EXTERIOR OF THE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN CONTEMPORARY ART AL MAADEN, COURTESY OF THE MACAAL, © SIMO DRISSI
Marrakech - A museum designed to put Morocco at the heart of Africa’s art and cultural map has opened in the north African city of Marrakech. The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), funded by Othman Lazraq and his father Alami Lazraq, a Moroccan property magnate, aims to showcase artistic diversity and cultural exchange within the African continent, with Morocco playing a central role. “Morocco is proudly African, now more than ever,” Othman Lazraq says.
Both father and son are avid collectors of Modern and contemporary African art and always buy works together. “We never buy something without asking the other. It’s teamwork,” Lazraq says.
OTHMAN LAZRAQ, COURTESY OF THE MACAAL
His father started collecting around 40 years ago, at a time when a 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,” Lazraq says.
More recently, contemporary African art has been at the heart of the family’s 2,000-strong collection, which is housed at MACAAL. “My father is a bit more old school,” says Othman Lazraq, who started collecting just over a decade ago. “I brought photography and video art to the collection.”
INSTALLATION VIEW OF E-MOIS AT MUSEUM OF AFRICAN CONTEMPORARY ART AL MAADEN, 2017, COURTESY OF THE MACAAL, © GUILLAUME MOLLÉ
The inaugural exhibition at the museum, Africa Is No Island (24 February – 24 August), presents Africa as a connected territory, Lazraq says. It features photographs by around 40 artists working across the continent and the diaspora. They include Joana Choumali, who creates intimate studio portraits, Sammy Baloji, whose montages examine daily life and social history in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 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. Photographs by the acclaimed Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui, who died following a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso in 2016, also feature.
SAMMY BALOJI, RETOUR À L'AUTHENTICITÉ, VUE DE LA PAGODE DU PRÉSIDENT MOBUTU, N'SELE, KINSHASA, 2013, COURTESY OF THE MACAAL
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, including Farid Belkahia, Meriem Bouderbala and Moataz Nasr.
SAMBA CHÉRI, LES OMBRES MULTICOLORES, 2011, COURTESY OF THE MACAAL
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,” he says. “We need more private structures and private institutions and collections to be shown. It’s also a way to democratise access to art.”
The museum project is part of the Fondation Alliances, established in 2009 by the family-run property development company Groupe Alliances, the largest builder of hotels in Morocco. Other non-profit initiatives set up by the foundation include the Al Maaden Sculpture Park, which was 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 local young people on contemporary art and design.