By Nii B. Andrews.
On the last Saturday of the year, before Marrakech assumes its historic role as Africa’s first ever “Capital City of Culture”, the ancient magical city’s landmark Comptoir des Mines Gallery exploded with the art of Mohamed Arejdal.
The exhibition titled RESSALA – which in Arabic means “letter” or “message”, runs from Dec 28 to Feb 7, 2020.
Arejdal has many awesome pieces in the exhibition.
Some pieces are literally jaw-dropping as he communicates his thoughts on modernity, colonialism, the separation and distance between cultures, borders, nomads, sacred symbols and blood ties.
Arejdal’s message is a formidable one – nuanced, well articulated and with a provocative perspective, totally devoid of cliches and an insipid centrism.
His massive renditions of Amazigh jewellery pieces bring to our attention the absolute beauty and monumental power of the pieces. The viewer even gains a perspective on their architectural ingenuity – something that may not be easily appreciated in the miniature.
He leaves us wondering whether the nomadic life can survive the hegemony of globalization and environmental destruction.
Are we all condemned to eating the same kind of hamburger probably made by….?
Will we all have to wear blue jeans with sneakers?
Can we choose where to live, when and for how long?
Arejdal’s take on colonial legacy is also interesting and provocative.
The pock marked bust of a colonial governor and his mammoth hand carved cedar sarcophagus leave us with several questions which can only be answered after deep contemplation within the context of the historical record.
There are also art pieces that consist of reconstructed quilts or rugs or tapesteries; these are made from antique or discarded rug pieces, clothes or blankets.
They have been collected/ retrieved, transformed and reconstituted by the artist into something new, but still reflecting the essence of the tribal Amazigh aesthetic.
Are they a metaphor for Africa’s history?
The full sweep of his artistic portfolio was also potently evident.
There were framed cement etchings that showed fragmented maps of Africa.
One of these constituted the roof opening over the stunning art deco stairwell of the Comptoir des Mines building.
Numerous video installations shot in various locales (Algiers, Dakar, Jama El Fna) were also available.
They explored the factors and forces behind contemporary urban societal alliances and governance structures.
His sculpture installations that featured the assembled detached legs and hooves of cattle linked with metal cables, bars and rods, appeared to be quite unsettling for many viewers.
All told, Arejdal delivers a serious message in a powerful visual language with layers of meaning.
The CM gallery, under the direction of the indomitable Hicham Dauodi, has again served notice that it is capable of and will continue to provide exhibitions of the highest quality that rival anything anywhere in the world.
CM is indeed a powerhouse art gallery and its newly added verdant huge roof garden with wooden pergola is just wonderful.
The current exhibition, RESSALA, is a must see.
It will take more than one visit to read, understand and absorb Arejdal’s comprehensive letter.
He has a lot to say and there is a lot to learn from him.