Unknown protagonists silenced by official sources, the Berbers (or Imazighen, as they prefer to be known) are the group of peoples who since ancient times occupied almost all of North Africa, from the Siwa oasis (west of Egypt) to the Atlantic Ocean, including the Canary Islands, and from the Mediterranean to the south border of the Sahara.
Throughout history they have gone by many other names (Mauri, Libu, Numidians, Gaetuli, Garamantes…) reflecting their internal, geographical, and cultural plurality.
The Imazighen have witnessed numerous migrations, colonisations, and invasions. All have enriched their identity, while reducing their population through assimilationist policies.
However, the Berbers survive. It is calculated that there are currently over 35 million Berber, 20 million in Morocco, while the European and American diaspora account for several million
The Amazigh identity or identities are today reflected above all in their language, TAMAZIGHT, in its different variations (Tarifit. Tashelhit, Tamahaq…). It is also reflected in their awareness of sharing a common legacy of traditions, celebrations, and customs, and finally in their willingness to accept this legacy as their own.
From the late 11th century, major dynasties from North Africa such as the Almoravid (lamțūna) and then the Almohad (masmuda) tried to reunify the Islamic West, reinterpreting Is lam and homogenising and highlighting the Amazigh language ge and culture which became driving forces for Islamisation. However, the influence of the Imazighen did not end there.
At the height of the hegemony of the feudal kingdoms, from the 13th century, a new power came into play, the Marinids. The ties between this emirate with its seat in Fez and that of the Nasrid in Granada were solid, with mutual influences and extensive exchanges. This can be observed in the Alhambra and the major institutional constructions (madrasa, maristan, gates…) but also in everyday ceramic goods. It has even been argued that a Maghrebisation took place in Granada.
Before the Second World War, black intellectuals who studied in Paris saw how European colonial powers suppressed African culture. Central to their thinking was a feasible, collective African identity, Négritude. In using this name, they changed a term with negative connotations, nègre, into a word that can express the value of black culture and history. The Négritude movement formed the basis of the magazine Présence Africaine and the “First Congress of Black Writers and Artists”, held in 1956 in Paris. Leading roles were played by the intellectuals Aimé Césaire, Alioune Diop, and Léopold Senghor. They placed great value on precolonial African traditions and art, while also applying modernist strategies in their work, such as alienation, fragmentation, and experimentation.
For black artists in Paris, it was shocking to see important African objects in museums which could scarcely still be found in African countries, a cynical consequence of colonial history. Présence Africaine, which is active to this day, offered a platform to intellectuals who wanted to give shape to a black self-awareness in the modern world, Or as its founder Diop put it, “Présence Africaine is open to the good will of all men (white, yellow, or black) who can help to define African originality and hasten its insertion into the modern world”.
Contemporanea was founded in 1996 as an organization which promotes art through activities and culture programs in Spain and worldwide. Mario Martin Pareja and Dumia Medina are the Directors.
He has produced more than 50 exhibitions such as “Apocalypse”, with Keith Haring and Williams Burroughs; “Seguir vivo”, with Michel Houellebecq and Masbedo; “Andy Warhol, Pietro Psaier & The Factory: Pop Icons”; “USA Today: An Approach to 21st Century American Art”; “Gráfika. A Collections of Prints by the Artists of Beautiful Losers”; “Ryan McGinley. Yearbook”; “Lydia Lunch. A Retrospective”; “Gráfika. 30 Artists from Young Spain”; “Duffy. Retrospective”; “Richard Kern. Naked and Famous”, “Steve Schapiro. Retrospectiva”, “C215. Sobre todo, los objetos”, “Suite 1742. John Lennon & Yoko Ono”, “Madonna. El nacimiento de un mito” “Nirvana. 20 Años”, “From Sex To Punk”, “Duffy. Bowie Series”, among others.
As editor it has also produced books (Lydia Lunch, Michel Houellebecq, William S. Burroughs) or limited edition prints and objects (Richard Kern, Tim Biskup, C215, Miss Van, Lydia Lunch, Jim Houser, René Peña, Victor Castillo, Valeriano López, Chema López, Jacobo Castellano, Boris Hoppek, etc.).
Contemporanea also collaborates with other Museums and Art Centers in musical, spoken word and performing activities. It has worked with entities such as Centre de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona (CCCB); La Casa Encendida (Madrid); Fundación para las Artes (Valladolid); DA2-Domus Artium (Salamanca); Espai D’Art (Castellon); Es Baluard (Majorca); José Saramago Foundation, Audi Foundation Beirut, etc.
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.
The next is an Evgenya Petrova brochure for the Malaga Russian Museum Exhibition. It is a good choice to share with our followers a georgeous XX century Russian women art selection.
Antonina Gmurzynska was perhaps the first Western collector to show a deep and serious interest in the Russian art of the first decades of the 20th century, and her collection was very well known to art connoisseurs. Items from it have often been exhibited in various countries, and published in books, catalogues and albums.
For several decades now Krystyna Gmurzynska, daughter of Antonina, has been continuing and developing what her mother had started, and during this time the collection has, of course, changed. Some things are now in other hands, and some names and works that were unknown in the 1950s-1970s, when Antonina was collecting Russian art, became available and were acquired by Krystyna.
The theme of Female Artists in Russia does not form a special section as such in this collection. However, it turns out that quite a considerable number of exceptional artists in Russia were, in fact, women. Thus, Krystyna Gmurzynska’s collection provides a welcome supplement to the female theme displayed in this year’s exhibitions.
It includes works by artists who are rarely found elsewhere, such as Elena Guro (1877-1913), Xenia (1895(94?)-1955) and Maria Ender (1897-1942) and Anastasia Akhtyrko (1902-1968). Some female artists, such as Antonina Sofronova (1892-1966), are represented by a whole series of works that are known just by individual drawings in other collections. Many of the works in the Gmurzynska collection reveal unknown pages in the artistic careers of famous masters. Kazimir Malevich, for example, worked during the last few years of his life on the decoration of architectural structures. One of his faithful students and helpers was Anna Leporskaya, and together they produced a project for decorating the Red Theatre in Leningrad (1931-1932). Malevich’s concept consisted of an entirely new non-objective approach to decorating public spaces. In a letter from Malevich to Leporskaya his specific colouristic treatment is indicated with complete clarity. In this same letter we can see Malevich’s inflexible demand: if his idea was altered in any way he would abandon the project. The sketches for the decoration of the Red Theatre that are in the Gmurzynska collection, are extremely important illustrations of what the interiors could have looked like if the theatre had not burnt down in 1932.
This relatively small exhibition, showing a small part of the Gmurzynska collection that is devoted to female artists in Russia, displays a fitting complement to the Women Artists exhibition.
Mask from the BaSongye, whose Word for mask, kifwebe, is commonly applied by collectors to this type of mask. The male mask embody the power of sorcery and perform spectacular feats to induce fear in the spectators.
Fanti doll, clearly related in form ton the Ashanti akua ba. It has been claimed that both types of doll are Ashanti, and that the round-headed type is worn when girls is desired and the rectangular-headed type when a boy is wanted, but in fact they are the work of diferent peoples.
Wooden figures covered with brass or copper sheeting are placed by the BaKota over a package containing simple bones of outstanding ancestors. The form was developed to display as much of the valuable metal as possible. (Juan Gris made a copy of one in cardboard in 1922)
Figure from northern Nigeria have been made by a Mumuye. A remarkable feature of the style is the way in wich the arms and even the abdomen of one piece are used to enclose space within the sculpture.