EXPLORING ART & ANTHROPOLOGY
An artist is a modern day sage who questions conventions and perceives beyond static frameworks. In our search of international artists who challenge the way we see the world, and its ways, we found French born Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou exemplary. She embodies a sense of distortion in thought through her venture ‘AA’, exposited at Appartement 22, a contemporary gallery of art located in Rabat, Morocco in August 2018. We found her installations to be insightful manifestations of socio-cultural elements that permeate the lives of traditional artisans living in Morocco and Aomori. The temporalities of past, present and future of the communities have been merged by her through art with an alluring sensitivity resulting from objective observation and recording.
Sara is an artist who deals with complex material, influenced from both her Moroccan heritage and exposure to a multicultural, multifaceted education in art from France. She began her career as a designer for fashion moguls including Lancome, but desired more socio-cultural value in her work, which made her focus on installation art against a backdrop of anthropological research. Her social practice has mainly included explorations into the diverse challenges faced by the artisan craftsmen community in Morocco. Since her first solo exhibition ‘Entre 2’ in 2014 at the Riad Denise Masson, Institut Français in Marrakech, Morocco, Sara has been an active artist, having displayed her talents widely in France, Japan, USA and Lebanon. She has participated in renowned international festivals including the Moulin d’Art Contemporain Toulon, France (2015), Gaite Lyrique Tanger, Paris (2014) and the Marrakech Biennale (2016). As a culmination of her interest in exploring the social through her art, in 2017 the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs invited her to do a public artwork in the city’s historic Little Syria neighbourhood. Her contribution to the project was well-received as she immortalized the vibrant literary and cultural scene in the area in downtown Manhattan where immigrants from Syria and Lebanon had settled in the late 19th century. As America’s relationship with immigration began to become even more fragile, Sara was instrumental in memorializing the unique values brought by the generations of immigrant West Asian communities.
For ‘AA’ Sara derived inspiration from two trips made to the Atlas in Morocco and Aomori in Japan, which proved to be an interesting inquiry into the ancestral gestures embedded in each culture. She interviewed artists, artisans, archaeologists and anthropologists during her journey of discovery, approaching it as a scholarly research. What Sara realized while conducting her research was that these ancestral gestures were memories that spread beyond the strict boundaries of written language. Thus, in order to serve these memories justice she chose to incorporate several mediums including stone engraving, weaving, photography as well as language and discourse. She delved further into her artistic motivations and practice especially in relation to ‘AA’ with ARTRA:
Q | In what manner does Moroccan culture inspire your artistic perspective and is there a unique creative process/approach?
A | I think it’s something natural, because Morocco is a part of me and my history. Therefore, it is a story that is expressed through my work, either knowingly or unconsciously. The process is diverse; I wonder about different aspects of Moroccan culture, different aspects of the history of the country, the territory, my family etc. The spectrum of influences is very wide, and Moroccan culture represents today a starting point in my work, which then becomes a path that spreads to other territories.
Q | Can you elaborate on the impact and cultural identity created by French and Moroccan diversity and how it has reflected in your works of art?
A | As a child, I did not understand the richness of such a life. The gaps and tensions that exist between my parents’ Moroccan culture and my education in a multicultural country like France, are both part of me. I follow all these paths at once in an equal way. It is certain that this mix of cultures creates a more acute awareness of the world, undoubtedly an understanding and apprehension of its complexity. By trying to understand my own history, I end up going back in time, which is where my interest in the origins of humanity comes from.
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