Drawing in TétouanIn the waiting room of the doctor, in the departure hall of an airport, in the tram and on the subway. Or at a restaurant, when the food has not been served yet. Whenever I’m waiting, I’m drawing. However, unlike the other media I’m working in (e.g. photography, video, collage) I always took my drawing activities for granted. Until this last week in Morocco.
A couple of years ago I visited Marrakech for video work and photography. I put a small sketchbook and some watercolors in my suitcase, just in case. That was the first time I took the time and the courage to draw people in the streets. The idea to take my drawing talent more seriously started to bubble inside of me.
This year I got the chance: invited by Green Olive Arts, an artist residency in Tetouan, and with a grant from the Gerbrandy Culture Fund, I could go back to Morocco, where it all started. Making sketches, drawings and water colors of the people in the city.
I flew. With a larger sketchbook this time, and with my best watercolor set. And okay, with a camera too. A small one.
At work in my studio, Green Olive Arts, Tétouan.
Soon my studio wall was covered with sketches and drawings. I took a short private course to learn to speak some Moroccan Arab, so that I would be able to communicate with the local people and ask permission to make a drawing or a short video.
‘Sardines’, one minute video, Tétouan.
The photography workshop I had planned to give at one of the art schools, was cancelled. Instead, I went and gave children photography classes at a primary school. After a short explanation, they were allowed to take pictures of each other with my camera. With extraordinary results.
I got to know international artists from Green Olive Arts and artists who live in the city. We exchanged ideas and looked and gave feedback on each others work. In the case of the Tetouani artist Mahacine Al Ahrach we even exchanged real works: she chose one my drawings, and she gave me one of her etchings. We spent two mornings together. The first one in her studio at home, the second one inside the Medina, where I got to see all kinds of artisans at work: woodworkers, calligraphers (in stone), carpet makers and tanners. Mahacine and I still stay in contact.
This week in Morocco will stay with me for a long time. I have experienced how it feels to be on your own in a strange country with a different culture, customs and language. I know how lost one can be feeling sometimes. And how good it is, just then, to be able to connect with the people.
The germ was laid for a new drawing project. In this time of growing xenophobia, I feel the need to speak up in my own way. To show the world: wherever we are, whether we are wearing a headscarf or not, we are all people.
Many thanks to Gerbrandy Cultuurfonds, Green Olive Arts and to the following people: Marian Bijlenga, Hiske Gerbrandy, Jeff Mc Robbie, Rachel Pearsey, Peter Herron, Tanja Verkruijsse, Rogier van der Ploeg and those who have sponsored me by purchasing an artwork.