360 – a full circle.

Next week I will be doing a talk at Tedx Casablanca. Tedx events were created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading” and is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

I will be a 6 min talk, which is 360 seconds. A whole circumference of time, for a project about my journey on the circumference of the Earth. I am also 36 years old. It will be the 12/12, a Thursday. I was born on a thursday 12 too, but of a different month and different year obviously. I think that’s it with numbers for now.

360 is a circle, and traveling often brings us back to ourselves, to square one, which sometimes can be a full circle.There are many ways to travel of course. Many roads, and all roads are not made equal. I like to take the “road not  taken” as beautifully said by Robert Frost

13 - Chile

Chile

NZ - Northland

NZ

 Argentina

Argentina

AustraliaAustralia

We can run away in our  travels, run away from ourselves and our everyday routine, providing you don’t enjoy it. Some of us just go to switch off. So go but they don’t actually go anywhere, asides from a different weather. I am thinking here of these awful resorts that are plaguing the surface of the earth with private beaches where those who go there barely see anything outside the resort that serves them even the same food as at home. Sometimes they may take a passive tour on a bus…the key word here is passive. It’s the equivalent to fast food for travel. The growth factor of those travel may only lay in the recharge of energy, if there is.

We can also travel and get lost or travel and find ourselves. The journey can follow a straight line, a windy one, a rough one, an uphill one. We can even feel we are going around in circle, a circle where everything brings us back to ourselves, shall we put the right goggles on. We do see the world through filters of our own making,  filters of our upbringing and conditioning, our experience, our knowledge, our character. I always wanted to see the world through the eyes of the others, I often wondered how it worked in other peoples mind and made a great deal of exercise to get out of my own shoes. It is perhaps what led me to always be so curious about life, look to learn new languages, but also put myself in many different shoes before deciding which ones seems the most logical or ring more “truer”.  It is also what got me in trouble at home for always challenging the ways I felt were not optimum,  inadequate, unfair or incomprehensible for me at the time through my child’s eyes, especially in an environment and culture where change was difficult, and adults had nothing to learn from children

If I try to convince myself of ” stories,” kid myself, if I don’t listen to intuition it bugs me, I know something isn’t quite right. I am aware of the ways this ” bugging” can manifest itself, many do not realise that  repressed   feelings, unspoken words, unfinished business, Un acted upon ideas would have those manifest via twitches, addictions, and other. I have learnt to spot those subconscious twitches, moods in others, this other underlying subconscious non verbal language. It comes from years in trying to catch myself from destroying myself, and years of feeling misunderstood,  I really wanted to never put someone in that position by my own attitude.

The world is our mirror we say, maybe we filter things and events to see what matters to us, reflects us at a time being, some may argue that there something higher orchestrating events  when we are ready to see them. This is an area of speculation I am not inclined to get in. Regardless most travels are also an inward travel.

While we live on this planet it will always be some sort of circle, no matter how straight we are going! After all “No matter,  the road is the life  ” says Jack Kerouac.

To travel efficiently we got to travel light in my opinion. A small suitcase, no need to carry the heavy rusty one of the past. What about the souvenirs I hear you say? Depends what souvenirs you are speaking about — the memories, stories, the experience and knowledge, the new pair of eyes those don’t weigh.  They’re only going to fill up the  brain’s cabinets.

My suitcase I will confess is a little big at the moment for I am living in it

home is where i brush my teeth IHome is where i put my books

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Latitude 34 Featured on Tonelit Magazine

Latitude 34 has been featured in Tonelit, an online photography magazine featuring the works of established and upcoming photographers. It wonderfully written by Katie Stretton. Check it out and subscribe! It is definitely one to add to your monthly reader.

On the Same Line – Essay by Katie Stretton

A look at ‘Latitude 34’ by Malika Sqalli

We could say that as human beings we have an almost instinctual habit to attempt to locate ourselves in our surroundings and thus understand our world and our experience a little more through this.

For Malika Sqalli this body of work was arguably conceived in 2010 when, in Los Angeles the light surrounding her seemed curiously familiar and she soon realised that she was at 34°02 latitude. For most of us this piece of information would warrant little more than an acknowledging facial expression before continuing with our travels, however for Sqalli, this realisation has shaped the next few years of her life; latitude 34°02 is the exact same latitude as Rabat, Morocco – the city of her birth. (It was also Sqalli’s 34th year).

Within a week Sqalli was on the road, making what could be described in some ways as a pilgrimage along latitude 34°02, and what was meant to be a small single show turned evolved into an ongoing piece of work with a second chapter aptly titled, ‘I Walk the Line’.

In the opening words of ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’, David Abram says ‘humans are tuned for relationship.’ It is often said that ‘no man is an island’ and yet with the population at the highest it has ever been we find that mental health problems as well as problems of loneliness and disconnection are quite possibly at their highest also.

It is most likely impossible to find anyone who has not at some point wondered what someone on the other side of the world, or the other side of the ocean is doing at any given moment. Whilst we find ourselves divided by these almost incomprehensibly huge areas of water or land there are these pockets of curiosities that are invariably shared. Sqalli not only found this when meeting people whilst travelling but also that her interest in this latitude was a shared one – shared with someone in North Carolina who got in touch with her through this shared curiosity. Jeremy, at 34.02, was exactly across from Rabat.

The spaces that Sqalli explores arguably speak equally of connection and disconnection. The vast swathes of desert, ocean and snow leave the viewer wondering what places and populations they are both separating and linking; an effect heightened by the harsh horizon lines which often cut through the middle of the image like the crosshairs in a pair of binoculars. Sqalli presents us with a unity across her images showing connections in trans-continental triptychs with landscapes often seemingly so interchangeable that many people might pass over them when trying to record landmarks or details of different places for posterity.

dunes03

Dunes01

Dunes02

Mirages 04

The light quality of a place in photographs is often something we take for granted, connecting it with countries or continental areas of the globe. The images featured in ‘Latitude 34°’ use this, perhaps almost naivety, to in a way surprise the viewer by furthering the likenesses along the line; one could almost believe that the images were all made within a much smaller area of the world.

Mt-Hashan

The exploratory nature of Sqalli’s work reminds us of the work of Francis Alÿs, for whom the process of travelling is the work, but with ‘Latitude 34°’ this is only the beginning. The latitude line in question acts as a metaphorical geographical marker in a reference ellipsoid – used because of their relative simplicity in comparison with the uneven and ever changing surface of the earth – as well as engaging the viewer to consider this notion of a metaphorical line.

Our world is governed by lines – physical and metaphorical.  Crossings, roads, queues, paths, corridors and countless others act as components making up part of our daily physical and social interactions. Rob Forbes discussed in 2006 how the lines and shapes presented to and acted by us in our environment  can shape the way we engage with the world and others in it at various different levels – such as personal, local and global. Let us not forget that a key factor in how we experience and formalise time relies on the existence of the partnering longitudinal lines, intersecting the latitudinal. If we begin to consider lines in this way it often runs the risk of becoming a negative comment.

Lines often carry connotations of an order and conformity associated with negativity, but for Sqalli the line, this line in paticular has offered much more. In ‘Latitude 34°’ the line offers a contemplation about similarity, difference and the experiences of these. There is also a powerful sense in which this line and the ‘pilgrimage’ and work which stemmed along this line also offers a sense of adventure and freedom, not just for the viewer but also a personal one for Malika.

All text copyright © Katie Stretton 2013. All rights reserved.

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Home sweet home

One day while I was driving through Australia on Latitude 34 south , a project that had me tracing latitude 34 around the world – I became very tired, exhausted even. The weather was against – I had rain, thunder, storms, floods cold weather all along, even  it was summer. I was getting tired as I had travelled though NZ and part of Australia already –  non stop – chasing time, distance and pictures. I had enough, I wanted to go and sit still, recentre, regenerate, I  wanted to go home.

Then, it hit  home. I cannot go home – for there I have no home to come back to.

Home is the place to come back to Home is a place to come back to – A reference to the childern story LittleThumbling from Charles Perrault who put white stones on the way to find his way back home.

What is home then? what does home really mean? I started asking myself this question. I started asking others this question. I had already started to wonder vaguely about the concept in recent years when I found it increasingly difficult to answer the question where are you from? Do you mean where i was born, what I have on my passport? my parents heritage? where I live? the latter being the most complicated to answer. Perhaps the real question should be where am I going. After home is where one starts from.

Home is where one starts

Home is where one starts from

I was born in Morocco, moved to Paris in my teens, then Montpellier, London and spent a lot of time in the past 4 years in Los Angeles, a place that I now call home, even if I ever only stay there with a tourist visa. This can open the door to the debate of displacement, those who want to live in a place they can’t because they dont have the right passport or born in the right border, and those who are forced to leave home land and only want o come back. I had also given up my “physical” base in London to be able to pursue the project Latitude 34, and travel across both 34th parrallel around the globe. Each time I go back to London or Los Angeles, I have to find a place to live call home, that I then have to leave and take whatever I have with me. This constant move and un- rooting created an unrest, a need for stillness, and longing for the feeling of knowing where you can come back to. Going places, going to the unknown has never been a problem for me quite the contrary, I am of the kind who gets bored easily and always looking for stimulation, looking to break the mirror over and over, looking for new ways of seeing, new experiences, new encounters with all what that brings in terms of understanding the world in a different way. Meeting other cultures, hearing or learning new languages are all ways to encounter new ways others have articulated and organised the world around them.

Most of us refer to the parents home, providing they are still together which leads me  to wonder how do children of broken families refer to childhood home when they are tossed from a parent to another. Home land can also refer to home. Something I started to do lately for some strange reason, my parents being still in Morocco, yet I have not lived with them or in Morocco since my teens. this brings the idea of culture and identity whtin the context of home, and as we all know when we go visit someone in their home, it speaks of their culture, and the various places they have travelled, the cultures they love and from which they may have adopted something.

Self portrait in mosaic

Self portrait in Mosaic -Mosaic to me speaks of a feeling of home and an attachment to Morocco.

Home is a feeling of security, and comfort I was often told. This led me to the painfull realisation that I never felt secure at home as a child, growing up in a dysfunctional mixed culture, cultures that clashed often and where i had great difficulties fitting in household  ( yet who doesnt in some way). Safety, was definitely something I didnt experience, and felt always weary of my parents reaction or my siblings. In a family of three children I was the middle one, the odd one out, the one that spoke out what others didn’t want to hear, wore my heart on my sleeve and got myself in trouble for it was expected of me to never express emotions.  Even in the arms of my mother, were tainted with nausea –  for she smokes and it is something that always came between us. Coming from a european and Moroccan background is an advantageous on many levels but it was also very confusing when trying to find myself. Reading books,painting and ironically making little miniatures ” homes” and building cities was where I would escape and find comfort, along with my cat and parrot pet. On the subject of books, I think home is a place we can have a bookshelf. I cannot recall the number of times I stopped myself from buying a book, or was sad to leave a book behind in the past few years. Since I embarked on Lat 34  keeping costs as low as possible, I have been living off a suitcase since 2010. I can hardly carry that many books in a suitcase and I am no fan of kindle. To me books belong on a bookshelf.

London had felt like home for a while, until 2009, and even I do still have a warm feeling for the first week I go back to London, thanks to the memories but I can no longer see it as my home. Interestingly this feeling had started when I was looking for a house to buy in London. I now spend my time between LA, the place that feels like home, Morocco where culturally I have some attachment but where I can feel like a bird in a cage,  London and the various places across the 34 parrallel. Why does LA feel like home? this question led me to Latitude 34, the light felt familiar, the way the sun hit the objects, the lenghts of the day, the desert and the sea, all this led me to feel something familiar and realise LA and my home town were at Latitude34.02. But thats not all. In Los Angeles, I built a network of very close friends, some I consider family now, and surprisingly only a handful of them are Angelinos. It is a place where I can cycle – and I realised being on my bike is a kind of home. Its a way  to feel the city, feel the space proprioceptively, something that has always been very important to me, this kind of “boditude”. Tamin the space, feeling it like passing through its arteries, feeling its pulse, being one with the place. Something a car doesn’t do, we don’t sweat, get hot or cold in a car, well at least  not in the same way, the car is a shield, a bubble. Yet, paradoxically it can also become a home for some too…. Cycling, I can barely do in Morocco, nor can I go for long hikes by myself to recentre myself. Home is therefore, as Pico Iyer puts it,  more about the soul than the soil, even if there remains a notion of space and place for,  the first one is a prerequisite, whereas the second alone doesn’t suffice to create a sense of home and belonging.

When I grow up

When I grow up

After belonging there is a sense of identity and  is where you become yourself. One of the major reasons why in Morocco I feel unable to. Where home is is also where we shape our identity. However as I discovered lately, on being on the move isnt always such a good thing, unless we have a place to come back to. Recently I have been longing for silence and stillness. Even in Los Angeles, this big city, I have realised I had let go a lot of the routines I had prior to being a nomad, especially the one of meditating and having that moment of stillness and centering. Along with training and exercising outdoors –which is what I used to do everyday in London with kettlebells. I am convinced it helped me root – being close to the ground, nature, earth and the moments of stillness and centering. A base, a home brings that. It’s is therefore a place where to start from and a place to come back to. I am yet to figure out where ….

CoffinBay - at 34 Latitude - Self portrait with Mosaic

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Home exhibit London

Home

International women artists’ exhibition explores the question of ” Home”
Private view Friday 11 October 2013 at the Sofia Gallery, Bulgarian Cultural Institute,188 Queen’s Gate, South Kensignton.

Home Exhibit

A couple years ago, after I came to London back from Australia, I met up with Paola Minekov to catch up over coffee in Herne Hill.  At the time we had  both been considering buying a house, Paola had found something, I was a little more indecisive and never made the move, while she is now living in her home. We spoke about our respective projects, experiences and our transience in various places. I told her about my anecdote and enlightenment in Australia  and  working on and investigating on the concept of home. I was very excited to hear that Paola too had been working on the same idea, and felt very strongly about a topic I come to realise is more and more relevant to many of us, to our time in its complexity and calls for complex answers.

Paola decided to curate a show  at the Bulgarian Cultural Institue this year and I was delighted to be invited along with 6 other Artist including Paola to explores the universal and powerful concept of Home.

The exhibition, entitled Home: Contemporary Female Masters, portrays women’s experience of choosing to migrate and build a home in a foreign country. This relatively new social phenomenon is examined in depth by seven mid career international women artists with strong links to Europe, the Middle East, America and Africa: Paola Minekov (Bulgaria) Minna George(Bulgaria), Tamar Le Von (Israel),Tina Mammoser (USA), Diana Ali (UK), Caroline Underwood (UK).  They explore their experience of establishing themselves and building the elements of what they perceive as ‘home’ wherever they are in the world.

Born in Morocco, from a Moroccan father and Austrian mother, I have always been and felt in between. I spent over 10 years living in London, and since 2010 I have divided my time between London, Rabat and Los Angeles, and the many places on the ongoing project of Latitude 34 that had me travel around the world. It has led me to investigate and question the notion of home, space, culture, identity, the notion of non place and their relationship between each other. Where is home has no straighforwad answer and certainly not the expected  home is where we are. My sens of belonging, as  much physial as cultural calls for a complex answer. It called for another question: what is home. I try to find answers through my artistic practice and through my two blogs: The yellow corner  and this one

The blog for the exhibition, which gives information about all the artists, is at http://home-exhibition.blogspot.co.uk/p/exhibition-concept_30.html and is updated regularly as the launch date approaches.

Malika Sqalli: Home is where one starts from

The exhibition will run from Friday 11 October until Saturday 19 October and is open from 11am to 7.30 pm Mon-Fri and Sat 11 to 4pm. The Private View of the exhibition will take place at the Sofia Gallery, Bulgarian Cultural Institute, 188 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, on Friday 11 October at 7pm. You are warmly invited to attend.

 
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Here is elsewhere

Here is elsewhere – Ici c’est ailleurs

Are we ever in the present – are we ever in the now?

I once was told a very beautiful line: yesterday is history,  tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift.That is why it is called a the present.

When I go places on latitude 34 I find myself very hungry for discovery, yet at the same time I seem to always relate what I see what I feel to something I know, bringing it  somehwere else. Or thinking about what I can do here, how i can turn it into something either tangible or through experience. What I will write about it, and also where I have to head to from here sometimes as you know my journey is often done fast. Does that make me not live in the now, the present? not necessarily but here and now is also elsewhere, even if that elsewhere can be the mind we live in. This other space of and in us.

The gaze up in the sky or over the horizon sends us places too, at the same time here and elsewhere, the same way as looking at an art work that touches us can send us many different places in the future present or sideways.

Pastel - Malibu

That is not even touching on the screen you are looking at.

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Sharq Exhibit in Los Angeles

In July 2013 Sharq Gallery in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles showcasted a selection of Latitude 34.

I want to thank Nahid Massoud and Robert Rosenstone for opening the doors of their gallery and offering me the opportunity to share the work with Los Angeles this summer.

I did show one photograph at least from every country I visited so far. I also created a specific work for Sharq, a gallery oriented towards the east and machrek. I created a work that speaks of the filters trough which we see, understand, filter the world around us.One of those filters is cultural. I used a specific screen pattern of Moroccan mosaic and Moucharabieh, those wooden  screen that filter the light in houses and courtyard as a premise and overlaid the pattern onto the photograph

Santa Monica Fog - Imabari Mist

Santa Monica Fog – Imabari Mist

I expected some frustrations from the viewer, and there were some! perhaps more so from those unaccustomed to these screens.It definitely forces you to look closer,  edits out some parts of the photographs, the same way our mind edits out part of our surroundings , clues  or whatever is convenient or not for us to edit out, whatever we were trained to notice or not, whatever our mind is more inclined to see or not. I wished to question challenge that, poke the american viewer who is oh so used to have everything over explained, over obvious.

It was a pleasure showing this to the public of the palisades and I hope to be back again with another instalment .

My journey is not finished yet!

Malika Sqalli Sharq Latitude 34 Exhibit

Malika Sqalli Sharq Latitude 34 Exhibit
Rabat - Rabat - Japan

Rabat – Rabat – Japan

Japan - Venice CA - Chile

Japan – Venice CA – Chile

Chile - Chellah - Brebntwood Los Angeles

Chile – Chellah – Brebntwood Los Angeles

Rabat - Rabat - Japan

Rabat – Rabat – Japan

Japan - Morocco - Santa Monica

Japan – Morocco – Santa Monica

Argentina, Chile, Venice

Argentina, Chile, Venice

little girl FB

DSCN7644 copy

DSCN7643 copy

DSCN7631 copy\

DSCN7630 copy

DSCN7629

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An ode to an active proprioceptive travel

After the previous post I ought to write about what I consider real travel and give Marakech it’s glory back.There is more to Marrakech than Kech. I was going to say tourism, but something in me doesnt like that word. Ism at the end is perhaps what puts me off….. Mark Twain said :“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” and I think mass tourism does the opposite.

There is a way to travel in Morocco and elsewhere that I think is the most rewarding.It is a way that doesn’t give itself readily. You have to look for it, hard sometimes , especially when the language and culture are vastly different, or even if it is your own, look for something different that you haven’t seen already ( we get so easily blasé about our own country!)  be open,  let go of comfort zones, go towards others. You have to struggle a little or a lot, sweat, and smile. Alright, maybe not all at the same time and on the same trip but these are some of the ingredients to put on the table before cooking a really tasty travel dish. This is an ode to an active proprioceptive travel as opposed tp a passive one.Passive being one of the plagues of our society: passive mind, passive body. I am not saying everyone has to exert themselves, being active is also a state of mind, an inquisitive one.

Going to a place and ” feeling” it requires also taking the time. Something I felt robbed with while on my 34 journey, yet I did tick the box of going off the beaten track, and taming distances, meeting people all be it in a bit of a hurry for my liking. Doing physical activities where you tame the landscape is for me paramount. The car of course gives you the freedom to chew through distances, but there is something to be said about doing the same with the physical body, that takes you through a rainbow of emotions. I certainly had that when I travelled from Onomichi to Imabari an clocking 86 km on a bike just to reach a point at 34.02.The heat was something, the 5 suspended bridges across 5 islands were something else! But is was heaven. Here is one of the bridges I had to cross

.towardsimabari

As much as Marrakech has become this weird, theatrical bordering the ridicule Vegas style with a different look party city, even sometimes called Bangkok of the Maghreb for the wrong reasons, the seriously outrageous tourist traps and crooks, the countryside is something out of this world. It is truely one of the most beautiful areas of the world I have seen, and I have travelled! Some live here in very simple ways, where capitalism hasn’t yet creeped in and this true Moroccan hospitality still lives on. I am always treated with great smile and laughs when I start speaking arabic. This country is extremely rich in terms of the variety of landscapes, and the variety of cultures within the culture, the immense depth and refinement of its arts crafts.

Aldous Huxley :“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”  sometimes that is valid for our own country too! Morocco certainly has a lot clichés within itself and so much hidden gems.

Paragliding

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