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The art I love: MACAAL president Othman Lazraq's tour of his museum's formidable African art collection – CNN



Written by Othman LazraqMarrakesh

Othman Lazraq is director of the Fondation Alliances and president of the Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech, Morocco.

My dad Alami Lazraq, founder of real estate firm Groupe Alliances, started collecting art from Morocco 40 years ago and then, gradually, began collecting pieces from the rest of Africa as well. He transmitted this passion to me, and now I am helping to evolve the collection as director of the Fondation Alliances and president of our Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech.

Each work tells its own story, and it’s important to give them all the opportunity to be heard. This is why MACAAL was born.

In a country like Morocco with a small art ecosystem, it’s crucial to support local artists, while inviting in the wider population. So through our exhibitions, residencies, workshops and community events, MACAAL provides crucial spaces where African artists can engage with the world.

Here are five works from our collection that truly embody the spirit of MACAAL.

‘Composition’ (1970) by Mohamed Melehi

‘Composition’ (1970) by Mohamed Melehi Credit: Mohamed Melehi

Mohamed Melehi is a pioneer of modern art in Morocco, known for his incredibly colorful abstract paintings featuring psychedelic waveforms. During the late 1950s and early 1960s he studied in Seville, Rome and then New York, where he exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art before moving back home in the late 1960s. He would go on to lead the Casablanca school — a group of Moroccan artists who famously exhibited their radical works for all to see in Marrakech’s Jemaa el-Fna Square in 1969.

“Composition” speaks to me as part of art history. The day I saw it, I knew that it had to be part of our collection so that we could continue to share Melehi’s legacy.

I’m very grateful to have witnessed the artist’s emotions as he walked into his retrospective at MACAAL last year, and saw many of his works together again. He told me he hadn’t seen our piece in several years and he was touched that it was back in good hands.

‘Untitled’ (2018) by Joy Labinjo

'Untitled' (2018) by Joy Labinjo

‘Untitled’ (2018) by Joy Labinjo Credit: Mark Pinder

Joy Labinjo is a young British-Nigerian artist who bases her paintings on old photographs from her family’s albums. I love intimate life scenes in figurative paintings, and hers are done on very large canvases with bright color palettes.

This painting is of her cousins posing for the camera in front of an orange-tiled wall and glass shelves filled with china. It reminds me of my grandmother’s home.

These days we all rely on our camera phones and have thousands of images in the cloud that we never look at. We don’t print them or hang them. But the photos we keep in old boxes at the back of our closets are the real gems. My family has those boxes that we open up together from time to time. I love Joy’s work because it highlights the heritage we all share.

‘Imdiazen #2’ (2018) by M’Barek Bouhchichi

'Imdiazen #2' (2018) by M'Barek Bouhchichi

‘Imdiazen #2’ (2018) by M’Barek Bouhchichi Credit: M’Barek Bouhchichi

Besides being a great friend, M’Barek Bouhchichi is one of the most talented Moroccan artists of my generation. His multidisciplinary works fight against the norms of society while also exploring his inner self. He believes all humans are the result of multiple cultures, and that we must go beyond geographical borders and interact with the rest of the world.

This work draws on his research into the Berber peasant poet M’barek Ben Zida, who believed he could connect with the forces of nature, either to calm them or use them against others, and speak to animals, plants and insects.

Each of the seven tall branches, made from wood and copper, has a poem chiseled into them. The installation is impressive in size from afar, but once you get up close, you realise its sensitivity and ability to communicate. It’s a very delicate and elegant piece that reminds us of the incredible diversity of Morocco’s population through its use of vernacular verse.

‘Composition in Blue’ (2016) by Abdoulaye Konaté

'Composition in Blue' (2016) by Abdoulaye Konaté

‘Composition in Blue’ (2016) by Abdoulaye Konaté Credit: Abdoulaye Konaté

Abdoulaye Konaté is one of the masters of our continent. The Malian artist creates impressive textile-based installations that explore social, political and environmental issues, as well as concerns over the formal language of signs and aesthetics.

“Composition in Blue” has a beautiful gradient of blues, crafted from a Malian fabric that has been cut into tiny pieces to give it movement. It reminds me of a large bird’s feathers, and when the work faces you on a wall, the yellow center looks like the sun. It is a commemoration of textiles and refers to flags of communication and propaganda.

The first time I saw it I felt intimidated because of the power it carries. I’ve gotten to know Abdoulaye, who is such a humble human being, and now keep this work close to my heart.

‘Young Woman with Fishes’ (1973) by Baya Mahieddine

'Young Woman with Fishes' (1973) by Baya Mahieddine

‘Young Woman with Fishes’ (1973) by Baya Mahieddine Credit: Baya Mahieddine

Baya Mahieddine was a self-taught Algerian artist who originally worked as a maid on a farm, immersed in the beauty of nature.

Mahieddine got her start modelling animals in clay, and in the late 1940s, she met a French gallerist who brought her to Paris to exhibit her works. Here, she met Matisse and Picasso and became interested in painting.

Soon after, she got married to an Algerian musician and had six children as his second wife. Living in a traditional household meant that she hid her paintings away for 10 years until he died, after which she was free to create again.

I have this painting at the entrance to my home so that it can be in my life every day. For me, the work is full of hope. The feminine palette of bright pink, turquoise and emerald acts as a symbol of the strong woman she wanted to be. It’s a message for future generations to believe in what they do and never give up on their dreams.

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Freelance artists await more information on how online art-making and royalties may affect emergency benefit eligibility – The Globe and Mail



As out-of-work Canadians begin to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) on Monday, many self-employed artists across the country continued to wait for news as to what kind of financial relief would be available to them amid the COVID-19 pandemic – and when it might come.

For musicians, writers, actors and another artists used to piecing together a living wage from multiple sources, the resourcefulness that usually helps keep them afloat has now put access to CERB payments into question – due to an eligibility requirement to have “no employment or self-employment income.”

Would the sale of a CD or two on a website, or the modest revenue from an improv class delivered via Zoom render an artist ineligible? Could a paid live-streamed performance for the National Arts Centre’s #CanadaPerforms series – which aims to aid artists in this time – backfire when it comes to the bottom line?

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Rebecca Blair, a harpist based in Vancouver, was one of many artists wondering if she might need to cancel certain work in order to receive an emergency benefit that would be of greater financial value.

Blair’s earnings from performances – including regular gigs in seniors’ centres – have dropped down to zero due to COVID-19, but she continues to teach harp over video networking. Her monthly income is down to about 20 per cent of what it normally is – and she expects, if she’s lucky, to pull in $500 in April. But she notes: “If you lose students, you might lose them forever.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would announce soon how those working 10 hours a week or less would be able to qualify for CERB. He further promised, “We will also have more to say for those who are working, but are making less than they would with the benefit.”

A timeline for this information was not announced, however. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement e-mailed to The Globe and Mail that, in creating CERB, the government had “prioritized a rapid relief over perfection.”

“We are adjusting so that it doesn’t penalize certain people like gig workers,” he wrote. “We are also aware of the question of artist royalties and whether certain financial payments designed to help artists in need during the COVID-19 crisis will be considered.”

In addition to individual artists, arts institutions that manage the programs that have sprung up to help them are waiting for that information. The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, for instance, has been holding onto the fees they plan to pay local artists for daily Stuck in the House performances broadcast on the theatre company’s website, so as not to compromise anyone’s eligibility for CERB.

“I know that many of my colleagues that are looking at similar programming giving opportunities to artists, are curious about how they can compensate artists without affecting their eligibility,” said Citadel producer Jessie van Rijn.

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Bobby Theodore, a playwright, translator and screenwriter based in Toronto, wondered whether he would have to hold back payments to himself. He had applied for the first payment of CERB having not received any income in 14 days, but, in the absence of clear information, he was uncertain if he’d have to leave cheques for small royalty payments uncashed to stay eligible – for instance, the $100 he is expecting from Playwrights Canada Press next month.

“I think there could be people who are afraid to get penalized and won’t apply [to CERB],” he said. “[The lack of clarity] is forcing people to make moral choices that they shouldn’t have to.”

Theodore hoped but was not confident that the government’s forthcoming information would clearly address more freelancers in his situation – who are not regularly paid on a weekly or monthly basis.

“My income works on an annual basis: I might make $20,000 in the month of April, but I might not make any money for the rest of the year,” Theodore said. The writer estimates that he has already lost 20 per cent of his expected annual income due to the COVID-19 crisis – and but notes that the two-year outlook for his finances could be even more devastating with theatre productions postponed or cancelled possibly into the new year.

Guilbeault hinted that further action specifically for the arts sector might be on the way. “We want to be there to support the arts and culture sector in these challenging times and are looking at a different array of measures.”

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U.K. couple in quarantine create art museum for pet gerbils – CTV News



A couple living under quarantine in the U.K. has taken boredom to new levels after creating an elaborate art museum for their pet gerbils.

On Monday, a Reddit user by the name of “Mariannabe” posted an image and video of the museum recreation to the social media platform’s page dedicated to posts of cute animals.

“Quarantine, day 14. Me and my boyfriend spent the whole day setting up an art gallery for our gerbil,” one of the Reddit posts from Mariannabe reads.

The “museum” is complete with hardwood flooring, seating and a sign advising the gerbils — named Pandoro and Tiramisu — not to chew the artwork.

When it comes to the art, the pieces are gerbil-themed recreations of famous artworks, such as the Mona Lisa and The Scream.

Filippo Lorenzin, the architect behind the museum, outlined each step of the design and offered a close-up view of each piece on Twitter and called the build the “most surreal 24 hours of our lives.”

According to his Twitter account, Lorenzin lives in London, U.K. and works at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Coronavirus: Street art to inform residents on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – Global News



How do you communicate the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic to a community dealing with entrenched homelessness and drug addiction like the Downtown Eastside?

In the City of Vancouver’s case, the answer is partly through art.

The city has adapted its existing mural support program to help fund COVID-19-related murals to be painted on some of Vancouver’s growing number of boarded-up shop windows.

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“It’s important because not everyone has internet,” said DTES community advocate Karen Ward, who wrote a message on one such mural near Hastings and Carrall streets.

City of Vancouver unveils measures to protect vulnerable DTES residents

City of Vancouver unveils measures to protect vulnerable DTES residents

That mural is a collaboration with well-known DTES street artist Smokey D, whose work has also helped communicate the toll of the overdose crisis.

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The painting depicts a coughing figure and illustrations of the virus, along with advice to stay home, wash one’s hands 10 times a day, and avoid touching one’s face.

Not only do few people in the neighbourhood have internet access, said Ward, with bars and other gathering places closed down, they don’t have access to television either.

‘It’s just not possible’: How can B.C.’s homeless self-isolate, sanitize amid coronavirus pandemic?

“People are hearing stuff on the street about this and that, and it’s and not always the most reliable information,” she said.

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“A largish public art piece like this communicates visually and really clearly, and it is talked about among people.”

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Advocates for residents of the Downtown Eastside have repeatedly warned that an outbreak of COVID-19 in the neighbourhood would be “catastrophic.

Handwashing facilities are limited in the area, and the city has struggled to get locals to comply with social- and physical-distancing measures.

Lisa Parker, the city’s branch manager of street activities, said the mural program will be active throughout the whole city, not just the DTES.

She said the initiative aims to both get the word out about the pandemic and help reduce graffiti on the city’s boarded-up storefronts.

“Giving information on distancing, and different information that is coming in from our health officials, and just really translating that into a 2D reminder to stay safe,” she said.

Other murals have expressed support for B.C.’s health-care workers, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and national public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

City of Vancouver unveils measures to protect vulnerable DTES residents

City of Vancouver unveils measures to protect vulnerable DTES residents

Vancouver has budgeted $15,000 for the program, and can provide up to $400 in paint. Would-be artists must have permission from the relevant property owners, tenant or business improvement association.

No known COVID-19 outbreak in Downtown Eastside, but a ‘matter of time’ before infections rise: mayor

Artists must complete the work in two to three days, and maintain social and physical distancing while working.

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The city is also asking property and business owners to pay artists for their work.

Businesses or artists who wish to participate can find out more at

Know a B.C. health-care hero? Share your stories and photos

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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