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Further is a traveling laboratory for experiential hospitality and collaborative culture launched in 2017 by Design Hotels. We transform hotels across the globe into temporal hubs of thematic exploration.

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Further

The Artist and the Artisan

Happenings

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  • Words Emily McDermott
  • Images Daniel Lober
  • Film Filipe Zapelini

Beyond the bustling souks and ancient Berber, Jewish, and Arabic sites of Morocco lies a pulsating creative community populated by artists and artisans alike.

In workshops bearing memories that are hundreds of years old, expert glass blowers, ceramicists, and metalsmiths carry on traditions passed down over generations. Yet, simultaneously, they challenge the Western separation of art and craft. Tapping into this idea, Further Marrakech: The Artist and the Artisan asked what it means to be an artist or an artisan in the modern world: Are they two distinct categories or two ways of naming the same thing? What happens when such practitioners come together across cultures in the act of creation?

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In workshops throughout Marrakech, artistic traditions like ceramics, glassblowing, and metalsmithing have been passed down for generations.

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Local glassblowers use materials like sand from the desert to create functional objects, like traditional beldi drinking glasses.

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The textiles sold in Marrakech's souks always feature a range of intricate patterns and bright colors—and they're almost always hand-woven.

To address these questions and more, Further collaborated with La Pause Residency, a program which brought five emerging artists from around the world to La Pause, an eco-lodge in the serene Agafay Desert outside the vibrant city of Marrakech. While in residence, French artist Deborah Fischer worked closely with Moroccan artist M’Barek Bouhchichi to conceptualize her project and turned to local aluminum and ceramic experts to transform objects she had found, like broken pieces of aquamarine glass, white tree bark, and dried driftwood, into sculptures. More than local artisans, they were her artistic collaborators. “It was a great exchange,” she says. “I felt thankful finding a great balance between my eye and theirs.”
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“It was a great exchange, I felt thankful finding a great balance between my eye and theirs.”
Deborah Fischer

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Deborah Fischer, an artist-in-residence at La Pause, found inspiration at Marrakech's souks and collaborated with local artists and artisans alike.

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Here, Deborah Fischer's work NAME, made during her residency, is exhibited at Pikala Bikes.

Residents

M Barek

M’Barek Bouhchichi

M’Barek Bouhchichi is a multidisciplinary artist living in Tahanaout, where he develops work that explores the limits between our internal discourse and its extension towards the outer world, the actual, and the other.

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Lichen

Lichen Kelp

With an artistic practice comprising photography and performance, Australian artist Lichen Kelp combines scientific experimentation with ikebana and DIY electronics.

Loutfi

Loutfi Souidi

Moroccan artist Loutfi Souidi uses personal moments of reflection to express ideas about and opinions on sociological and political themes faced in daily life.

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Lena Marie

Lena Marie Emrich

Berlin-based German artist Lena Marie Emrich examines marginal social practices in media ranging from photography and video to performance, public intervention, sculpture, and poetry.

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Metal Studio Owner

Abdeljalil Ait Boujmie

Moroccan artisan Abdeljalil Ait Boujmie first experimented with carpentry, flooring, and marble, but found his true calling with aluminum when he moved from Casablanca to Marrakech almost 15 years ago.

Deborah (1)

Deborah Fischer

Although she’s based in Paris, Deborah Fischer’s artistic practice is fueled by her travels. The French artist often creates sculptures and installations that incorporate objects from around the world.

Amine

Amine Kabbaj

Amine Kabbaj is an architect, contemporary art collector, and avid runner. Since 2012, he’s also been known as the Executive President of the Marrakech Biennale.

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Mohamed

Mohamed Arejdal

Moroccan artist Loutfi Souidi uses personal moments of reflection to express ideas about and opinions on sociological and political themes faced in daily life.

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Roxanne 02

Roxane Alaime

In 2018, Roxane Alaime founded La Pause Residency with an interest in unifying her passion for art and her love for Morocco. 

Achmed

Ahmed Ellouzi

Ahmed Ellouzi, a copper artisan, began working with the medium alongside his brother decades ago. “Morocco,” Ellouzi says, “is a special place to work with copper—here, the techniques and designs are traditional, not influenced by other countries.”.

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During the four-week residency, Fischer was joined by Lena Marie Emrich, Loutfi Souidi, and Lichen Kelp, who lived among La Pause’s earthen constructions and Berber tents and, like Fischer, spent their days experimenting and collaborating with local artisans, artists, and scientists to create works that reflect and engage with the landscape, culture, and craft traditions of Morocco. Further followed their journeys through Marrakech’s souks, workshops, and studios; across the parched hills and eucalyptus-shaded oases of the desert; and into the beating heart of Morocco’s “Red City”—all while coming to better understand it as a crossroads between South, North, East and West, between antiquity and modernity, between the local and the international.

“Marrakech has a very interesting context which nests different realities,” Bouhchichi says. “There is a side which point towards authenticity, towards history, and there is a side which points towards modernity and something we can call 'civilization'. Marrakech is like a laboratory and there is something that excites artists.”

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“There is a side which point towards authenticity, towards history, and there is a side which points towards modernity and something we can call 'civilization'.”

M'Barek Bouhchichi

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This laboratory, ripe for experimentation, is part of what draws both regional and international artistic perspectives to the city, and what allows artisans to break free of the traditional notions associated with their crafts. Emrich’s supple leather harnesses and copper-framed photographs printed on glass resulted from creative connections with local specialists. With the desire to create copper bottles, for example, she approached a coppersmith who helped her not only fabricate the work but also improve her design, including how to close the bottles. “They [the artisans] were feeling the idea and trying to help me realize it in the very best way,” Emrich says. “They were creating the work with me together.” La Pause Residency founding director Roxane Alaime says that such “dialogue, both artistic and conversational, lays at the heart of the residency’s intent.”

 

“Dialogue, both artistic and conversational, lays at the heart of the residency’s intent.”
Roxane Alaime

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Loutfi Souidi and Lena Marie Emrich, two artists-in-residence at La Pause, worked together to hang one of Emrich's glass-plated photographs.

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During Further Marrakech, the artists-in-residence joined a conversation surrounded by the beauty of the Afgay Desert.

Dialogue lays at the heart of the country, too. Morocco, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Algeria, and Mauritania, has long been known as a meeting point between the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Today, rapid globalization, a lively tourism industry, and an expanding contemporary art scene magnify the richness of such cross-cultural exchanges. Over 100 international and regional artists have exhibited in the Marrakech Biennial—the first major trilingual festival in North Africa­—since its debut in 2004, while spaces like Voice Gallery showcases artists with socially minded practices year-round. In 2016, the Museum of African Contemporary Art opened its doors, followed in 2018 by the arrival of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diasporas.

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Red and green are used on the Moroccan flag to represent the colors of Islam, while the pentagram, or star, further alludes to the religion's five pillars.

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At the end of La Pause Residency, the artists exhibited their work at Pikala Bikes during the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair. Here, visitors look at pieces created by Deborah Fischer.

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Artist-in-residence Loutfi Souidi made work inspired by the natural environment and its inhabitants. Here, his sculpture at Pikala Bikes resembles a porcupine that one might find in the desert.

During Further, the visiting artists found inspiration in everything from a nearly dried-out riverbed in the Agafay Desert to red algae and seaweed unique to the Moroccan coast. They examined traditional Moroccan strawbale homes and sought to understand the value of unfunctional items sold in souks. Their resulting projects were exhibited at Pikala Bikes, where it became clear that the artisans, with whom each of the artists worked, now strive to create more than just utilitarian objects. Local potter Akid Abderrahim is a testament to this thought: “We used to make just normal objects like plates and cups,” he says. “But since I met M’Barek, I’ve been able to make strange things that I didn’t think I could do before.”

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People like Abderrahim represent a new generation of creative practitioners whose work blurs the lines often drawn between art and craft. Moreover, Bouhchichi points out that the separation between art and craft is, in and of itself, a Western idea—a colonial legacy and a part of history which the local art scene is trying to correct. “Art and the artistic activity in Morocco have a responsibility towards history, towards the context, towards people,” he says. So, is there really a difference between the artist and the artisan? Souidi sums it up best: “The basis of being an artist is creation. An artist creates, an artisan also creates. If any person creates something beautiful, they are an artist.”

“The basis of being an artist is creation. An artist creates, an artisan also creates. If any person creates something beautiful, they are an artist.”
Loufti Souidi

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Clockwise from top left: Loutfi Souidi, Roxane Alaime, Lena Marie Emrich, Deborah Fischer, Lichen Kelp, and Jessie French.

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