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Marrakech is a sensorial city

Marrakech is a sensorial city. 

The bustling rhythm of tourists and commerce is complemented by an ancient culture of pure enjoyment of life. 

The damages of the recent earthquake are still visible scars of the trauma the region suffered, but you can see life flowing within it like flowers growing out of the cracks in a perched land.

There’s a sense of community and solidarity long forgotten in Europe. It calls out to you and makes you want to be part of it, for the good and the bad. I’ve felt this calling since the first time I set foot in the country, twenty years ago.





I’m drawn to Marrakech repeatedly, especially now that I’m working alongside my father on an ambitious project that is meaningful to the both of us. It is the first time we work together not on a commercial project, but on a common vision, complementing each other rather than competing, carrying out a creation that aims to be bigger than us, realising a dream that we didn’t know we shared until now.

I know this experience will make me grow a lot, as a person and as an artist, letting go of my own Ego and embracing a legacy.

We are dreaming of a place of exchange, creation and free thought that is both ephemeral and physical.

A place where artists and scientists, creators and technicians, all kinds of creative nerds and outcasts can meet to generate new dialogues. I truly believe we need new dialogues. Especially here, especially today. 

Of course, my dream place will feature a darkroom :)

But this is a massive work-in-progress, maybe it’ll appear on another blog post later on.


There’s a unique light in Marrakech, like a warm caress that ignites desires and memories, that makes every sight, every colour simply alive.

And the smells…they are a fusion of old and new, the construction materials blending with the city's distinctive natural scents.

It's got me thinking about how to infuse my art with these sensorial elements. What if you could truly smell a picture? I'm not speaking poetically here, I'm literally wondering about the possibility of incorporating scent into the printmaking process. Spices, incense, essential oils...

I also wonder how to evoke a tri-dimensional space with scent - an installation driven by the sense of smell and supported by visual and physical elements.  







 



































It’s very different and much easier to network and meet people in Marrakech than in Paris.

In a surprisingly short time I met some of the most brilliant artists in the Moroccan scene, including Mahi Binebine and Hassan Hajjaj. Such an inspiration and privilege to exchange with these minds.

I also got the chance to chat with a great reportage photographer, Alan Keohane, who lived in the desert with Bedouins and realised some beautiful photographic books.

Although we don’t have exactly the same “style” or point of view on photography, we had a great time talking about darkroom processes (even though he abandoned it long ago!) and he said something that resonated with the me: “a photograph is an object”, it’s not a bunch of pixels to post on social media.

Alan teaches at Marrakech art school and he sets two absolute rules to succeed his class:


  1. print images to make them become objects, and

  2. make a series to develop a narrative.


I am planning to experiment with liquid emulsion as soon as I am back in the studio, to research the concept of photographic sculpture. I’ll also take Alan’s advice and develop my own series…maybe “Maya”!



This time around, Marrakech also taught me a lesson about embracing drama.

I lost a piece of my camera, the film rolling knob, just a couple of shots away from finishing a film roll. I was stuck.

In Paris it would have taken me about 20 minutes to walk to the shop and buy a new piece. But I learnt the hard way that there are no analog photography shops in Marrakech! I embarked on a wild quest that led me to unknown corners of the city and incredible characters. 








I asked Alan if he could help and he suggested to ask at Marrakech’s photography school, but it was closed until Monday. 

After hitting a dead end with online sellers, I had a genius intuition: one of the previous times I was in Marrakech I visited a sort of flea market called Bab El Khemis, where you can find all sort of frippery, antiques and cool junk.

So between a meeting with the notary and one with the electrician, I managed to hit Bab El Khemis and try my luck. 

Luckily, my friend Karima came with me as my attempts at Darija, the moroccan dialect, would have gotten me nowhere!

We started asking around and a lamp vendor led us on a merry dance from door dealers to hidden nooks.

Unfortunately, still not a single old camera in sight - I think I found literally the only thing they don’t sell in this market!


Bab el Khemis


Just as I was losing hope, the lamp seller called us back, and directed us to another freaky spot deep in the Medina.

He was right. Tucked away in an alley, there was an old hardware shop. It was like stepping into 1960s, but the quest was not over yet. Warmer though. The owner said he had an old Canon AE1 just like mine, but it was broken.

He gave him to another guy who would be able to repair it…the guy was just next door, in an even narrower, more hidden alley, in the smallest shop possible.








His laboratory was on the first floor, with a halfmoon window overlooking the small street. And there he was, perched in his tiny lab, my magic saviour.

He still had the camera, and it was still broken. But I managed to buy it for 300 dhs, the equivalent of 30 euros, and repair the camera myself.

I would have paid much more if I bought the piece alone on Ebay. Now I have spare parts for the future and, most importantly, I had a thrilling exploration adventure. 

 


What started as a personal tragedy transformed into an epic journey through Marrakech's hidden heart and its unique inhabitants.

I only wish my camera was working and that time wasn't so pressing, I could have made some great material.

Next time, I'll be prepared with a roadmap for my eyes and heart (and spare parts!), ready to capture every moment.




As I continue my journey, I hold on to the openness and sensory richness of Marrakech, eager to see how its influence will shape my artmaking.


Next stop: Saudi Desert!



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