From Artist to Artisan

29 04 2014

Over the 4 years Culture Vultures (CV) has been fortunate enough to encounter and befriend a range of Fez based artisans who are masters in their trade either working independently or from guilds and cooperatives. Culture Vultures’ mission is to facilitate accessibility to the arts sector in Morocco and therefore promotes fostering relationships and understanding between Fassi art practitioners with those visiting from around the globe especially via its Artisanal Affairs program.  As founder of CV, the opportunity for Artisanal Affairs and Exposé Artisanal, to connect traditional creator with contemporary artist has personally been one of my favorite outcomes out of this copious adventure.

expose-artisanal-abbas     Grandfather's jade tool72

Local photographers Anaas Med El Issmae ( above), Vanessa Bonnin ( above) and Omar Chennafi are playing a part in the tool box. Their predecessors, Holger Gross and and Hollis Bennett, kick-started the bravura portfolio. In addition, a current Fullbright researcher Betsy Bolton is ploughing through a harvest of artisans’ stories shot on film on International Storytelling Day in March 2014.

Mirjam Linschooten, a Dutch graphic and collage artist, was an artist in residence at Cafe Tissardmine in the Sahara this March 2014. Mirjam visited Fez at the end of her residency and launched into the heart of the medina with long time Fez resident Alice Barnsdale to meet the jeweller Said Akessbi.  Mirjam created a few initial collages in response to her meeting with Said and although now back in New York is further developing how Said’s life as a third generation artisan can be represented or reborn within a contemporary art framework. Mirjam says of her experience in Fez:

“The different artisanal practices I saw in Fez greatly impressed me. By borrowing from these existing traditions, such as the timeless patterns, I hope to both continue and transform them into contemporary versions, bringing the past and present together. Likewise, Moroccan history provides a very interesting platform for rethinking ways of recording history and the way meaning is constructed through narrative.”

This April 2014 Minah Khalil, a UK design teacher, currently resident in Dubai, spent two weeks as an apprentice of Hassan the woodcarver. Her Fez residency proved that she could combine technical appreciation with spiritual augmentation. In just two weeks, Minahdeveloped an endearing appreciation and respect for Mallum Hassan, the Sufi Festival and Fez old medina; in addition, some incredible creations from the workshop bench.

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Minah Khalil and Hassan. April 2014.

More opportunities for artists to spend time in the strong and dexterous hands of an artisan are nigh. Kim Simon from Australia will reside in Sefrou and work alongside tailors, tanners and weavers throughout May 2014; the fruitions of which will be presented at this year’s festival pOp Up venue during the Fez sacred music festival in June. An open call for artists wishing to immerse themselves in Fez and its region and work alongside a traditional artisan should be guided to the call-out and details of Artist in residency AiR Artisan.  Indeed, this September 2014 Sefrou will bring host a group of contemporary artists from Fez, Cairo and beyond and facilitate encounters between artists and traditional craftspersons.

AiR Artisan poster sml

Let’s not forget the open minds, souls and flowing pens of the Exposé Artisanal citizen reporters;  Sue Bail and Alice Barnsdale especially, who have presented to the electronic audience warm personalities, insights and descriptive portraits.  CV will continue to make deeper connections recording the personalities behind the Fez crafts. Both new and current citizen reporters are encouraged to drink tea with a crafts person, document interesting moments and submit material in the format of choice. See a new side to Fez, come a little closer.

zakiSaidAliceZaki ‘The investigator’, Said and Alice Barnsdale.

This art-tickle comes with chokrane, baralakaoufik and ‘liber’fikum bezeef for all artisans and artists involved in this project thus far.

Keep connected for more news on crowdfunding developments, events and activities around the artisanship of Fez and Expose Artisanal.


Jess Stephens

Director of Culture Vultures and Exposé Artisanal.




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