see video), which can take him hours and days, but saves months of work without the computer. Most the weavers today don't use this design application since they are located in rural locations, often without access to internet and computers. Next week I am going to visit and meet several women cooperatives in rural areas to know other technics.
I would like to thank Mustapha to have shown us his home, his ways of working the designs, his patience and immense kindness.

Slama for all of you.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pictures from the old Jewish school and Cemetery in Sefrou. A kind of nostalgic glimp of what was a millenial Jewish population in this region.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Residency in Sefrou
After two days spent in the Medina of Sefrou, with a group of amazing artists from all over the world, I am ready to start writing on this blog. 
I needed these days to get my marks on the surrounding area, getting to know the place (more or less), the people, where to get this and that, etc.
Today we started visiting the former Jewish School, including an old synagogue, which is very well kept by a Moroccan family. In Morocco, Jewish cemeteries and Synagogues, houses, are usually well kept. 
I always get some emotional when it's concerning Jewish places, especially from Maghreb origins. Here in Morocco, I understand the sense of the language since I've heard it at home, from my great fathers and mothers - along with French - and from my parents. When I hear Moroccan in the streets I feel at home, comfortable and welcome. Might be difficult to understand that to some Israelis, locked in their pre-judgmental stages. built both by the media, politics and ignorance. In French we say : " l'ignorance tue" (ignorance is a killer). 
I am sharing the house with a young Moroccan dancer, contemporary dancer, Said El Haddaji. Being a dancer in Morocco is not so easy socially, especially when you are the only child in the family. He is working for the Chergui dance company, here is a trailer of what he is doing.
I met from the artists residents, a museum curator from Croatia, an American artist run gallery owner, and many fabulous artists. Not to mention the Residency Culture Vultures Residency initiator and manager Jess Stephens, who is an exceptional person, who creates value through art, linking the local community of Sefrou to culture and art. We've talked about a future cooperation.
Tomorrow I will start enquiring for my research of weaving and symbolism. 
Good night dears.

Sharon Toval
Art Curator