Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden Launches in Morocco
A first of its kind in North Africa, the Fondation Alliances’ Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) opened in Marrakech during the recent 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. Though it had a softer launch in late 2016, the foundation billed this as its more prominent introduction to international audiences.
The museum is dedicated to the promotion of African art across a range of media, through diverse exhibitions and education programmes. It nurtures an understanding of contemporary art from Africa through collecting and exhibiting established and emerging artists, highlighting the cultural diversity on the continent.
Motivated by their passion for the visual arts, this philanthropic initiative is by Moroccan art collectors Alami Lazraq and his son Othman, under whose directorship the Lazraq family’s private collection of modern and contemporary African is brought to a broader audience.
Othman confirms his father started building the collection about 40 years ago, when the market for African art did not really exist. “My parents started out collecting Moroccan and African modernist works long before it was hot. He is probably a visionary.”
Othman began collecting over a decade ago and also speaks about his thrust and the new direction he has added. “My father is a bit more old school, I brought photography and video art to the collection.”
With few museums promoting modern and contemporary art in Morocco, Lazraq hopes MACAAL will provide a platform for African artists to be shown to a wider audience. “In Africa there’s definitely a lack of infrastructure. We need more private structures and private institutions and collections to be shown. It’s also a way to democratise access to art.”
The inaugural exhibition at the museum, Africa is No Island is ongoing and will run till August 24. It features photographs by over 40 artists working across the continent and diaspora. Notable artists include Joana Choumali, who creates intimate studio portraits, Sammy Baloji, whose montages examine daily life and social history in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Hicham Benohoud, whose ‘La salle de classe’ series was created while he was working as an art teacher in a Marrakech school between 1994 and 2000, and acclaimed Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui, who died following a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso in 2016.
The second exhibition is on permanent display and gives an overview of works in the family’s collection, including those by sub-Saharan African artists such as Joël Andrianomearisoa, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Abdoulaye Konaté and Chéri Samba, as well as others from the Maghreb like Farid Belkahia, Meriem Bouderbala and Moataz Nasr.
MACAAL was partly established by their charitable Fondation Alliances, which is backed by real estate conglomerate, Alliances Group. Founded in 2009, Foundation Alliance is a non-profit initiative focusing on supporting cultural development in Morocco. Other non-profit initiatives set up by the foundation are the Al Maaden Sculpture Park, launched in September 2013, La Chambre Claire, a bi-annual award supporting contemporary photography also established in 2013 and the education programme, Passerelles, which provides workshops and classes for young, local people, on contemporary art and design.
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