Morocco’s artistic, urban metropolis, Casablanca is the economic capital of contrasts, and also excess. Here the sun shines on dilapidated terraces and Art Deco buildings in the town centre as well as postmodern constructions in Anfa. Casablanca is a paradox, modern, yet conservative. Throughout the day on its wide boulevards, mini-skirts and colourful veils cross paths in a dance of indifference and mutual nervousness. At the heart of this extraordinary hive of activity, an artistic community has taken shape. It ranges from boho chic to pure underground. And, even if it is secret, it shifts, blends and creates, a kind of mirror of the disorder that surrounds it. ‘The Moroccan arts community is the ultimate minority, but it can be very dynamic’, says Chama Tahiri, co-founder of the webzine Lioumness, which lists these creative collaborations: ‘here, artists know one another. They evolve in private circles, meet up for social events.’ Discretion is their watchword.
Stylist Amine Bendriouich, one of Morocco’s underground figures, is testament to this. His parties transcend borders and he’s always ready to welcome even more people to push the boat out. ‘Amine’s parties have it all’, says Chama, ‘from ultra hip electro bands from Berlin, to artists that look like transvestites. ‘It’s all about showmanship, challenging cultures and merging them around the party. Amine always chooses unusual places and keeps them secret till the last minute. Every party draws even more people than the last. Amine is the link, he’s the perfect host. Sandra Amarie, a Canadian singer living in Berlin, was supposed to stay in Casablanca for a week, she’s now been there for five months: ‘When we’re talking about art and creativity, the energy is enormous. Moroccan artists are ahead of their country and can be a real catalyst if given more visibility’. Meanwhile, these creators continue to meet up and the Lioumness girls know it. To launch their webzine, they hosted an ultra private party, in an art gallery on the ground floor of a villa in the upmarket district of CIL – built by the Longchamp property group, which is completely anonymous on the inside. The Anna Kaona space lies hidden here, an exclusive concept store owned by Fatiha El Aouni, the ideal refuge to exhibit works by artists and artisans showcasing furniture, colourful rugs, and deconstructed libraries. ‘This is a guest-house for art’, explains Lioumness manager, Rim El Khalidy. We gather designers together around what matters most to us, a thinking space within a space, but also within oneself’. The result is a party where around fifty artists were able to exchange ideas, a drink in hand. ‘For them, it is no longer a question of being bourgeois, French-speaking or westernised, several currents flow around art and the dams which usually hold back Moroccan society are more flexible’, says Chama.
Each neighbourhood has its own signature, the people who go there are super hip and trendy. Soukaina Hachem is the perfect example of this. This 27-year-old designer rarely misses a cultural event. She keeps her eyes and ears open...because at night in Casablanca, when silence falls, people open up, talk to one another, find one other. ‘Working the Casablanca vibe is to also work its nighttime atmosphere, its well-kept secrets’, she confides. For her, all Casablanca nights are similar, but each one always brings its share of forbidden fruits, mysteries and spontaneity. A world away from the world, to be discovered when you know where to find it.
By SONIA TERRAB