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/


Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

Director Sahraa Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women. (Supplied)
Updated 16 September 2019

Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

VENICE: Dubbed Afghanistan’s first female director, Sahraa Karimi grew up in Iran with her refugee parents, and later studied cinema in Slovakia.

With 30 shorts and a couple of documentaries under her belt, she travelled this year to the Venice Film Festival with her debut fiction feature, “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha.”

Studying and making movies in Europe was not her scene. “Somehow, from a storytelling perspective, I don’t belong to that part of the world,” she said, recalling her days in Slovakia. “I belong to Afghanistan.”

She returned to Kabul to shoot “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” which was produced by Katayoon Shahabi of Noori Pictures that once helped introduce Iranian directors such as Asghar Farhadi and Mohammad Rasoulof to the world.

In her film, Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women, linked only by problems with the men in their lives.

Hava’s (Arezoo Ariapoor) husband is callous to the point of being cruel, and her only comfort is talking to the baby in her womb. But when it stops kicking, she panics.

Maryam (Fereshta Afshar) is a popular television news reporter who wants to divorce her philandering husband. However, he insists on giving their marriage one more chance, and Maryam finds out she is pregnant.

Another expectant mother, 18-year-old Ayesha (Hasiba Ebrahimi), comes from a middleclass family but is left with no choice but to marry her cousin after being dumped by her cowardly boyfriend.

The three stories, while seemingly interesting, fail to engage because there is hardly any dramatic curve in them.

Possibly the only high point about the movie was Karimi’s relaying of the real-life tales she drew from women during her travels as a UNICEF representative. The experience was cathartic for many.

“Women don’t share their secret lives with their families or their communities, because they’re scared of rumors and gossip,” said Karimi. But with the female director, they felt comfortable and began to speak “about their suffering, wishes, and dreams.”

The more difficult part for Karimi was the shoot itself. The crew had to film under trying conditions with at least four bombs exploding in and around Kabul. But she labored on.

This probably prevented her from getting better technical results from an interesting concept, but the film could still have been pepped up with livelier storytelling.