Aboulhana: A young artist infatuated with pop

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Updated 18 November 2015

Aboulhana: A young artist infatuated with pop

I am always on the lookout for fresh local/regional talent. It seems to me that mass media only starts covering a local or a regional artist once they are famous. I like to go back to the essence and that is supporting talent. When I discovered Moroccan pop artist Mouad Aboulhana, I was shocked that I was the first media person from the Arab region to contact him; anyone can see he’s very talented but sadly there is no proper exposure. What really intrigued me is his work ethic and persistence to make his art visible to the world. He’s a hard worker and soon the world will be exposed to his beautiful art. Just remember that you saw it here first, on Arab News.
We sat down with Mouad for a chitchat:

How would you describe your style?
My style is pure Moroccan pop art and when we say Morocco, it is in fact a large melting-pot of cultures and traditions, from the Berber, the Arabs to Islam and international modernity. So, you can say that my style is a mix of all these beautiful influences.

What are the techniques you use?
For me, techniques always evolve as your art matures! From graphic art using different inks on paper, to street art and painting on the walls of Medina of Tangier (North of Morocco), using stencils and spray paint. It is only three years ago that I started experimenting with digital art by mixing illustrations and images.

Can you tell us how you ended up being an artist? Was it something you always knew you were or did it come to you later in life?
In my career, nothing was ever easy. Nothing happens without a dream or a set goal.
In my humble beginnings, my problems were mostly financial: how to get money to finance my art, my travels, my material and products, also communication and to be able to promote my work. Initially, I had to work for free in order to be able to showcase my creations.
I registered in an educational center, to be a high school art teacher. They sent me to a far city called Taza, which is 900 km (all night on train) away from the big cities like Casablanca, Marrakech and Tanger. The distance and weariness from the long travels didn’t make me give up on my dreams. I would travel all night to Casablanca for the day and go back to Taza the next day to teach the kids.
After 2 years of coming and going, I started receiving e-mails and messages from galleries, concept stores and events, inviting me to showcase my art and even sell it! In some cases, I did live painting sessions and even worked on space installations and decoration.
Right now I feel like a young contemporary artist infatuated with pop art, and hopefully, one day I’ll be on the A-list, among the masters and famous ones.

What was the first artwork you saw that caught your attention and until now it’s a source of inspiration?
The Marilyn Monroe portrait by Andy Warhol. It was a source of inspiration, a source of simplicity and complication at the same time. I learnt so many things from that collection.

Tell us about the “Tarbouch Kid” artwork? What does it represent?
Tarbouch Kid is a symbol for pure Berber-Arab-Muslim personality. This kid represents me in so many ways, he represents the community. Sometimes people ask “Why he is sad?” but in reality he is not sad at all; maybe he is shy, or simply tired because life in our society is hard. Also, kids are never two-faced, they always say the truth! Technically, the character was taken from a smart perspective and angle: his clothes are simple with his red Fez Cap and in the background, a Zellige mosaic.

What was the most challenging artwork you ever did?
The ‘Guerrab Trooper’ painting on wood. The hardest thing about it was brainstorming and looking for thought-provoking and shocking concepts and ideas. Also, an important part of the final process is having the courage to show it. It took a little over a month to finalize it!

What are the top 3 highlights of your career to this date?
Being a reflection of my society, being brave, and presenting thought-provoking and shocking ideas/artwork with respect toward all.

What kind of music do you listen to? And do you listen to music while working?
Yes, I love listening to classic rock like Scorpions, Tuareg music like Tinariwen, and sometime Gnawa, Mogwai, Dubstep.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in Morocco?
We, the artists of this generation are trying to reach out to a wider and international audience. We are merely a group of traditional artisans, but with a modern and contemporary spirit!
The art scene in Morocco is becoming more open-minded, but there are no laws nor rights for artists. Art in Morocco needs more nurturing and people to invest and believe in its potential.
I can say that the artists work with 5 percent of Moroccans and 10 percent of foreigners who live in Morocco, and our public is yearning for local authentic and creative minds and more original art.

Do you ever have any political messages translated into your art?
Not too much but I leave hints. I try to take the people away from the stress of life. I like to highlight the things that they never pay attention to it in their daily life. Actually, most of my art is comical, even though sometimes I might insinuate otherwise.

Your Daft Punk artwork is incredible. Take us through the process of creating it?
It’s an updated version of the first artwork called Daft Kamanja created in 2011 for the Kahenas concept store. The light-bulb moment to improve that artwork happened in the middle of a discussion with my friend Amr Sabra, who loves Gnawa music and who, each month, organizes an event called “The Pages” in Casablanca. I thought about adding a second character via illustration (the black helmet) and that enlightening discussion with my friend inspired me to include Gnawa clothes and the music instrument called Guembri. Three consecutive nights of work and and the artwork was ready!

Tell Arab News about your next move. Where can people find you?
I will be visiting Dubai very soon, for an exhibition and it will be my first time in the region! Find my work on Instagram: https://instagram.com/mouad_aboulhana/

Interview with the director and stars of ‘The Lion King’

Twenty-five years later, director Jon Favreau has brought “The Lion King” to life again for a new generation. (Supplied)
Updated 18 July 2019

Interview with the director and stars of ‘The Lion King’

  • Jon Favreau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner discuss Disney’s latest blockbuster remake.
  • ‘We’re trying to live up to people’s imagination of what they remember ‘Lion King’ being,’ says Favreau.

DUBAI: There are few movies as resonant as Disney’s 1994 classic “The Lion King.” From its beautiful animation and memorable songs by Hans Zimmer and Elton John to its devastating emotional punch, the film has become a touchstone for an entire generation, one of the few films that unite nearly every person who has seen it across the world.

Now, 25 years later, director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “The Jungle Book”) has brought “The Lion King” to life again for a new generation. Sitting in London, the first thing Favreau asks Arab News is whether we were part of the “Lion King” generation, and we were, mentioning to Favreau just how expansive the film still feels to us.

 Chiwetel Ejiofor, Director and Producer Jon Favreau and Donald Glover attend the World Premiere of Disney's "THE LION KING" in Hollywood. (AFP)

“That’s part of the challenge here! We’re trying to live up to people’s imagination of what they remember ‘Lion King’ being. We would watch it next to one another and there’s certain sequences that hold up incredibly well that we tried to follow shot-for-shot like (the opening sequence) ‘Circle of Life,’ but there’s other areas where we had the opportunity to update it and make it feel a bit more grounded in reality,” Favreau tells Arab News.

Remaking it for a new generation seems obvious, but — to borrow from another Disney classic — it was a Herculean task for Favreau and the huge animation team that supported him. This version remains fully animated, but uses cutting-edge technology to make the entire film photo-realistic. The characters, story, and songs remain, but the film looks more like a David Attenborough nature documentary than an animated movie.

It wasn’t just the technology that proved challenging, either. Making sure that audiences still connect with these beloved characters without the expressiveness of classic Disney animation was something that gave Favreau pause.


“I worked on ‘Jungle Book,’ so I had some experience in this area,” he says. “Pretty early on, we got to try some different things and when you go to human, you think it would make you feel more but it really feels kind of bizarre, at least to me. I was limited if we were to go photo-real. If you go stylized like Pixar it’s great, you can do whatever you want. If we go ‘Madagascar’ you can make them stick their tongues out. The minute you start hitting photorealism, you hit the uncanny valley when you push the performances beyond what the real animal could do. Part of what makes it look so real is we limited what we allowed the animators to do.”

To be sure that audiences would connect with the characters, Favreau relied a lot on the voices that supported them, bringing in an all-star cast including Beyoncé as Nala, Donald Glover as Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa.

“If you look at a character like Pumbaa, to me he’s the most fun example, because when people saw pictures of Pumbaa they were like, ‘Oh my god! That’s horrifying! That thing looks like a monster!’ But when you watch the movie and you hear Seth Rogen’s voice coming out of it and the way the animators animated his body and what the character represents and feels, you have a tremendous connection to it. It’s a testament to the power of using techniques that we borrowed from documentaries or other films, where we limit ourselves to not anthropomorphize the characters,” says Favreau.


Eichner and Rogen both tried to remain true to the characters, but also stay true to themselves. “My idea from the beginning was that Jon cast us for a reason,” says Eichner. “He could have cast pretty much any actors. Anyone would have killed to do these roles and be in this movie. It wasn’t the right time to try a new persona. It would have been very strange had I all of a sudden had a deep resonant baritone. I figured he wants Seth to sound like Seth and me to sound like me — or at least what our public comic personas sound-like — and hopefully they’ll complement each other, which they did. Our goal was not to try a new character but to be as funny as possible together.”

As funny as Rogen and Eichner are in the film, it is still aimed firmly at kids — something Rogen hadn’t really considered prior.

Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen at the World Premiere of Disney's "THE LION KING" in Hollywood . (AFP)

“It wasn’t something that even occurred to me until we were making the movie and I was performing the bully scene,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is for kids!’ I have never done anything that was ever trying to instill any wisdom into kids in any way shape or form.”

The film’s wisdom, like the original, is far-reaching, exploring truths not only of family and loss, but of the corrupting nature of ambition and power, which Ejiofor explored in his role as Scar.

“Often, when people are obsessed with power and status, they aren’t really worried about what they do with it, they’re just concerned about getting it. It’s not something that’s connected to any kind of nurturing aspect for a community or anybody else. It becomes about the nature of obsession — obsession with power and status, and maybe status more than power, even though they are related,” says Ejiofor. “That’s one of the things that’s engaging and fun about the film and its themes.”