Monday, May 16, 2011

Dar Balmira - Superb photo gallery to open in Fez

In theses days of specialization, it is refreshing to meet a true renaissance man. Fortunately for the cultural life of Fez, Jearld Moldenhauer is such a person. The View from Fez visited him at Dar Balmira to view his galleries of photographs, only to discover that there was much more to the man and the house than we anticipated.

Situated in derb Saoud in Gzira, Dar Balmira is full of surprises. The central courtyard is magnificent tribute to the arts and crafts of Fez. All the huge, ancient doors are in perfect proportion to the space and stand alongside wonderful carved plaster in pristine condition. The surrounding woodwork, carved in bold designs, seems to cascade down from artful niches. One of the salons off the courtyard gives us the first glimpse of the complexity of the softly spoken Moldenhauer. It is his private space, and contains a vast collection of movies and books. A huge home-cinema screen is complimented by tall-standing speakers that would do some full-sized cinema proud.

Jearld Moldenhauer

Upstairs, through smaller doors, we discover a number of cosy l-shaped rooms. "This one is a children's room", he explains. "This one was originally my study," he says of another. It is packed with books. A quick glance at the titles confirms that this man is a reader of a very wide range of literature. This one room alone would keep most bibliophiles happy for years.

Then it is into the photo-gallery spaces. Jearld explains; "The galleries include one salon of historically important photos of the Medina taken by the French in 1912. These pictures have been restored from their original photogravures, enlarged and framed. Another salon and corridors feature my own work, all pictures on Moroccan life, landscape and nature. At present there are around 250 pictures on display."

More surprises were to come. Up to the terrace and suddenly we are in a garden, complete with aviary! A small collection of exotic species is complimented by ducks, a chameleon or two and so it goes. "Did I mention I like bugs?" he quips. But it is not simply a joke. In the photo-gallery where his own collection hangs are wildlife and landscape photographs as well as some wonderful human studies. "I'm fond of bridges... old bridges... and rivers... I also have a pretty good understanding of classical music..." As we said, a renaissance man.

On the terrace... succulents as well !

"The roof deck is pretty unique, featuring several hundred plants as well as an aviary with some 40-50 parrots. The menagerie also includes a pair of ducks (now sitting), four land tortoise, two resident chamelons and a very happy kitten. Each year I raise young falcons taken from their nests by Medina boys. Unfortunately just lost one seriously injured by a sling shot that broke its wing in a place impossible to repair. The roof deck also features an elevated walkway offering a good panorama of the Medina." - Jearld Moldenhauer

Born in Niagara Falls, NY, Moldenhauer attended Cornell University, where he studied biological sciences. After graduation he emigrated to Canada in 1969 and fond a work as research assistant at the University of Toronto. This lasted for about a year as he was fired from his position after founding the first gay student organization in Canada.

While he could, judging by his photographs, have made a name as a photographer, books appear to have been his first love. He opened Toronto's famous Glad Day Bookshop in 1970.

The work on Dar Balmira has been going on for some five years and we understand it will be open to the public in the near future. It will certainly be worth a visit.

1 comment: said...

Congratulation, JEARLD
Your new project seems great and your ideas are innovative and amazing I wish you all the success and I HOPE TO VISIT IT SOON