ARTS IN MARRAKECH
Making sense of the British-Moroccan biennial
As biennials and art festivals continue to flourish in various parts of the world, a global trend sustained by a shift in the geography of the new economic powers (this, in spite of the economic downturn), art professionals have taken the role of cultural tourists. Unless they set anchor in a place called “home”, these explorers of sorts could well spend an entire career, if not an entire life – as the distinction between both is quite often blurred – wandering from one biennial to the other, in some sort of endless Grand Tour, uncertain as to where the next emerging cultural hub will take them.
Arts in Marrakech – International Biennial (AiM) is one such destination. A well-known tourist spot, this Moroccan royal town is now host to a festival that has nothing to envy its Western counterparts. Held for the first time in 2005, AiM was founded by British patron of the arts Vanessa Branson who has established Marrakech as her second home. The programme of the previous editions indicate that film and literature make up for an important part of the festival. This year was no different with the presence of filmmakers of the stature of John Boorman, James Marsh, and Julian Schnabel whose Basquiat (1996) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) were projected at both Riad El Fenn and the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Visuels.
Discussions and debates were also part of the programme. A lengthy and insightful conversation between Schnabel and Alan Yentob, Creative Director for the BBC was a unique chance to be introduced to the American artist and filmmaker’s creative processes, notably as he dwelled on the thin line between History and fictionalised narrative.
Another interesting debate entitled “Women Writers in the Arab World”, gathered Moroccan authors Saana El Aji and Leila Hafyane, and Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, around a question that posed a problem of discourse framing. Should literature be apprehended through this multifold identity: “Arab”, “Muslim”, “North African”, “female”? Should we not consider, first and foremost, themes and literary genres? Does being a woman writer imply a specific range of topics, a particular style? Saana El Aji addressed this issue from the outset by declaring that: “one does not write with ones genitals!”
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