Iconic City: Loading... Casa
14-17 November | 10am – 10pm
18 November | 10am – 7pm
Ground Floor, Building 6, Dubai Design District (d3)
Curated by Salma Lahlou with research assistance by Omar Mrani
Casablanca was built upon 2 fundamental axes: commerce and immigration. When the French arrived in 1907, they found a simple town quite unlike the imperial cities of Fez, Meknes, Rabat or Marrakech with 20,000 inhabitants living in a small medina.
The Casablanca "miracle" captivated a cosmopolitan population, primarily European but also Jewish and Moroccan, drawn to the promise of business and work opportunities. The city grew to 78,000 inhabitants in 1913, and in eight years, the European population mushroomed from 570 to 31,000. It was in Casablanca that the French term "bidonville", or shantytown, was coined, as informal reed huts with corrugated metal roofs were cobbled together to respond to an urgent housing shortage.
Complexes known as Hay Mohammadi housed thousands of Moroccans who knew only the practices, traditions and customs of their own homelands. This intermixing of populations and cultures on the edges of the city created the identity of Casablanca, and of Morocco, that we know today.
Following the country’s independence in 1956, the city saw an inverse polarity in which the centre lost its status both as the historic heart of the city and its decisional power. Displacement became the means for Casablanca to reinvent itself and draw resilience.
In one century, the city has undergone profound mutations. Rachid Andaloussi, Casablanca-based architect notes "each time a new urban centre is born, it is a death announcement of the one that preceded it".
This exhibition a simultaneous, non-linear experience where archival images, sound recordings, a short film, a monumental drawing and contemporary photography will collide.
Five major axes for the exhibition:
Transhumance: Progressively polycentric, Casablanca saw its population migrate within the urban space in pace with socio-economic ascension. In order to adapt, the city invented its own model of planning and auto-regulation.
Mutation: Moroccans have traditionally defined themselves by their tribes, but in Casablanca the phenomenon of diversity first appeared, forging a new Casablancan identity. In three months, one can claim the city as one’s own, without objection.
Counter-culture: Artists render profane that which has been considered sacred, assuming the right to appropriate it, reinterpret it, and take every liberty with regard to legacy. As writer/curator Omar Berrada rightly says, "the popular heritage is like a living body, an agent of permanent cultural renewal".
Amnesiac memory: Not a single commemorative plaque, no inscriptions nor steles exist to inform visitors about the people who created this city. Casablanca cultivates the obligation of oblivion: a tomb without an epitaph.
Hedonism: Hedonism has become a characteristic of the city with the largest tower, swimming pool and cinema (the Vox) in Africa.
Artists and biographies
Interior Architect and Photography
Zineb Andress Arraki was raised in Casablanca. Her award-winning work combines architecture, photography, sculpture, and video. Her recent solo exhibition, Casablanca CH2O is the result of three years of research.
Arraki links the cities of Casablanca and Dubai to reveal their similarity when comparing to their urban and architectural approach, audacious projects and endeavours to become incubators of innovation.
Aicha El Beloui isan illustrator, graphic designer, and creative director living and working in Casablanca. Trained as an architect, she began her artistic practice to express an obsession with citizenship, public spaces, belonging, freedom, and the individual in the Moroccan context.
Aicha will translate Casablanca into a graphic mural landscape within which the exhibition content will sit.
Mostafa Maftah livesand works as an artist in Casablanca. His paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations and performances exhibit a quest for individual and collective memory in streets and on walls.
Maftah’s work, ‘Feu en Océan’, is the first and only tapestry made using traditional weaving techniques by a Moroccan man.
Hicham Lasri is a writer, graphic designer and activist living and working in Casablanca. He has produced plays, movies, and short films on YouTube to promote social awareness among Moroccans. His movies have been selected for the Berlinnale in 2014 and 2017, and for Acid Cannes in 2012 and 2013.
Hicham Lasri has produced Casablanca!, a visual poem in honour of his city, which includes many spaces that no longer exist.
Anna Raimondo lives in Brussels and works internationally.She has participated in several international exhibitions and festivals. She is co-editor of the radio and sound arts platform Saout Radio, based in Morocco.
Sonically translating the intimate transhumance of Casablanca, Anna has archived fragments of the city’s resistance and negotiation with traditional Morocco, integrating residents’ anecdotes with the sounds and stories of the music group Nass El Ghiwane.
Mohamed Tangi is a Casablanca native, and his passion for the city began thirty years ago, when he converted his home into an archive of the city. He played an active role in the ongoing rehabilitation of the Casablanca Medina which is almost complete.
Objects from Tangi’s personal collection will be shown outside of Casablanca for the first time.
Salma Lahlou graduated in both in curatorial studies and law. After working as the Vice-President of the National Museums Foundation of the Kingdom of Morocco, she founded Thinkart in January 2015 and has curated various exhibitions including The Casablanca School of Fine Arts at the Marrakech Biennale in 2016, and In the Carpet/ Über den Teppich in Stuttgart (2016) and Berlin (2017).