Dis­cov­er­ing Mar­rakech: An Oa­sis for Street Art

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside Issue11 - Words: Ur­ban Nil­man­der | Pho­tos: Carin Teg­ner

in 2016, the 13 hectare large gar­den also opened to the pub­lic with a 2500-sqm art gallery called Art Space. Well-known French pho­tog­ra­pher Ger­ard Ranci­nan opened the new gallery with pho­tos 9 by 15 me­tres large. Later four street art artists, Jonone, Tilt, Fenx and Cedric Cre­spel, had a much praised exhibition and re­cently Rus­sian artist Yuri Averin showed his art. It's an odd feel­ing to go by car from Mar­rakech and leave the bustling city be­hind.

Af­ter about 15 km driv­ing past noth­ing ex­cept a few odd houses, the driver turns right, be­ing sur­rounded by a dry waste­land with the oc­ca­sional goat pass­ing by. But sud­denly, some­thing green and lush in the flat land­scape. And even be­fore we en­ter the huge green area, you see walls cov­ered with street art.

In­side the gates, fa­mous Ger­man street art artist Hen­drik Beikirch aka ECB has a Mor­ro­can man on a large wal. A face cre­ated when ECB was in­vited guest at Jardin Rouge.

"In that way, I want to trans­form peo­ple I met and talked to here from anony­mous to iconic. And to talk about their pro­fes­sions prob­a­bly dis­ap­pear­ing soon", says ECB. His giant por­traits are shown in many places around the world, among them are the United States, Italy and Ger­many.

One is still here, the man who never left his vil­lage, not even for Mar­rakech. The 22 paint­ings have re­cently been pub­lished in a book "Trades - Trac­ing Morocco".

At Jardin Rouge, we talk with com­mu­ni­ca­tion man­ager Elise Lav­i­gne, cu­ra­tor Estelle Guilié and oth­ers work­ing at the im­pres­sive art cen­tre and we shake hands with Jean-Louis; founder and builder of Jardin Rouge.

Po­litely but firmly he de­clines pub­lic­ity. He wants to re­main anony­mous and refers to his foun­da­tion, Mon­tresso. A foun­da­tion cre­ated to fund the large con­struc­tion site and de­velop it as an am­bi­tious part of Mar­rakech as an in­ter­na­tional art cen­tre.

Mon­tresso is linked to the am­bi­tious Mar­rakech Bi­en­nale. Cre­ated by Vanessa Bran­son, the Bi­en­nale at­tract artists, col­lec­tors, jour­nal­ists and art lovers from all over the world for three months.

The cre­ator of Jardin Rouge - the name Jardin Rouge is sim­ply the prop­erty name – has de­signed and cre­ated the huge area him­self. Jean-Louis has a Rus­sian wife and does busi­ness with Russia. A cou­ple of the in­vited street art artists at Jardin Rouge are from Russia, such as SY / Vi­taly Tsarenkov, Vi­taly Rusakov and De­nis Tevekov. The French founder dis­cov­ered his in­ter­est in art and artists early in life, and be­gan col­lect­ing art in the early 1980s. In 1981 he started the Mon­tresso Foun­da­tion.

Forty years ago, he started com­ing to Mar­rakech reg­u­larly, but it was not un­til 2007 that the con­struc­tion of Jardin Rouge be­gan. From the be­gin­ning, it was sup­posed to be a riad, a home for him­self with ex­tra spa­ces for artists the founder in­vited. But here the cre­ator's in­ter­est in pub­lic­ity ends. He refers ev­ery­thing else to cu­ra­tor Estelle Guilié, hand­picked for the job in 2014. She built a new or­gan­i­sa­tion, where spe­cially in­vited street art artists could stay and live in the area for shorter or longer pe­ri­ods.

Those in­vited present an idea they want to carry out, a pro­ject with some­thing they had long wanted to try. "In this way, we also cre­ate a re­la­tion and co­op­er­a­tion

Twenty kilo­me­tres out­side Mar­rakech, a haven for street art artists has emerged in re­cent years. Jardin Rouge has at­tracted more than 40 artists from all around the world to de­velop their style for weeks or months. Every­body in­vited by a foun­da­tion and the anony­mous owner of the large gar­den.

going be­yond what is hap­pen­ing here. We are in the back­ground, and help "our" artists with projects un­re­lated to Jardin Rouge. All artists who stay here leave a piece of art for us be­fore they leave," says Estelle Guilie.

As the cre­ator is is French, there is a larger fo­cus on French artists and French cul­tural life. A few Ger­mans, Amer­i­cans and Rus­sians, how­ever, have been in­vited. Re­cently, Jardin Rouge has also turned its at­ten­tion on Africa.

"Right now our fo­cus is on invit­ing African artists from both Morocco and other African coun­tries. We al­ready have a few we have talked to", says Elise Lav­i­gne, show­ing us around Jardin Rouge. One artist with roots in Africa now stay­ing at Jardin Rouge is Kouka Ntadi from the Congo. He is here with his Ban­tus, African pic­tures painted on walls or on rough planks.

Lately, Kouka has be­come known all around the world. "My images would not work on nor­mal can­vas. They would be too flat and un­in­ter­est­ing", says Kouka. In the be­gin­ning, he used post­cards from Africa, which he in­ter­preted and painted on planks in his home coun­try Congo. "There is no graf­fiti, no spray bot­tles, not even any walls to paint on in Congo. I wanted to do some­thing in the streets that peo­ple would recog­nise. Af­ter all, when you look at it, in Europe it is al­most only other graf­fiti artists who un­der­stand graf­fiti", says Kouka Ntadi.

Dur­ing his trav­els, he painted the en­tire world's de­scen­dants, every­body had a re­la­tion with the fig­ures he painted on the street. "It was in Latin Amer­ica I re­ceived the first strong re­ac­tions. Peo­ple recog­nised the cos­tumes and badges and told me how I painted their de­scen­dants.

“Re­mark­ably, the Congo is the only coun­try where I had prob­lems with my paint­ings. For the Con­golese the pic­tures are vi­o­lent and re­mind them of their roots and the coloni­sa­tion", he says. In 2017, Jardin Rouge, or ac­tu­ally Mon­tresso foun­da­tion, reached be­yond the beau­ti­ful gar­den by ar­rang­ing a big exhibition in Ra­bat with Kouka Ntadi and French-Tu­nisian pho­tog­ra­pher Wahib Che­hata. Three street art artists, Hen­drik Beikirch, Tarek Be­naoum and AbeilOne painted mu­rals on dif­fer­ent walls in Ra­bat.

In the room next to Kouka Ntadi French street art artist RESO aka Cedric Las­cours is work­ing. Right now, he is reusing old jute bags, on which he spray paints. He also paints on com­pressed garbage found in Mar­rakech.

"Work­ing with so much time as I do here is un­usual. The dif­fer­ence is I use more time for prepa­ra­tion, find­ing the right bag and putting it up. For spray paint­ing, I work as I did on the streets. Paint­ing with spray is to­tally dif­fer­ent from oil paint­ing. You don´t need to wait for it to dry for months, it´s dry in a few min­utes. It is the world's most beau­ti­ful vandalism", he laughs.

His neigh­bour, French graf­fiti artist POES paints the eight deadly sins. "I was paint­ing the seven deadly sins, but found out they ac­tu­ally are eight. I started with the for­got­ten one, which trans­lates as Un­us­able Glory. It´s all is about the to­tal ego of our era, our ever-grow­ing nar­cis­sism.

I'm start­ing of course with me, there are no big­ger egos than street-art artists", he laughs. Poes be­lieves there are many myths sur­round­ing graf­fiti. "Be­ing il­le­gal al­most ev­ery­where makes it rev­o­lu­tion­ary. You can be arrested and fined for what you have done.

“But for me, it has al­ways been an ego thing, mak­ing sure many peo­ple will see my art. And I think that´s true for most graf­fiti artists", he says. Sud­denly he gets up. "We'll cre­ate a wall to­gether, all of us who are here now. Fun, it'll be like going back to how it was when I started".

Well, maybe not quite. The long wall built out­side mainly has a prac­ti­cal func­tion. When the snow melts in the At­las Moun­tains, great masses of wa­ter wash down and threaten Jardin Rouge.

The founder, Jean-Louis, has built a long wall around his prop­erty. A wall that of course has to be spray-painted by the in­vited artists. We meet WoW123 aka Markus Ge­n­e­sius from Bre­men, Ger­many. In his projects, he works partly with the test images from TV's child­hood. Test images tell you there will be no more trans­mis­sions. "To­day ev­ery­thing has changed. There is no limit to what you can see or be en­ter­tained by 24/7. When I show the test im­age pic­tures, I get all kinds of re­ac­tions. From those recog­nis­ing what the im­age meant to young peo­ple who have never seen it. But it is al­ways in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sions", he says.

We talk with Wow123 what it's like com­ing from a world that was il­le­gal and

be­ing an "artist" at Jardin Rouge. "I'm more a mu­ral artist than graf­fiti. Sure, I've also made my spray paint­ing and tags, paid my fine or done com­mu­nity ser­vice. But I've worked with many large mu­rals since the late 1980s. It gave me more kicks work­ing with oth­ers on large walls. The first I did in 1994", he says. Like many other street art artists, WoW123 trav­els a lot to in­spire and to be in­spired. "Last year, I was on the road more than 100 days with ex­hi­bi­tions, projects, or just to meet in­ter­est­ing artists. I see it as an evo­lu­tion, graf­fiti and street art has de­vel­oped in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions that is very ex­cit­ing. But it is not enough to stop il­le­gal graf­fiti, it will ex­ist as long as there is a need to ex­press some­thing", he says.

Other street art artists who stayed and worked at Jardin Rouge are MadC, Ceet, Cedrix Cre­spel, Tilt, Fenx, Neu­rone, 310, Kashink, Goodog, Tats Cru and Jober. Now Jardin Rouge wants to be­come more out­go­ing. Art col­lec­tors, cu­ra­tors and jour­nal­ists are now in­vited to stay at Jardin Rouge. In ad­di­tion, each guest artist is rep­re­sented in a small book. "We will soon be in­volved in eight dif­fer­ent projects both in Morocco and else­where. We will also have more peo­ple work­ing with us", says Elise Lav­i­gne.

Left: Fa­mous Ger­man street art artist Hen­drik Beikirch aka ECB has a Mor­ro­can man on a large wall. His giant por­traits is shown in many places around the world, among them the United States, Italy and Ger­many. Up Above: One of the stu­dios at Jardin...

Up Above: African pic­ture painted on a rough plank by Kouka Ntadi from Congo. Top: The Mon­tresso Foun­da­tion founded in 1981. Mon­tresso is linked to am­bi­tious Mar­rakech Bi­en­nale. Top Left: One of the fiour street artist, Fenx, had a much praised...

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