Carnegie Scholarship : Marrakech

From Barcelona, I travelled to Marrakech. This was an amazing and completely alien experience, I have never been outwith Europe and really enjoyed adapting to the different culture. The daily routine fluctuates in pace. The mornings are a quiet and energetic time, people at this hour reminded me very much of the White Rabbit from Alice in wonderland - hurrying, but to where I did not know as the minute midday arrived the city became a near deadzone. The streets were a ghost town, punctuted only by rogue stragglers hurrying to get under the air con or mist steamers of the closest cafe. The heat sapped the speed out of the city, this was sympathetic time of day - everyone sharing in sweaty smiles and sighs, as with Barcelona I enjoyed that patience people had with one another, choosing not to let the temperature make them hot headed.

Our first day in Marrakech was possibly the most stressful of the trip. We witnessed a cat being hit by a car on our first journey out of the hotel and due to the hussle and bussle of the city were somewhat shocked by the quick throwing of it's body to the side of the road so that the day could continue. My western privillage of having enough to feed myself, feed pets and care for them as more than stray nuissances became extremely apparent. In the evening we went to Jemaa El Fna. This was the busiest time of day - 7.30 pm until approximately 11pm. Unfortunately Adam dropped his phone in the taxi and noticed only after it drove off. We were immediately swarmed by well meaning but very loud taxi drivers all looking to help call and locate the mobile. Not one of them asked for money and were lovely and respectful but the speed of the city had hit me like a wall, the noise was intense, smells and colours even more so. The phone was eventually retrieved due to these nice men. The Jemaa El Fna markets were not exactly as I had expected at first, we were very quickly pegged as tourists and brought towards what I would consider the darker side of the market - Monkey's on chains and cobras made to dance, music men keen to get a photograph you'd have to pay for. We simply had not been prepared which in hindisght it quite hilarious. One of the first things we noted was that Globalisation had really hit the stalls that faced out onto the main square. Adam, having visited Tunisia a couple years before, could spot all of the exact same trinkets, mass produced likely somewhere far from Morocco.

It is important to note that the market was NOT a bad place in all. We visited at least twice more. During our day visit the streets were far quieter - as I say it's too hot to do much more than dribble between destinations. This time at the market we made more of an effort to get to know the stall owners - specifically those of the pigment stalls - they taught me of the origins of the pigments, which would mix well with oils, what they are mostly used for in the city. They also taught us about themselves, their faith and the history of the market as a mix of Jewish and Arab people - seperated by location but peaceful and harmonious in their buisness. We found that by weaving further into the market side streets you could find genuine Berber antiques, local produce and handcrafted items and ceramics. The salesmen on these stalls were much less pushy and really interested in educating me on the production of their work - all of which I welcomed with enthusiasm. Overall I found the more you embraced the craziness of the market, floating instead of attemtping to fight the tides, the more fun it became. Bargaining became a game - understanding that by halfing the origional price - you were paying more than the locals but that this extra money was a lot to them and not too much to you. If a man on a stall calls you shakira to get your attention, call him elvis and say no thank you, smile but be firm with your no's if it ever gets too much.

There were far fewer galleries in Marrakech as a lot of the local art world revolved around craft, textiles and ceramics. Fine art was an expensive luxury here, the galleries were all in the new district with the tourist hotels, theatres and casinos. MACMA was the first I visited and hosted the work of Mahi Binebine, a local painter, sculptor, writer, filmaker and all round charming individual. I had communicated an interested to interview Mahi but he had expressed his condolences as he was in Seattle during my stay. Watching Binebine in conversation through gallerist's vlogs, I grew to really enjoy his abunant energy and vigor - something I found contrasted with his often dark and politically charged work. He was very successful in the city, with his work being displayed in each gallery we visited as well as the Dar Si Said which hosted some of his contemporary textile work. The simple linear quality of his figures, layered up and swimming in amongst eachother described well the bustle of the city. Yet somehow each figure was isolated and withdrawn from me, I am curious to know more and will certainly follow up my visits with futher communication with Mahi Binebine should he be available to do so.

During our stay in Morocco we took a couple of excursion days out of Marrakech to Berber towns in Ouzoud and High Atlas. Ouzoud was located next to the highest waterfall in north African, this provided the area with much better farming opportunities. This was the first time I noticed that colour was more of a constant than a luxury in Morocco, home miles from anything had brightly painted front doors, even when the second story was half built - the window frames were beautifully hand painted in varying colours. The pigments here are very inexpensive and can likely be traded for other craft/handywork. This was a welcome contrast to Aberdeen which financially has so much access to colour but there is very little in the city. Objectives like NuArt and Painted Door have opened the city up to pockets of colour which as a huge improvement but I desive yet more.

High atlas also reflected this desire for beauty - stunning rugs hung over the side of half built buildings, stalls held beauty products - namely khol liners and red lip stains and homes boasted colourful ceramic glazed in emerald green. The views were beautiful - red mud coated buildings like mismatched lego pieces littered the hills, now and then the yellow spire of a mosque would appear or become identified when call for prayer began. The people were so friendly and welcoming, they wanted to know as much about our countries as was possible and spoke a little of each language they'd asked customers about. It was then that I found out private universities can ask Moroccan applicants for up to 9 languages. This made me realise how privilaged and undereducated I am in certain aspects - it is laziness and the convenience of my lifestyle alone that has allowed me to skate by with only english.

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