the story (a personal one) behind
contemporary culture in Morocco
When we decided in 2015 to invite some visual and performing artists to Tighmert, we did not realised what we were starting, we just considered that these artists could help us in the human and culture development of the oasis and also that they could find a proper atmosphere for their creations, far from the area of influence of Moroccan cultural nerve centres (Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech). I think we started a journey without knowing where we were heading, nevertheless we knew where we did not want to go. Four years later we still do not have a precise destination, as we continue questioning concepts like culture development, contemporary creation, art spaces, artists residencies, artistic education… if they ever have a place in a desert region like Guelmim-Oued Noun. I must say it is not easy to achieve a proper identity for a culture event, or platform, when influences arrive from everywhere, from other Moroccan cities, from Arab countries, from Europe... Some times these influences can be very dangerous. For example, nowadays we see how the European concept of culture, as industry, is spreading in the Moroccan culture field, in a moment where inexperienced regional governments start to decide what to do with public money on culture matters (if they ever decide). I’m also worry how politicians consider culture as an expense instead of an investment, or how institutions consider call for projects as annual subsidies without a clear strategy behind, with proposals that must be adapted, and most of the time distorted, to general requirements instead of answering the needs of a specific community. I do not mean everything is wrong, artists must have an appropriate environment to work, to create and to earn their lives, but the state cannot pretend associations to do it work, concerning the education and the promotion of culture in a country. The solution is not easy, specially when there is no culture policy, when there is not even a culture administration (neither in the central or regional governments). Morocco needs a national culture strategy (without copying directly what other countries do), one that puts children and artists first instead of mediocrity and improvisation.
Taking into consideration the state of culture in Morocco, it is not obvious to organise events with some stability and durability, and even less to find our own way. On the other hand, this situation could be an advantage, because we are alone, with no official support, with no money, but also with no programmatic or administrative restrictions, which means we can decide freely by our own.
We still do not know what we are or what we will be. We are aware we are not a music festival (even if we started with that nomination), we are not an artist residency, we are not an art gallery, we are not a contemporary art event (art fair or biennale)… I do not mean those options are bad choices, it is just that we must realise where we are and what our means and capabilities are to carry out this project where we offer a particular space and specific time for contemporary creators based on a set of identities. I do believe this research must stay away from fashionable cultural programs, as well as from problems arising from non-existent or inappropriate cultural policies. In that sense, our best ally is the desert.
contemporary culture in the desert
Only if we came to understand, and explain, the desert we will be able to propose a right framework for contemporary creation. To reach this goal, we must confront art and artists directly to the desert, in an attempt to decipher it from a contemporary point of view. Moreover, during my researches in the region, I have learnt it is the desert that will dictate what you can do, when and how, since you owe yourselves to its environment, to its history, to its people… It is something difficult to explain to those do not know the desert, because it is not just their art that will be submitted to Nature, also themselves, a reality that it is not easy to understand, and to accept. Thereby artists need time and predisposition to carry out a process (a personal one) that cannot be done just from an academic perspective, due to the multiple and complex layers the desert hides, for that reason a more open framework is needed. That is why I think it is a good option to keep ourselves outside theoretical postulates. I believe artistic language is, increasingly, moving away from our societies’ understanding, establishing a barrier between artists and citizens, a matter that it is crucial in a moment where culture education in Morocco is being developed. We cannot pretend to develop Culture just with artists, the whole society must be involved.
In Tighmert we encourage artists to work together with inhabitants, to whom they must be able to communicate their thoughts, their knowledges, their doubts, their frustrations… in a comprehensive language, because they are the key to understanding the desert. To achieve this complicity, desert-inhabitants-artists, they must get rid of their intellectual armor, of their ego, that will be the only way of approaching the desert fullness.
With Caravane Tighmert it seems as if we were travelling all together, artists, locals, organisers… trying to reach, at least to understand, the essence of the desert. Since the first edition we are spending more and more time outside the oasis, where the nomads are, in an empty space where there is no city, no oasis, no tree… A place with no physical references, just the earth and the sky, and in between the artists. Maybe with this approach we are deleting all art traces and probably what we do, has nothing to do with art, or perhaps this is the real meaning of art, to find the essence of life…
Let’s see what the future and the desert hold us.