Hassan Hajjaj straddles the divide not just between countries and cultures, but art and artisans. And it’s this unique mix of perspectives and disciplines that has made him arguably Morocco’s hottest current art export.
Hajjaj’s portrait photography, shown in galleries including London’s Somerset House and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is created and framed using the products and skills of Marrakech’s artisans.
And while his real love are the everyday ‘heroes’ of the city – from friends and neighbours to gnaoua musicians and the henna artists of Djemaa el Fna – he’s also developed a celebrity following that’s seen Madonna, Cardi B and Will Smith sit for him over the past couple of years.
Hajjaj was born and grew up in the northern city of Larache before leaving Morocco for England aged 14 and quitting school a year later with no qualifications. He entered the London party scene and became a promoter turned streetwear designer, an aspect of his early career that still comes through in the exuberant colours, bold patterns and touchable textures of his work.
In 1989, he began taking photographs and at first his work was purely private. But in 1995, he returned to Marrakech for the first time in years and it was the start of his unique creative partnership with the city.
“I got back to London thinking I´d probably never go there again but something about the place kept calling me back, ‘he says. “The next thing I knew I was coming two or three times a year, but always I felt it was only because the city was inviting me. I didn’t want to be someone that came just to take, I wanted to be a part of the city, its life and its people – I wanted in some way to protect them.”
A recent addition to Marrakech’s buzzing art scene is housed in one of the great treasures of the city’s Art Deco heritage. A 1932 villa in Gueliz now houses the Comptoir des Mines gallery that showcases some of Morocco’s best artists. Created by respected gallerist Hicham Daoudi, who has a special focus on helping up-and-coming artists develop, the space hosts exhibitions that focus on weighty themes. Past works have looked at ‘Crossings’- an exploration of migration – and ‘African Poetries’ – a meditation on artistic melancholy.
Boho style has its roots in the French Word ‘boheme’ and the artistic bohemian concept.
Boho interior style is rich, versatile, colorful and relaxed, as the life of the nomads discovering new lands.
The colour palette of this style is bright and intense: orange, yellow, purple, ultramarine and fuchsia make the house cheerful and cozy.
A boho-house is magnificently decorated with textiles, draperies, blankets, pillows, bright covers for furniture, carpets, exactly as the nomadic people do.
The Berber Museum is located in the former painting studio of Jaques Majorelle, and presents a panorama of the extraordinary creativity of the oldest people in North Africa. A collection of over 600 objects (jewellery, arms, leatherwork, basketry, textiles, and carpets) was sourced throughout Morocco –from the Rif Mountains to the Sahara Desert- and attests to the richness and diversity of an ongoing, vibrant culture.
The museum was designed around its collection: sound, music photography and film transport the visitor, opening a door onto the Berber culture of Morocco
Morocco holds a quasi monopoly on argan oil. It is extracted from the argan tree, an endemic spices that grow on the southwest of the country (the Mexican argan tree doesn’t produced oil). Rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, it is used in cooking and skincare products. Since the late 1990s, this oil has become increasingly popular among consumers in Europe, North America and Japan. Until recently, demand was met by oil obtained from 50 million Moroccan trees and the work of 2 million local employees. Considering that it takes 15 years before an argan tree produces any nuts and that it will yield no more than 2 liters of oil, it is difficult to obtain enough of it to satisfy global demand.
The exotic dramatic quality of Arabic decoration is extraordinary. A means of escape from the industrialised western decoration so overly confused as to what it aims to aspire to in terms of luxury and the limitation of its resources to serialised, repetitive and angular constructions offering furnishings with laboratory materials resulting in simply pale imitations of the past.
Nature, colour, constructive sets, exquisite materials, engaging ambiences, etc. all of these attract us the decoration projected through magazines as samples of a new luxury concept.
However, is Arabic decoration truly Arabic? Contemporary Arabic culture does not offer, except on rare occasions, any of these aesthetic principles. Even its aspiration is to foolishly mock western standards adding a further over-top-touch, ostentatiousness and bad taste.
In truth that sample of an aesthetic universe based on traditional Arabic culture has been recreated by western foreigners (refined and well-to-do foreign with new horizons free from the inherent atavisms of the west).
Even the recovery of traditional trade, handicrafts and pieces form part of this trend. There is still room for many unanswered questions on philosophical, political, anthropological and religious grounds, although there is plenty of time for them to be asked. The idea has been thrust forward; Arabic decoration is in fact European decoration.
It is worthwhile underlining that this is no way conditions the enjoyment and delight we take from a truly fascinating decorative model that is destined to make us reconsider interior design in the west.
This restaurant located in the Rue d’Anglaterre is –in the opinion of the members of “The African Blog” – one of the best in Tangiers. Both the French cuisine as well as well as impressive levels of customer care and quality services are far removed from the stereotypes one normally finds in Morocco. Furthermore, its decoration, in keeping with the trend for more exclusive spaces in Morocco, manages to incorporate elements of darkest Africa with an industrial vintage motif, all meaning that La Fabrique is a standout restaurant in Tangiers.
From the Neolithic people used to weave carpets (period in which the tissue was associated to the creation of the word). The most ancient carpet dates from 7200 BC, found in Palestine.
Since then textiles became coloured with plant extracts and insects (Armenian cochineal, indigo, pomegranate, pepper, saffron…)
Arab people were the ones who truly developed the textile industry during the middle Ages, (sometimes the Arab Muslim civilization is presented as a textile civilization).
First carpets were made with linen, an abundant plant in the Nile Delta. They were also made with hemp. Although cotton was known since ancient times, it was incorporated later in the production of carpets.
The World Sacred Music Festival in Fez was first held in 1994 by Mohammed Kabbaj and Faouzi Skali as a response to the first Gulf War in 1991.
This festival aims to show spirituality through music and, in general, the creation of a peaceful culture that fosters a diverse globalization and respects the ethical, spiritual and universal harmony values.
In 2001 the festival was awarded by the UN as one of the events that has most contributed to an understanding among civilizations and is listed among the 12 most important events for the promotion of peace.
This festival takes place every year in early June in one of the most important and monumental environments of the city of Fez in Morocco; and evenings are famous due to performances taken place by many artists coming from all corners of the world and different cultures.
The festival is managed by Fondation Esprit de Fès. In USA the organization Spirit of Fes Inc., organizes every two years a Festival program and Fès Forum in several American cities.
The nomadic and Berber tribes continue weaving in traditional looms, similar to those that originated in the Neolithic.
These carpets are simple and made with materials common in every little town. An asymmetrical knot (also known as Berber knot) is included with 8-shaped around two warps and woof.