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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

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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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Tourism

 

“Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin.”― Bruce Chatwin

These are strong words. After all my wanderlust, I think they are justified.

I have  tried not to fall in the cliché for the photograpsh of latitude 34. I am not snapping sites and must sees, but rather the story of light and the universality of place, the moment where we go Look! because of its poetry. Yet while I coast through places I cannot be oblivious to the guide books must see, tourist attractions, even if I made a point not to read any guide books before setting of to a place. Gilbert K. Chesterton  puts it very well: The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.

Le marché orange

the road to nowhere

Most often than not when I do still go and have a peak, I was utterly disapointed, I have this horrible feeling of being lobotomised and staring bemused , wondering what the hell am I doing herel. The  ” you have to go and take a picture of this” adivce is something I found sweet at first but developed a  profound irritation towards. I wont be dictated what I have to picture, what /I have to like.

There is also a very strange feeling when going to those ” tourist” spots, as if it was a kind of live museum. Museum is too elegant word, its more like a zoo, a sad theatre, where one has to wander trough stalls of cheap goods at expensive price.It brings to question what is the life that is created, what are these places? Communist China has nailed perfectly the capitalist tricks of tourism, at grand scale, and in fact it is perhpas the sole reason why some monuments are not demolished.

The scenic lookout sign used to be a binocular , now it has been replaced with a camera: Go shoot there! no need to think, no need to even struggle to get to a place, there is a parking lot, and a plaform, and herds of others pointing the camera to “there”. The herd/copy cat effect is something that I experienced on another way. When I stop on the side road because something captured my eye, I often had a few other cars stopping too trying to looo at what I was snapping, and still snapping regardless eveen if my subject matter, or the specal event or light had long vanished.

I escaped in Marrakech for the past 2 days , to replenish after a few hard weeks. Marrakchis  ( people from Marrakech)have the nickname of Arnakchi, and in french , arnaque is the act of conning someone. I do hope it is something really isolated with a few crooks around the square, and the taxis ( more on that later). I wanted to go on a mountain bike ride, to be active, but unfortunately it is a minimum of 2 and there was no other group I could join within the 2 days I was here. I wanted to paraglide, but the weather was aginst me and it was cancelled. I  then opted for ” tasting ” what it must be like to be a tourist in Morocco and join a tour. I often wonderedc when abroad how does a tourist on his first time in Morocco see, or experinec it. There is so much litterature about Morocco’s bartering and ripping off sport. I was hoping that there was still some down to earth and ” real” experience in it all. It didnt turn out to be  agreat experience and had I been a tourist m , I wid have left with a bitter taste of Morocco. Nothing beats the independant off the beaten track,for which you have to have time, as it is only with time that you can build a rapport with the culture and its people. and an adventuruous spirit.

I took a tour to the Ourika Mountain,  I thought we would treck to a cascade. I should already have wondered why it took a whole day to do a little trek about 40 km away. I kept quiet about my Moroccan side until late in the trip, where the attitude totally changed. The weather wasn’t nice, very cold and cloudy , but that is a recurrent leitmotiv wherever I go in the past years, I am not too bothered about that aspect. However the many stops” to look and take pictures with  the husslers trying to sell their goods, some even got trapped in “taking picture on a camel” only to be taken for a ride, litterally don the raosd and have to pay for it, that bothered me. I mean yes,  people are very poor and need to earn money, but this isn’t the way to do good business. This constant poking is very unpleasant, and feeds the idea that everyone wants to con you. It isn’t the case and there are some real honest dudes, but they re drowned by those idiots. The human mind and memory can have a tendency to magnify the empleasant experiences and minimise the good ones. It is the same story with the taxis that dont want to put the meter and spoil it for all those who do.Once I even had a guy take half the price of the meter because I only had that in change and a big note.He said don’t worry I was going that way anyway.

Next the tea at the berber house. Sure it gave an insight of the berber house but I hated the fact that here were hords of other groups coming too into this house at the same time. I was a number in a factory, I didn’t like it.

The hike…wasn’t so much a hike but a walk through one of the villges and we stpped shorter than the end because a few were tired, and so unfit. Well that’s the price to oay to be in a group and not by oneself. Needless to sayI hardly took any pictures…..

The worst was the food bit – we were taken to a restaurant that was sway too expensive for the hirrendous food we were served.Being Morccan I know what it shoudl tatse like and tis was appaling and for triple the price . I was fuming, as a half Moroccan I love my food and feel insulted being served something prepared without care. Compared that to a stop on the motorway, where there was buchers next to the place that cooked the food on charcoal, the freshest, simplest food and a fraction of theprice.

As much as I loved the Ourika Valley, it must look goregous on a sunny day, turning the earth bright red,  I hated the experience of being herded around , and being taken for stupid when I asked questions I knew the answers to and was told BS.  I much rather  struggle with transport, language, weather but experience something than this pseudo experience, this excuse of an experience, a charade. Its a pity because there is onother aspect of Morocco, one of wonderful hospitality,generousity, amazing food and ” souab”, ie manners. Sadly so many in the tourism industry spoil it for the whole country.  I havent even tpuhed the topic of a certain male attitude towards single ladies traveling.

It is a schizophrenic country, its either really good or really bad.

Morocco captures many other countries in terms of imagination, inspiration, design culture, cuisine, yet when one comes here as a tourist for the first time an lands in Marrakech, like many do, I feel he or her will most always leave withg a BUT, with a slightly if not very bitter and contredicting taste in the mouth. It may forever deter them from coming to see any other part of Morocco at all. It is probably this dichotomy that drives many Moroccan towards this love hate relationship with their country, live abroad and occasionaly come back with a too romantic vision of this exceptionaly beautiful country, where all the sense are touched: scent, taste, vision through the colours, the landscapes, the design, kraft, and go through the whole raibow of emotion, from joy to extreme iritation  over trivial aspect of the every day

 

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The eyes, those special windows.

The eyes are our window to the world , but they are also a window to ourselves. We see through them. What we see is then translated to our brain through our filters, therefore what we see has already gone through a process – the one of our mind. What is reality then, what is the truth so many think they own.  That is another territory.

Equally when we look at someone, we see so much in the look of their eyes! as if we have a peak into their soul, their thoughts.

Like the skin, it has this  inherent dual inside outside, other and self quality.

I love looking at the eyes of those I meet, especially when they are very expressive.I was told recently that mine are very expressive  – probably because I wear my heart on my sleeve and have this thing called passion. It is interesting to look back at photos, isolate eyes and see what look we had in them.

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Degrees of light

 

In Arabic there are many degrees of light when it comes to sunrise and sunset, more than in English or French.

Sunrise and Dawn has:

الدجى ، السحر,الصبح ,الفحر. الضهر

For sunset: الغرؤب الشفق ، الغسق

I find this brilliant because as a photographer there is indeed a difference between when the light comes or goes, the sun has is on the horizon or past it.

Here is an example of sunrise in Rabat earlier this year

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Taking pictures of people – stealing pictures

I was asked in regards to Latitude 34 show at the CDG whether I take any pictures of people along my way. I do, but not as often as I would like to. I also had to pick a coherent serie for the amount of wall space I had.

I come from a country where culturally , people in the street dont like their pictures taken. I remember countless times where I was told off, abused verbally for trying to take one. It did scar me when as a teen I came back to Morocco for a few weeks after having moved to France, and came with this youthful energy and will to snap the world around me. For fun. I was also attacked one day by a thug who wrapped me around the shoulders with a razor in his mouth ready to scar my cheek.I managed to escape somehow unharmed, I had a tiny frame, that may have helped. To this day, I feel very uneasy to take pictuers of people in the street – also probably because I dont line mine taken!

There are countries where I felt a lot more at ease on that front – like China or Thailand.

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One solution is to take people from behind too.

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There is always the question, when taking the picture of someone in the street, about whether they would feel upset or happy had they known. Against that lays the sense of duty inherent to documentary, street photography.

There is one experience that has shaken a little this uneasy stance I had for a while: Montevideo is  beautiful yet modest city, stopped in time, that reminded me of Rabat in the 80’s. I was warned a lot about safety, and had to have my wits with me, but I had a very sweet encounter, a very refreshing one, especially after spending a few days in Buenos Aires where I was constantly told to be careful and hide my camera.

I was walking around with my camera, and heard these two blokes talk to me in spanish. They look very rough, homeless, and salvaging what they could in bin bags. They asked me to take their picture. After a moment of hesitation, I decided to wear a big smile and point the camera at them. They grinned, their whole face changed, they looked a lot younger all of a sudden, and they posed. I shot a few shots and came closer. When I stopped , I thought of showing them, but instead they hugged each other and went thgeir way, galloping in a very happy fashion.

I stayed silent – I was surprised. They didnt even want to see the picture I took of them, and I woudl have loved to show them, but d all I manage to do is thank them before they run off. They only longed for a moment of recognition, someone acknowledging their presence, smiling at them and framing them. It wasn’t the picture that interested them, but the act of being photographed.

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I wonder if when people dislike their photo being taken, at what level it stands? whthere in the act of capturing them, without permission, or at a moment they thought they were invisible, doing their thing, about being seen, noticed, or the idea that someone has them framed in a photograph, captured. Similarly those who LOVE to be photographed, do they love the attention? and the time accorded to them? the action or the idea of being immortalised, sometimes even objectified depending on the kind of photography? Role play?

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Ideas Matter

Ideas matter.Visions, and gut feelings even more.

Days like today are the reminder that we should all follow our heart, dreams and ideas, no matter how futile they seem. Tonight is the opening of Latitude 34 at the Espace expression CDG in Rabat.

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When I first had the idea of latitude 34, it was just an idea, but one I felt strongly about. Within a week I was o the road. I didn’t think, I acted. I had no budget, I wasn’t taking myself seriously, it was like a few of my body of work, ideas turned into creative action. This one took me further than a studio , and got me to shoot landscapes, something I had never been interested in.

There was another example in my life about something that started casually and took over my life, through action. That is training, becoming a personal trainer and training for competition, even boxing which also started through a photographic project. Me who was the unhealthiest weakest person I  knew. A passion for the human body that I had as an artist turned into one as an athlete.

I had very little support at first for latitude 34, many thought it was a fun idea, but not more. My family didn’t take me seriously and thought I was nuts. They advised me to ” think bout it”, find sponsoring or some form of validation by backing. I come from a family where if you are not working in science, research, engineering or the likes, you are not serious. Lateral thinking, and not following “what everybody does” is not celebrated. Artisticly inclined? you may want to do architecture.You know something serious. Being a personal trainer was bad enough, especially with my unconventional approach and nutrition. To this day I have no credibilty talking about health. An artist oh god!

I didn’t listen, I just went. I didnt do it for the others , but by conviction it was something I had to do. I knew. It wasnt until very late in the project that I realised I was onto something.

After a show in Moroco about the first part of the project I realised  I had to carry on. An artist doesnt always act based on a mercantile aspect , it comes at a by product. It comes from this demonstration of belief, dedication and passion on the long run. Just like training, one only reaps its benefits through time, hard sweat, dedication, discipline and follwoing through even when others tell you to give it a rest.

What started with an simple idea, a passion for words and images and linking concepts , datas together with affect to create something meaningful grew into something a lot more. It was hard at times, wonderfully liberating at others, it meant a lot of sacrifices , exhaustion at times.  It was a travel through time and space, over a short period where I had to deliver content , fast and good, on the go. A fantastic learning curve that is leading me to their paths, other topics of research and body of work like the concept of home, or non placeness.

Passion is the fuel for life, happiness, success and growth. With its ups and downs, set backs and hardships, not everyone will believe in you balanced with incredible highs.  The best part about the show today is that I didn’t pitch for it , it came to me. It’s nice to see my name on the wall for this project!

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My message here is follow your dreams, your passions , and stay lighthearted, with the child like view of the world.  You never know where your heart can take you, but you know when something is right and worth sticking with, fighting for.

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Signs and Symbols.

I have always been fascinated by the idea that humans have developped complexe languages,sounds that articulate ideas and feelings, along with scripts and symbols to convey, translate those sounds. Humans have been very creative and diverse at this exercise.

During the show at the Cube Independant art space in Rabat, I created a playful piece a game whith 2 dices , each having one of the syllables to make up the word cube. Each cube had different scripts found on Latitude 34, including tifinagh. The  game was to find two syllables of the same script to make the word cube.

Dices

I grew up with 2 languages, Arabic and french, or 3 as there is the spoken dialect and classical arabic taught at school, then went on to learn English, understand some German and bgan to learn Japanese and Mandarin, specifically by interest into totally different systems of writing and speaking therefore thinking.I do believe that by learning a language we have access to the culture, and its way of comprehending, articulating the world around them.

Moroccans are bilangual, at the minimum, most are trilangual or more.

First comes the arabic dialect, french and classical arabic,  sometimes spanish in the north instead of french. Many go on to learn at least basic English and there is a whole section of the population who speaks Tamazigh, Tifinagh or Tachelhit, the language of the indigenous people of Morocco before the Arabic invasions.You’ll find that in the tourism industry, most speak basic german or other useful languages. recently Chinese has made an apparition with very cheap classes available.

Recently there has been a resurgence of pride in cultural identity and those languages have made it back ” overground” after a long spell underground, back to  school, the media etc.

So here is what it looks like ! I fond this very beautiful in its simplicity, it looks very ancient and very close to there arts and crafts.

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Neo-Tifinagh alphabet as used in Morocco

Neo-Tifinagh alphabet as used in Morocco

Sample text in Tamazight

Sample text in Tamazight in the Neo-Tifinagh alphabet

Transliteration

Imdanen, akken ma llan ttlalen d ilelliyen msawan di lḥweṛma d yizerfan-ghur sen tamsakwit d lâquel u yessefk ad-tili tegmatt gar asen.

Translation

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Sample text in Tamasheq (Tower of Babel)

 Source Wikipedia.
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