Day 10 – Les Abattoirs de Casablanca / Fabrique Culturelle

Nature and Landscape-exhibition

After our visit to the Société Générale Maroc, where we got our first (pretty unsettling)  introduction to the local contemporary art scene (or rather the absence of such a scene if I understood things correctly)  by Professor Mohamed Rachdi, the director and curator of “the only museum of contemporary art in Morocco” and “the biggest exhibition place of the country”, I didn’t really know what to think. Can it be true  – as Mr. Rachdi has suggested – that there’s no education, no debate, no reflection whatsoever on contemporary art in this country? Can it be true that generations and generations of Moroccan art historians, critics, curators and scholars were lost? And what about the public? Do they love contemporary art? What are people asking for?

Haco De Ridder and Mohamed Rachdi

Unfortunately, Tine Colstrup is back in Denmark and I’m in Belgium at the time of writing this. We didn’t manage to exchange our views on the visit to the exhibition,  as was our original intention. Nevertheless, I hope that one of these days Tine will find time to share her impressions on the qualities of the current theme exhibition “Nature and Landscape”  as she is far more qualified to do so than I am. (Tine wrote a study about landscape in art).

The magnificent buildings of the Abattoirs

Next on our programme: Les abattoirs de Casablanca, une fabrique culturelle. My first thought when we arrived on the premises : they do like big, bigger, biggest cultural venues in Casablanca. (Another example will be CasArts, Projet du Grand Théâtre). Anyway, I loved the derelict Abattoir buildings. The old slaughterhouses were built in the 1920s. The site has a huge potential. The locality is quite central, in a popular neighbourhood, almost a part of inner town and only a brief walk from the main railway station. The total surface is 55.000 m2

The idea of a cultural reuse of the deserted buildings originated some years ago. But despite the fantastic possibility of putting up a vibrant, free and creative urban hub for visual and performance arts, one which could be a striking pioneering example for the whole Arab world, there have been a lot of complications and setbacks. The place has been managed by a collective consisting of Casamémoire and 13 other associations of performing arts, music, fashion and drama since 2009. The problem seems to be that they don’t have the means to design a real programme or develop a long term vision. Our meeting was far too short and superficial to hazard on a real analysis but I have the feeling that a small core team operates in small phases, step by step, putting al their efforts in tiny projects and modest activities to keep the project alive. There’s a lot of courage in their experiments  but it’s not entirely clear if they’re making progress. Apparently they lack official support. (They’ve been cooperating with the city of Amsterdam but maybe the story would be more successful if they got real backing from their own authorities).

Arno Van Roosmalen with Aicha Elbeloui from Casamémoire

A young French architect presented his future plans for the building. By the way, my sincere advice for that young man would be to try and connect a little bit more with his audience when doing a presentation. After all, isn’t the whole point of a presentation to communicate?

I liked the focus on flows, perspectives and especially the emphasis on communication with the neighbourhood in the architectural concept. I also like the idea of attracting a mixed public, from skateboarding kids to people that have never been exposed to an architecture exhibition in their whole life. A place for high art and for young talent, a place for rebels, visionaries and for the people. Is this utopia? Is it a dream? I think it’s the kind of dream that could make a real difference “for the lost generations of Casablanca”  in the long run. Absolutely worth fighting for!

Don’t give up…

Chris Meplon


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