Thursday, June 22, 2017

Picasso in Rabat



On Saturday we took a special tour to the capital city of Rabat. Early in the morning, meaning before 10am, when most of the streets are clear (due to everyone trying to sleep through their Ramadan fast) we walked to "Plaza Primo" to meet the tour bus.


Mike was the only one who let me take his photo while we waited.


This is my bus selfie. We were sitting in the back and the a/c almost reached us. As we traveled we learned that most of the people with us were also artists. Some were very famous Tétouan artists and one man even worked with writer, Paul Bowles on his film.


After some long hot and sweaty hours we arrived in Rabat. This is outside the Mohammed the VI Museum of Contemporary Art in the middle of the city.


The museum from the bus window.


It was good to finally be there.


This is the stained glass ceiling in the entrance. It's the Seal of Solomon again.


This is the Picasso show poster that was out in the entrance..... And that was all the Picasso pictures I was allowed to take. :)


Here's a GIANT picture of King Mohammed the VI. Every business in Morocco must display a photo of the king. Sort of like schools with the American flag in the states. Except with the flag I doubt every American on a tour would want to pose with it for photos like our new Moroccan friends did with this picture. There seems to be a lot of respect for the king.


After spending quite a bit of time in the Picasso exhibit (which was fantastic, some works I'd never seen before!), we headed upstairs to see the rest of the contemporary art from Africa. I particularly liked this sculpture by the stairs.


I have to say a lot of the art in the museums permanent collection really blew me away. Like this coiled head image, by I think an artist from Nigeria.


This detailed masterpiece was created entirely with tiny seed beads.

This piece by an artist from the Congo made me so happy. He actually used glitter! Glitter on museum art is awesome. :)

Mike's painting selfie!


Naomi sitting to appreciate a painting by a Casablanca artist.


Mike by a very cool painting of swords.


And I had to capture a photo of this painting of many faces. It's so amazing when it's in front of you!!


After milling around the gift shop we were all kicked out as the museum was closing.


After the museum closed we began to walk into Rabat, which is a very modern and different city than Tétouan. I was trying to rush ahead of the group to buy some water as we'd run out on our hot bus ride. I had to kind of sneak it, because everyone else on the tour was fasting, which means no eating or drinking (or chewing gum, swallowing your own saliva, tooth brushing, all kinds of things). They understood we were foreigners, of course, but after the day we'd had with the heat and the walking I think all of them were getting worn out.


Of course you could see people being short tempered all over the city. This man and woman were having a confrontation.


As we walked through the city it was explained to us we were going to a street where artists had open studios right on the sidewalk.


This is the first artist we met (on the left). He was super friendly and even did some drawing for each of us! He called himself "Art Man".


Next to Art Man's studio was a lot of stray mama cats that he was obviously helping out.


Here's Naomi with the tiniest kitten!


Cats in front of the Capitol park (across the street).


This is another of the artist's studios on the street near the park.




This is a third open studio along here. This artist did people's portraits mostly.



We spoke with many of the artists and most all of them were friendly and happy to talk with other artists. This particular artist (photo above) was not. He came out yelling and was angry we'd taken pictures and came near his space. I deleted any photos I'd taken except this one of him.


After the artist studios we were picked up by the bus again and were driven to the King's tomb, where the deceased Kings are buried. The girls were glad to get on the bus because they could sip some water we purchased and quickly tried to snack on a few cookies. We can't do any of this in public during Ramadan, so I also took a sip but was self conscious as everyone else on the bus was fasting.
Mike I noticed had also stopped eating and only drank a little.

Anyway the photo above is when we arrived on the grounds of the King's Tomb.


Giant brass sculpture on the grounds.


Walking across a field of pillars to the entrance to the tomb.


The Moroccan flag over head.


Approaching the entrance.


As we came close to the door you could see the knight guarding the entrance in his red robe.


This is arabic script on the wall near the doorway.

This is inside the tomb. Below the banister is the coffin of the current King's grandfather and his father. On the right you can see another knight guarding.


Closeup of me and the girls.


The king's tomb was a fascinating place, and full of tourists from all over Africa and possibly the world, but when Mike tried to take a picture of a group of the knights walking together he was stopped.


Nevertheless a pretty incredible place and worth a stop in if you're ever in Rabat.


During our day trip we got to know many of the artists we traveled with, including one man from Argentina, who'd moved here 6 months ago with his family. It was great to talk to him and learn about his new life in Tétouan.

After the King's tomb we headed over to the harbor and began the hour long wait till sundown. 


The plan was to break the fast on this boat in the harbor.

Mike and Naomi attempting to pose like the statue

So we walked about looking at the many booths and stands set up in the harbor area. This one is about Indonesia.


Finally the sun began to set and in the last few hours we started joining our new friends in the fast so we were all pretty eager to get on the boat.


Finally our group was called.


The boat from the plank.


And here we were seated to break the fast. The pastries, the dates, the special soup, the hard boiled egg, and mango juice are all traditional foods to break fast with.Most of this was amazing. I imagine though that fasting every day and then being given the same foods to finally eat each day for a month might get tedious.  After this they served us another meal of tangines and seafood pastille.

For me the boat was a highlight of our journey in Morocco so far. Sitting on a boat in North Africa with my new friends and participating in the "break fast" meal!I can't believe this is my life.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Artisan's School

Last Tuesday we took a tour of the Artisan's school with Jeff McRobbie from Green Olive Arts (if you're ever in Tétouan, Morocco you should sign up for this tour as it's for anyone not just their artist residents!). We started by cutting through a new area of the old medina.  Since we've been staying in the medina for weeks you'd think we'd be used to the place but we still see things there that just take us by surprise.


Like this gigantic swordfish just lying next to the fish sellers on the pavement.


We used this doorway to exit the medina. As you can see there are cannons at this one. Hundreds of years ago, before the modern Spanish part of town was built, this was the edge of the city. They used the cannons to defend the city from mountain invaders who stole their children in the night and took them as slaves. There was a strict rule that residents had to be inside the gate by sundown, and even though the soldiers on guard knew you and might be your friends they were required to shoot you if you tried to enter after the gate closed.


From here we walked across the street to the artisan school.


This inside the entrance. The school was established by the Spanish to ensure that all the old crafts would continue to be taught and thrive in this area.


Our first stop was inside the decorative artists' workshop and classroom.


Here the instructor is showing us how they transfer their cut paper designs using a sock full of talc (which is a white powder) and tap it out onto the surface.


The master artist shows off the horse hair paint brushes he made for his craft.


Finished painted door.


The next classroom was wood working.


This is one of the kinds of drawings all the students must learn to do before they can work in wood or paint, or do anything.


Almost al the designs are centered around this star. It is called the Seal of Solomon.


For the wood carving students they simply glued the design to the board and carved out the pieces. Then we watched students spend a long time sanding off the paper.


Next stop was an embroidery class.


A lot was happening in this class. The students were all girls and young women.


I think they were trying to fill a large commission for a wedding, perhaps. Jobs like this help support the school.


Next was pottery and tiles. Every classroom was like a treasure trove.


These are student desks in the ceramics classroom. 


For the tiles student learn to use these wooden pieces as a guide and cut the shape from soft, but firm clay that is then fired and used in designs.


These are the various pieces assembled to make a tile.


This is inside the pottery kiln. He's firing some of the student work from over at the Art university.


Chloe took a minute in the school courtyard.


While we walked around the courtyard the brass worker instructor opened up his classroom.


His room was full of more treasures, like these stunning lanterns. He didn't have any students today as kids aren't showing up as much during Ramadan.


This is inside the iron working shop. 


Two of the blacksmith teachers discussing technique.


Last but definitely not least was the plaster carvers.


The intricate patterns they carved into plaster were no less than stunning. They also cast some designs in a mold, and then carved into them, like in this arched window piece.


This is the different kind of gypsum they used to make the different kinds of plaster. Some kinds are harder and some dry softer and are easier to carve.


Here's Naomi reading in the courtyard. She was getting fatigued and needed a break.


After leaving the Artisan's school we walked around the edge of the medina over to the artist's co-op.


Inside here graduates and other skilled artists make their products and sell them directly to customers.


A leather worker in his work space.


A camel stamp he uses to make an impression in the leather.


This is a weaver making a blanket on a loom.


Here you can see a rug in progress on this loom.


And another rug on a different loom. 

Learning about all these crafts was fascinating and I feel honored that all these artists were willing to share what they do with us. It's amazing to me that these traditional methods are still used each and every day in Morocco.
"People are willing to take these extraordinary chances to become writers, musicians, or painters, and because of them, we have a culture. If this ever stops, our culture will die, because most of our culture, in fact, has been created by people that got paid nothing for it--people like Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Van Gogh or Mozart."-Kurt Vonnegut

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