From playful to meaningful

Yellow has become a trademark colour ( just in case you didn’t notice), it has become a part of my identity ( or it may have been for a while, unconsciously)

The same way the project Latitude 34 took over my life on many levels, following an imaginary line around the globe, linking my place of birth to a city I wanted to call home, and the number of years I was on this planet.

Most ideas I have in terms of personal work stem from the topics spawned on the journey, namely home, culture, identity, how they are entwined, can dictate, hinder, enhance one or the other, where we are and where we are going. The yellow line, the yellow shoes became as much playful as they were meaningful.

01 - The yellow trip a self portrait -- Mojave desert  autoportrait

The Yellow trip – a self portrait

Stand out from the barcode

Do what you have to do- stand out from the bar code


photo 2

02.Japanese garden

Japanese garden

Kalk Bay self portrait



I have my blue moments too – then its time to get the antidote, a dose of loving yellow.

Interestingly the deeper I get in the project, the more that line, those yellow shoes became intrinsically related to my identity, the more what I encountered was a reflection, a metaphor of what was going on in my life. I have to stress that as an artist, life isn’t separated from the creative process. At all.

Recently South Africa there was no central yellow line. It was on the side. It happens to be a time in my life where a direction I thought was certain, a line was nicely centered and directed all of a sudden vanished, in fog.

I didn’t like the thought of staying on the side line either.IMG_9820-2 copy

There are a few options: I could make my line, paint it obviously.

IMG_9864 copy

IMG_9871 copy

It wasn’t very convenient because cars were all the time coming and as you all know, I am as much solo on my journey as I am shooting my photographs. The wind didnt help either.

I tried another way but my line went flying.

IMG_9719 .02

Flying did I say? Maybe this FLY is the key term, a recurrent one and one I thought will be the identity of 2014. I also only painted and traced the lines behind me….uhhh …that I know, and i never like to go back the past…its the one ahead I need to trace! I can only find out once I keep going, and it may not be ahead but up!

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Latitude 34 at Tedx Casablanca!

Latitude 34 TEDX talk in Casablanca is finally online!

Enjoy and be gentle, it’s my first ever talk, I was a little bit nervous.

Make sure you watch the others, they were all brilliant, especially Hicham OudghiriMamoun Ghallab and Mahjouba !

Thanks again to all those who supported me, especially Fleur Eve and Andy Coley for his last minute remote NLP session!

For those who don’t speak french, and until the subtitles are up and running – they will be in several languages here is roughly what I said in english:

“It was fall, the trees were yellow, I was following a double yellow line in front of me for hours,  I wear a yellow jacket,  I had my yellow shoes in the trunk. Suddenly I had a vision, I stopped the car, put the shoes on the road, snapped a picture and I carried on. It was the yellow trip. Yellow which became a trademark and part of the identity of this project and myself.

A spontaneous picture for an improvised voyage, dashed off, an impulse, on a whim. Like a piece of Jazz.

We can go on a journey to get lost or to find ourselves, but “no matter the road is the life” said Kerouac. For me it was definitely one that led me to my new understanding of self, and questioning the notion of home space culture and identity, place and non place.

So how did this all come about? Lat 34? On the 10 October 2010, while I was staying in Los Angeles, a city close to my heart I was questioning this familiarity I was sensing, a familiarity in the light and its tone.This is when I realised I was at 34.02 Latitude, which is exactly the same as my home town Rabat. I was about to be 34 years old. This was enough for me. common.Within a week i was on the road. I didn’t think, I didn’t want to think, I had to go. I decided to trace as if I was a pen, the latitude 34 around the globe

This sums up pretty well my creative process and my artistic practice. The same way a chemist creates a new products via a chemical reaction, I take sterile numbers and data, objects shapes and colours that have nothing in common and with a narrative, emotion some affect and a little bit of myself I make a work of art.  As we all know: nothing get lost nothing gets create, every thing is transformed.

I also always like to bring a physical implication in my work, a ” boditude”, in a way or another, mirroring our mortal coil on our planet, at the same time physical and metaphysical, the same way the horizon is an illusion, and yet a line that links in a very “real” way the sky and the earth.

I  find myself   tracing my own personal line on a map . It could only be yellow. In blue is what is left to do, which is South Africa and Middle east.

Digital Maps for Graphic Design

I have done roughly at birds flight 23000 km , which is half of the circumference of the globe at the equator. Of this 23000  I drove 18000 – I also used buses, plane train, bike and hike when I can. In those figures i do not include flight distances and small detours. In an ideal world i would have done it all in one go – but I had to do it in a broken line, in stages. Something called life and budget came in the way.

Time was very short on each stage – I  badly underestimated  the time I needed for each section, I didn’t realise all the roads are not made equal, and that the weather could also play a part in the timing of the journey. I do have mitigating circumstances:  this was my first road trip, i only had my driving license for a year when I started and have only driven in town. I used maps to travel, randomly choosing the roads , only sticking to 34. I had to sometimes get out of line, the roads were not built with my project in mind.

Encounters were many and brief, a car is a bubble and a capsule that removes you from the world as much as it gives you freedom to roam it at speed.They most often brought me back to Morocco. I met Charley, fellow traveller,  who let me go with my groceries even if i didn’t have enough on me to pay reminding me of Morocco hospitality towards him when he travelled in 1968.Or Thibaud, who mistook me  for a chinese lady in mount Huashsan thanks to my small size and straw hat. It is through Tibaud that I met Soraya from Tedx Casa without whom I would not be here speaking to you tonight.

I say I was alone driving but it’s not totally true. I had a companion, and it was the moon, a familiar figure, a comforting character. She was always there.

It all started with the light and it is the light that i tried to  captured on journey. A light that speaks of a universality rather than a specificity and particularity  light of space and place.  Despite its ephemeral quality, It often it spoke of stillness, of a suspended moment, like the background scene of a story or a movie.  I learnt that grey can be luminous, especially when the light turns  eucalyptus leave into silver or power cables into gold. I have to tell you that my last name Sqalli can mean  golden thread , which explains why I may be drawn to those colours.

I read recently a quote from Muriel Rukeyser  the universe is made of stories not atoms,. I don’t agree totally;  for me the universe is made of Atoms Ideas and Stories, as we can have plenty of ideas in our heads but  unless we react to them,    act on them, physically,  they don’t come alive. Ideas are primers of a story ready to be lived, a white page ready to be filled,  that can become a 3 tom volume, a novel of a few pages, or a poem of a few lines. It will certainly always be an experience filled with discovery.

I looked for the unusual, the unexpected  where a  certain beauty sits, as if i was a child who marvels at everything and anythings, trying to catch the frame between the frame to paraphrase John Berger

In New Zealand, I spent some time in a Marae in Ahipara, and the maori ladies who taught me to weave were telling me: You have to find your Ara, your path in the weaving. So the ideas and stories that we live and write, its a bit like that, they define paths and patterns in the weaving of our lives.

I invite you to act on your idea for you may not know where you are headed but there are surprises of all kinds on the road. I don’t know about you but when I am at a cross road I always try to take the road less traveled. It’s easy to spot, its usually paved with yellow bricks. And if you get hit by grey skies and rain, you can always just lighten the sky with a yellow balloon!

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Full Moon, it was a while since I caught you

I am a moonie, and in the past few months I had not had any decent shot of the full moon, either I didnt see it or there were clouds or commitments that prevented me from seeing it rise.

The last one I caught was this one , on my drive back from Mirleft to Marrakech last year. it was heaven, it rose right in front of me as I was driving, in a straight line.

Full Moon Agadir morocco

Here in South Africa I nearly missed it. I was in Knsyna/Brenton Lake and it was cloudy.

However there was a band without clouds, it lasted a few minutes, enough for me to catch it.

And I managed to get a very interesting reflection of it too! All without tripod, impromptu completely but magical nonetheless.

full moon Brenton Lake South Africa  IMG_9936 copy



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Here to another kind of flying, to latitude, to numbers and a link with Morocco again.

I learnt to kitesurf this week end.
Kite surfing is also a kind of flying.

I am hooked, but only in warm waters.

Cannon Rocks is admittedly only 33.75 Latitude but close enough to 34.
Interestingly Henry Smith who taught me and had an incredible patience, told me that the first videos he saw of Kitesurfing were made in Morocco.

Cedric who I pictured a few times and who also kitesurfs at Cannon Rocks said that one of his first videos made in Cannon rocks was titles Latitude 33.75.

All random and yet connected, and how I ended up in this small town was just like I do, pick a spot on the map radomly on my line.


IMG_9066 IMG_9073 copy IMG_9080 copy IMG_9081 copy IMG_9108 copy IMG_9110 copy IMG_9135 IMG_9137 copy

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Flying numbers – 34

An artist is a dreamer, whether with the head in the clouds or deep underground. personally the former rings more true for recent years, the latter was where I started. I was always attracted  to the idea of flying and anything that flies, including yellow balloons, and numbers!

For 2014 I had decided to learn to fly, namely skydive, which ok is falling but you fly too, and paraglide.And by the way 2014 >> 20+14 = 34.

On this journey I try to find every spot on a coast at 34.02, or as close as I can get like Rabat and the starting point Santa Monica Los Angeles.It took me to random places I would neverhave gone, had i been in the country visited, for the best and the worst ( China). I therefore went to Imabari in Japan, Moonta Bay, Cronulla and Gnarabup in OZ, Pichilemu in Chile and Punta del Diablo in  Uruguay. 

Here in SA I have a ball, the costline is nearly edging on 34, so plenty of 34.02.

I had my points lined up: Myoli beach, Plettenberg, Jeffreys Bay, Brenton lake, Kini Bay. Post soon coming about those.

I decided to skydive in Pletternberg. My friend   in Morocco was doing his course and I was a little envious.I anted a refresher, my last skydive dated to 2007. It wasn’t planned. I was supposed to paraglide but wind was not good, so I pick up  the phone and there was a spot for me. I let you imagine my excitement when I get handed this piece of paper ! 34 sec free fall! I couldn’t have asked for better at 34.02!1526563_726851810682299_1329626384_n 

skydive plett

The day before, I went to Myoli beach, to get my point at 34.02 there and took the detour route, I started at the beach near by and walked this great little stretch of rocks. Roads and journeys are special to me so this path is even more so. It will be interesting pairing similar latitude with similar looks!

Myoli looks incredibly like Ahipara and the light was very similar too!

Rocks  path to Myoli IMG_9764 copy IMG_9889 copy Man walking on Myoli

There happened to be Deon, who was one of the guys paragliding that I had called before. Flying was definitely to be on the menu. And we did fly more than once in different spots. In fact I flew 3 locations at 4 occasions….that another 3 and 4

Looking towards Myoli from sedgefield

brenton on sea


Deon and myself

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South Africa

Back in autumn I felt a strong call for Mamma Africa.

I was reminiscing my trip to Senegal 16 years ago, where I went to a small fisherman village near St louis, lived with the locals, with only a tap outside for water , no electricity or fridge or shower. Oh and I had my cat with me, I had found no one to look after it while away..! It was a wonderful experience. I do remember however feeling like a cow – ie I was always surrounded by flies, which after a while I forgot about.  I remember the people, the social apsect, the strong smells, good and bad.

As my friend David said, I nearly overshot myself to Antartica and I ended in South Africa on th  the 7th of January.

South Africa is on Latitude 34 , it all makes sense.

I land in Cape town, its raining a lot. Very unusual for the season I am told. Of course , I had heard it all before in Australia where I had rain everyday. It wasn’t such a bad thing, I was sick as a dog, I took a plane with sore throat and fever – it took me over 3 days to get a little over it. Thank you London!

1013658_10152477203656102_1183996081_n Green Point Rain

At first it doesnt feel like africa in Cape town, not the Africa I have in mind. Its very white too and very very clean in the city. However it is extremely friendly, and I have not got a sense of insecurity like so many talk about. I don’t think I am naive either.

But it has that special light in sunset with silhouettes of palm trees, araucarias that scream home land and latitude 34!

Sunset with palm trees and araucarias

I have only just started, we shall see.

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On stillness

This is a time of year stillness isn’t a very appropriate. Frenzy is more appropriate especially in Europe and US. Yet there is something to be said for stillness, and not only on those time. Solitude, stillness, silence: in urban environments in general we don’t get  enough of these. Is it my character as an artist that longs for those conditions? After spending 6 months in Los Angeles this summer had me longing and craving those like I have never  before. I felt totally de-centred, my mind was foggy. I had to escape.

Sometimes I go to the desert, this place of humbling silence. For a change I went to the mountains for a few days. I hiked, I blended in, unconsciously, with my outfit ( it was an impulse drive, as per usual, I wasn’t prepared , I didn’t think about what I had on me or with me or the temperature)!

I went watching the moonrise in silence ( asides from bats flying around me and some other weird creatures I couldn’t see running around )

Moon rise Mono Lake

The moon is the dream of the sun" Klee

I sat there – I watched it rise, I had butterflies in my stomach and a big smile, excited like a child.

Felling that sense of oneness with nature is paramount for me, as much as exercise, which I prefer to do in the outdoors too. A ritual that helps centre the mind and the body. It keeps a sanity from the city where everything is noise, is bright, artificial, all is a stimulant. It has its perks and seductive side, but I find it can loose me.

Dazzling city lights

It is a time suspended, stretched where thought can unfold without background noise and I mean by that distraction. It helps you tune yourself  to the within in and out. It is also that precious time where creativity can kick in. Where all the datas amassed over time can find their space so that they can be easily retrieved when needed and sometimes cross each other to form a new one. Creativity requires a moment stillness, a time where all the seed gathered have the time to germinate and unfold into ideas.

I may be an artist, and with that a dreamer with my head in the clouds but I am also very earthy with my feet solidly on the ground! Perhaps it is why I like to have a horizon, that line that links the two together. Bridging the intangible, the abstract to the physical, palpable, biological. Turning one into the other.

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