They do not forget where they come from but they are not costumbristas. They do not want to do folklore but art. Today, in Morocco, there is a group of millennial artists who are producing valuable visual art, with a contemporary and groundbreaking stamp, and who usually find it less difficult to reach exhibition spaces (and festivals) abroad than those in their own country. They are women born in the eighties and nineties, in the large Maghreb cities (especially in the frenzied Casablanca), self-taught both trained abroad, or heirs of Faouzi Laatiris (the ‘Moroccan Duchamp’).
They do not refuse to speak of the social misery of inequality, nor do they fail to account for the serious problems of sexual discrimination within and outside their society, but they prefer to reflect with less naturalistic languages than those of literary, social cinema or oral storytellers would impose them.
“Mimetic art is undoubtedly far from the truth,” Plato wrote. It seems that the philosopher was not only referring to imitation that concerns the eye, but also to what is heard, in particular, to poetry. And poetry is the word that we would surely pronounce when we let ourselves be carried away by the visual works of these three Moroccan artists who reflect on human ties and bodies in public spaces of non-fiction and also in theatrical ones, where they evoke gender conflicts and period, without the need for an informative account.
It is advisable to write down their names and pay special attention to Randa Maroufi, Imane Djamil and Yasmine Hatimi, in this unique Ramadan (which ends today Saturday 23rd) in which their usual models and actors – most of them in their twenties (and street) – will have to be keeping rigorous sanitary isolation in their family homes, places where before they only went to eat and sleep.
Randa Maroufi’s frontier choreography
Randa Maroufi (@randamaroufi, on Instagram) was born in Casablanca and studied at the Tetuán School of Fine Arts. He explains that his father always worked in Customs, and that this is where his familiarity with the subject of Morocco’s previously porous land border with Spain (on the edges of the cities of Ceuta and Melilla) comes from. Those steps, now closed due to the covid-19 epidemic, had already been closed in December 2019 to the contraband-ant that supported the family economies of thousands of inhabitants in the region. Maroufi’s last audiovisual piece paints a theatrical picture of those overloaded porters, forced to remain for hours, bowed, in front of the waiting lines. As in that Dogville, by Lars Von Trier, Bab Sebta (Ceuta’s gate) traces the geographical boundaries on a zenith plane, and also opts for the view from above of this choreography of waiting and the human funnel. It is a beautiful (very well lit) recreation in the studio, with fixed shots to which the camera movement has then been added; at street level, the choreography of the pushes and the relief of the outcome is freed. The piece has been selected for the Kinodot Experimental Film Festival, which this year will be held online until 26.05.20, which can be seen on the web.
Kinodot Experimental Film Festival 2020 trailer on Kinodot from Vimeo.
Randa has other experimental shorts that account for the “archetypal representations of a culture” from a theatricality in dissent, but always with anchors in the real. Thus, in his previous piece, Le Park, where he puts a group of urban adolescents to reconstruct cinematographic images with which they would probably decorate their identity on social networks, the testimonies of these young people are heard (for example: “Everything that the boys do is for the girls to look at them ”). It is a piece of video art that remarkably paints the present of this young continent and which the Center Nacional des Arts Plastiques de France has already acquired for its collection. It can also be seen during these days, open, on Vimeo.
Architecture and female body: Imane Djamil
‘Les Grandes Vacances’ (Summer Vacation), by Moroccan artist Imane Djamil.
How can bodies be recognized in an individual identity and within a given culture? This is perhaps the question from which Imane Djamil (@idjamil), a self-taught artist from Casa Blanca, started to repair the link between the ruins – as historical references of human relations – and the beings who observe them. Restless, she does not stop traveling and participating in learning and creative experiences (also in the poetic field), although she always returns. In his country he conceived double Copies, self-portrait in spaces, a project of photographs, texts and performances that he initially set up in Tarfaya, in the Sahara –which is the site where they say that The Little Prince was born, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, and continued in Sarajevo , in an inquiry into post-traumatic stress.
In the series Les Grandes Vacances (Summer Holidays), Imane was inspired by Robert Doisneau’s emblematic film to show what the gender dynamics are during any given summer, in Morocco, where men’s pleasure is guaranteed, while the body of the woman remains hidden or judged. This work was exhibited for the first time in the official selection of PhotoEspaña 2018.
At this moment, Djamil works in a fiction with characters that go from the naturalistic to the phantasmagorical, and whose plot revolves around an artificial lake in the heart of Casablanca, the Lac Oulfa, born from the extractive activity of old quarries and, nevertheless , of a rare beauty, also veiled to its inhabitants. “The city wanted to live fast and when the opportunity arose, its coasts and gorges suffered dishonest deals. According to the predecessors, the protuberance where love prevailed (…) He saw on the surface of his skin the impact of his consent: the cries of his children, a dying plant, a dike between the banks and the sky, an angry man ( …) Little by little, her body adapted to her new architecture (…) Casablanca, certainly, had not inherited the grace of relics, nor the illustrious smell of wood, but her executioners had managed to turn her into a mutant cell, apparently generous and repulsive, ”she writes.
Other masculinities, according to Yasmine Hatimi
One of the pieces from the series ‘Les nouveaux romantiques 2017 (the new romantics)’, the work of Yasmine Hatimi. Below, another piece
Yasmine Hatimi (@ yamsine9) also grew up in Casablanca, the city where she attended the Spanish School and, as a natural step, later trained in Spain. He lived for ten years in Madrid, studied Photography at EFTI (International Center for Photography and Cinema) and returned to his country, where for some time he has created unmissable series on masculinity in Morocco. Thus, in New Romantics (The new romantics), he proposes to each model to choose flowers with which to express loving feelings. In this staging, Yasmine experienced mixed emotions in front of teenagers who were intimidated by the feminine presence and attentive observation, or pleasantly pleased, in poses where they could say different things than they live on a daily basis.
About her next steps, she explains them herself: “I continue to work on male youth in Morocco; I’m doing analogue portraits, maybe the series is called The Butterfly Hunt. Have you noticed that young boys in Morocco always walk in a group? I like the proposal to isolate them, take them out of context and bring them into my world. The idea is to extract another facet from them, to look at them and see them in a new way ”.