When LSD’s Marrakech office was alerted to the town’s first ever street art exhibit, the skepticism did admittedly run deep. Yet on entering the spray soaked abandoned building, we were profoundly gobsmacked by the sheer quality of the art on display and few phone calls later, we had connected up with the mercurial Morran who cracked a window for us into the nasceent Moroccan underground. Single handedly generating a movement from his basement studio, Underground Atelier, where the cans are laid on for whoever wants to learn, the decks run hot, and a burgeoning community explores their own creative expression, his sublime talents and awe inspiring photo realism flipped our retinas a contoured shade of lucent.
How much of a culture of graffiti writing and street art is there in Morocco
There is a semblance of an urban art scene here, although while you see the odd spark, it is ultimately pretty limited. The origins lie within a wider context of music, DJing and hip hop culture and the fashions that flooded in from the US during the 90’s which heavily influenced conceptions of cool. I remember back in 1990, people were grabbing hold of the latest hip hop mixtapes as if they were gold dust, which to a great extent, they were, and began remixing the flavours coming through into a Moroccan style from their bedrooms rather than any established networks or studios. Before long, things, especially on a musical level were developing alongside global currents in real time, and when I first started to switch on, it was never as though it was graff alone, but a wider lifestyle that ranged from t-shirt stylings to breakdancing. Funnily enough it was clothes that first provoked my creative interest as I began to understand that fashion represented far more than mere aesthetics, but a means of self expression and the ability to communicate everything from your musical tastes to your political views. It was around this point that the idea of art on clothing began to appeal to me, and it was my personal way into ‘urban’ culture. There’s a whole range of entry points from music to spray cans to fashion, and, well – fashion was the door that swung open for me. All of it fell under the wider cultural context of hip hop – as we say here – he’s the rapper but we’re hip hop. It may lose something in translation – but you get what I’m saying. Well once I’d seen a few styled t-shirts in the basketball magazines, with graffiti tags or cartoonlike imagery, I was totally struck. I did a quick bit of self study on design basics and started to get cracking – picking up blank t-shirts down the souks and doing up prints on them mostly for friends and people I knew, and it all started to roll from there.
Obviously painting in the street is pretty tightly controlled, so how were you initially finding spaces to paint and practise.
To be honest – even before you start thinking about the practicalities of painting, there’s a more fundamental problem – independence. I’m not talking about independence of mind or of thought, or even the freedoms to express them, but straight up financial constraints. Don’t forget, in Europe or the States, poverty is a relative concept where if you choose to live outside normal boundaries, there is still a structure of welfare and social security to give you the freedom to do what you want. You may be struggling, and not exactly be eating a la gourmet, but you don’t starve, you have a roof over your head, and clothes to wear. Here there are no such safety nets, so money is a much more pressing concern. It’s impossible to buy proper spray paint here, so even to start thinking about graff, you have to set up enough money and an international connection to buy in bulk from abroad and have someone drive it over the water. Now the rich kids who do have that kind of capability have no interest in tagging up walls, and those that might, simply don’t have the capacity to even get started. So you have the twin problems of having fuck all cash and no materials to get started with. There was this early misconception that spray paint was spray paint and the stuff you could get locally for a couple of Euros was much the same as Montanas, and of course the result was that early murals ended up looking pretty hopeless as things ran and faded and peeled and all the rest. I challenge the greatest writers in the world to hone their skills on the shit we have here!!! So I think I was the first of a small group to realise that to have any hope of being decent, we needed proper supplies from the outset. As far as spaces were concerned – it actually wasn’t that much of an issue – empty buildings, friendly landlords in between renovation projects, people’s houses and so on – there was actually a fair few places to cut our teeth.
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