You can watch our visual memoir here
Morocco. What can I say? The place is magical. A year ago Celeste and I ventured on a short spur-of-the-moment trip to the colorful Marrakech and Africa’s Windy City, Essaouira – located on the West Coast of Morocco. The experience was like being transported through a portal of an elaborate sensory explosion. Around every corner you discover something new and everything is accentuated by a single vibrant color. The city itself has it’s own hum, like the sound of an ancient city in a modern world where horses, snakes and monkeys form part of the city’s day-to-day landscape (especially the Jemaa El-Fnaa Square). Vendors slow-cook their tagines with tomato, curries, spices, rich lamb and a refreshing sweet mint tea is served generously to travelers and those interested in negotiating prices.
Marrakech itself, challenged our sense of street photography, challenged some of the local’s sense of humor and most of all it challenged our sense of direction. We got lost everyday, as you do in Morocco. We where in a perpetual state of: I’m not lost, I just don’t know my way.
The trouble we had with street photography in Marrakech (not so much in Essauoira) is that the city, especially the old town or the Medina area, where we stayed, is that it is like a maze of inter-connectivity. It seemed, to me like there is a very tight network of communication between locals who all try to gain something from every tourist they see. It is a network which functions on signs, codes and a mutual understanding amongst locals that if you see a tourist take a photo of you, you put out you hand and tell them you want money for that photo. It’s a roaring business! The idea of street photography is that it is, street, rogue, not posed, not set-up and most definitely not commercial. What is interesting is that the people performing in the Jemma El-Fnaa Square are street performers, performing in a very visible public area, for all to see. However when you attempt to take their photo it is like throwing breadcrumbs in Trafalgar Square. You can take a photo if you pay them, but the experience was fascinating nonetheless.
One late afternoon we walked back to our Riad (when we finally found it) when the light was just perfect, it created this amazing rim-light around a couple of kids that were playing football on the cobbled stones in front of our door. I took my camera and aimed to shoot. The child stopped and yelled NO PHOTO NO PHOTO! You Pay! I was disappointed. To me the Medina is so congested with this image-awareness that is almost hinders your experience of it. The child must have sensed my disappointment because when I turned around he said he was just joking.
Images (well my images) are not there to portray people in a bad light. It is a cardinal part of an experience if you are a photographer, to tell a story. So after the first day we devised a plan to get streetwise, get savvy and get some street photography and footage, but also to be mindful of the integrity of the people we where photographing and filming. On the first day we must have been very obvious with our cameras, we learnt our lesson, so we hid the cameras and hit the streets on the following mornings.
We got out early in the morning, before the crowds, merchants, tourists, vendors and performers filled up the ally ways. We learnt that waiting for the city to come alive is a good approach and this gave us some time to digest the beauty of the streets, color, general architecture, mosaic patterns and the street life that adorns the beautiful city. If I have to describe the two cities in a color I would say Marrakech was predominantly Vermillion/red in tones and Essouira (also home to the Annual Gnauoa World Music Festival ) everything seemed to be painted either white or blue. It reminded me a lot of the West Coast of South Africa and it stole my heart, like the West Coast, Langebaan-area stole my heart too.
I love the simplicity and the facts that there is a harbor and a huge fishing community made the trip even more memorable. We picked our fresh fish and indulged on weird sea treats, like sea urchin and shared wine and sweet drinks while talking about art, travelling and music with some of the locals and fellow travelers. On the outskirts of the city we found a small little music shop and we spent some time listening to some local and West-African Gnauoa music and discovered a couple of musicians/albums that we loved. We bought albums like the Ganga Fusion album Salam, Ismaël Lo’s Jammu Africa, Boubacar Traoré’s Karkar and last but in no means least the wonderful Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabanté’s albums are all amazing (the track of our video is from this their album titled Ruby written by Ali Farka Touré). The song reminded us of the winding alleys, the pace that we walked at and the general ease and complexities, of two cities that lives and breathes at the speed of light. The footage was taken with various different cameras and it is edited together in a way we experienced the cities.
The film is in other words a (non-commercial) travel memoir, not in the literary sense but more of a visual travel memoir. It is a collection of memories from a world that we where so blessed to be part of, momentarily.