Right next to our hotel are the Etihad tours. The project from the outside is breathtaking, but it’s even more astounding as one wanders through its interiors. On the ground floors is a shopping mall with shops ranging from a Lamborghini stand to Cartier, that Malé my eyes glitter with deight. Upstairs is a beautiful lobby with these huge crystal chandeliers, scattered couches, small bonsais, large glass panels to the city and the smell of a thousand spices. Because of the holidays, Eik days, the top restaurants and bars were all closed. For another day, for sure.
This art installation, named Le miroir de l’eau, placed across from Place de la Bourse and designed by landscape artist Michel Corajoud is composed of about 2 cm of water which alternates in depth and rhythm, creating beautiful reflections of the heavens, the architecture and the children whom run around as if they are walking on clouds. I’m pretty sure the pictures on my Leica are muchhhh better… when I get home.
Yesterday I was at the Guggenheim Bilbao experiencing Richard Serra’s Exhibition The matter of Time. The forms are strong and imposing, allowing us to feel and experience space in a new way. What was unexpected, to me, is the way the forms are delicate and subtil, despite their rough appearance.
Serra discovered what is now known as his sculptural language, when, one day, he got annoyed with his own creations ( which at the time consisted mainly of abstract paintings) and threw them all away, burning them to ashes by a river. It was his way of setting himself free (free from pre-conceptions, judgments, expectations and many other conditions). From then on he began to ‘play’ with forms in space.
” I think if you want to make art, at some point you have to suspend judgment, and you have to involve yourself with play and not worry about the outcome.” Richard Serra
The Jardin Majorelle, located just on the outside of the old medina, was designed and envisioned by the painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) over the course of forty years. The garden is composed of a series of narrow pathways, filled with large trees, exotic plants and many different cactus that seem to stretch out to the heavens brought here from all corners of the earth. There are cacti, palm trees, bamboos, weeping willows, carob trees, jasmine and agaves, to name a few. As we wander, we hear the sound of water, smell the fragrances of beautiful flowers (maybe jasmines), the twittering of birds and feel the rough dry textures of the desert in our skin. On one side of the garden there is a large pond with gorgeous huge koi fish, that not only provides a moment of stillness and solitude, but makes it seem as if we are immersed in a Monet painting. Between the cooled pathways, the beautiful fountains and the colours that surround us, it makes it seem as if we are in a sort of paradise.
At the far end, emerging in between the beautiful pathways, a ‘house’ appears painted in bright blue. The building, which was Jacque’s art studio, is a sort of Moorish charm painted in blue because Jacques wanted to capture the bright blue he had experienced in the Atlas mountains. This shade of blue, which later became known as Majorelle blue, is a strong ultramarine, cobalt blue that enhances the green of the plants surrounding it, making it seem as if the garden is alive. Although the Jardin Majorelle only opened to the public in 1947, it was already widely known and revered for its beauty.
‘’ Jacques Majorelle used to say: “The painter has the modesty to regard this enclosure of floral verdure as his most beautiful work.” He referred to the garden as “ vast splendours whose harmony I have orchestrated… This garden is a momentous task, to which I give myself entirely. It will take my last years from me and I will fall, exhausted, under its branches, after having given it all my love.” ‘’ Source
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé discovered the Jardin Majorelle in 1966, during their first stay in Marrakech, and instantly fell in love with it. After spending countless days there, they ended up buying it in 1980, saving it from being destroyed by a real estate project. They moved into the villa next door (Jacques previous house) and restored the gardens to their previous glory. Today the garden boasts of over 300 species and 20 permanent gardeners always keeping in perfect condition for its visitors. A haven, an oasis, a little paradise on earth, this garden truly is a wonder.
Moroccan architecture is known for their vivid and colourful design. But what do they mean? After some research I found that: The Blue represents Sky, Heaven, Water and Protection; The White represents cleanness, good luck, beauty and femininity. Red is female, sexuality, fertility, childbirth and also relates to a happy marriage. Green relates with the Muslim interpretation of heaven (a green oasis), and lastly Yellow relates to gold, wealth, sun and protection. The colour symbolism of each is not very different from our own colour symbolisms. However, when we observe these colourful and beautiful tiles, combining these colours in unique ways, it is important to remember what they mean and the complex message that they really convey.
The Berbers are a 9000 year old ethnic group indigenous to North of Africa, whose customs and traditions still continue today. The name Berber derives from Greek bárbaros, βάρβαρος, however they call themselves Amazigh which means ‘The Free People’ or or ‘noble men’. Their language and their culture have outlived many other ancient civilisations such as the Ancient Greek, the Latin, Phoenician and even the Egyptian. The Maghreb region in northwestern Africa is believed to have been inhabited by Berbers from at least 10,000 BC. They live in tribal communities, and their roots reach deep into Morroco’s history as well as the neighbouring countries. They are known for their very strong connection with the land, for having a very united sense of community, and for having a very specific (and beautiful) relationship with spirituality.
Today, most Berber people live mainly in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. However, apart from these broad and simple facts, there is not much that is really known about who they are and what they believe in. They converted to Islamism during the Arab conquests, however they still remain true to their own culture and their own beliefs, living in the mountains, in small communities and remaining completely independent from the modern world. They are isolated, and as their name claims, free: they need little and create themselves everything that they need. Through their art and their creations it is clear that they are true craftsmen, developing and nurturing their silver techniques and the making of intricate carpets in beautiful ways. Even their clothing becomes a means of expression of their own spirit: wild, free and beautiful.
They certainly seem to have a lot to teach us: living in perfect sync and balance with nature, being kind and good to the world, creating everything we need, being independent from everything and everyone, and lastly, making art to en-soul our own bodies. I was sort of sad that I didn’t have time to go see them in the Atlas mountains, where some of them now live. In another trip, it will definitely be a priority.
Sometimes it feels like we are one with the water, sometimes it feels like we are closer to the air… it is easy to forget that we have both, that we are both water and air, in our substance and in our veins. As I think about this, I am reminded of these images that I simply adore by Hiroshi Sugimoto, (whose artwork is the image above, from the series Seascapes). He captures this endlessness and timelessness associated to both these conditions ever so beautifully. These primordial essences, remind us that we are ONE. We are always ONE, with nature and with ourselves.
About his beautiful series of Seascapes, Sugimoto writes:
Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence. (…) The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth: Let there water and air. (…) Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea.