Thursday, September 15, 2016

Photography : in the heart of the Fez Medina

The artist residency program organised by Takafes, the art and cultural innovation centre in Fes took place from July 15th to August 15th. Mohammed Hamdouni reports

Omar Chennafi, Hamza Ben Rachad, Mohamed Thara and Amine Bouyarmane

The initial impetus of the four authors and photographers, Amine Bouyarmane, Hamza Ben Rachad, Mohamed Thara and Omar Channafi, gave rise to a new reading of the heart of the Medina of Fes, through their own journey in old Fes alleys.

They are questioning the making of a city spatially and temporally and focused an independent, singular gaze on the urban spaces, revealing their specificity, morphology and history. At the same time they revisited the complex relationship between space and photography as a medium through a work process, built up by repeating a daily pathway deep in the Medina.

The landmarks captured during the walks, became photographic traces and are an attempt to capture light, time, and (negative)space as a fundamental component of photography. They question the concept of emptiness and how it bounds with space; virtual and real space, physical and mental, private and social, cultural and natural, perceptual and representative space.

Space in Moroccan popular culture is space which is not occupied by objects. It interacts with other aesthetic elements and different representations. A close relationship rose up between photography and the urban space being traversed. The immateriality in the photographs of the four artists manifests itself as a vacant space with greater emphasis. The empty space works as a great filler. From the reality to the photograph, the notion of space, its mental and physical structure are in continuous change. A wide empty area allows a contemplative, spiritual connection with the world.

The public space is governed by the representations that organise the forms of appropriation and general perception made about them. The photographs have very important argumentative possibilities in a world where images are intended to move around.

Photos - Mohamed Thara 

Thus, the silhouette of the woman in black Niqab, photographed by Mohamed Thara, locates her according to her surrounding while she walks in the Medina’s space.

Photos; Omar Chennafi 

Between shadow and light, the way the silhouette of the man with the straw hat is disposed in Omar Chennafi photograph, conditions largely the motion and the rhythm of his moves. The example of the man in the djellaba, in Amine Bouyarmane photograph, contemplating the empty space in an empty alley, or the young lady, photographed by Hamza ben Rachad from behind, running from darkness and seeking light.

Photos: Hamza ben Rachad 

In those photographs, space is often empty or occupied by people, or rather their silhouettes, located in its volume, surface or even different dimensions. Silhouettes can be spotted in relation to each other by measuring the distance or the direction. Space and its character are conditioned by emptiness, made visible by the negative space in the photographs - an interpretation of the labyrinthine, conflictual space and its transformation through the seasons, between a slow developing medina and man’s attempt to overpower it.

Photos: Amine Bouyarmane

In all the photographs shot during Takafes residency, shapes meet in space, enter in collision and plastically melt in each other. Behind each photograph, there is always a story, every mark being piece of remembrance. No photographic image can be accessed otherwise than the fictional appropriation filter. They conform to space constraints that photographers work with, highlighting the ambiguity of the notion of public place. The result is a photographic essay, beyond social and historical borders, that forms a unique ethnographic and iconographic testimony to the Medina of Fes.


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