MACAAL - Marrakech, Morocco


In February, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech opened its second exhibition, Material Insanity, a focus on materiality in contemporary art. The opening occurred during Marrakech art week – the dates when 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair and satellite art events happen throughout Marrakech, which have caused the steady rising of the city as one of the world’s most anticipated art destinations.

My favorite work in the group exhibition – and this, rightfully, is a biased review – was Tyaphaka (2012) by South African artist Nicholas Hlobo. MACAAL asked me to write about this work for the exhibition catalog, an assignment that became my first published writing (!!). Tyaphaka, made of rubber tire, hosepipe and ribbon, is meant to resemble a beached whale. In the traditional definition of the mammal, it bears no resemblance. Hlobo’s work however is not literal. His “whale” references masculinity and femininity; realism and fantasy; and waste and reuse. Although I had seen Hlobo’s work at various exhibits and art fairs, and made of a variety of reused materials, I had never seen Tyaphaka in person prior to writing the essay. But with Hlobo’s works the more you ponder on his creations, hidden meanings naturally reveal themselves.

My journal entry on the debut of 1-54 last year mentioned the extravagance of MACAAL’s first exhibition opening. This time was no different: In the museum’s garden, live performances by Dear Ribane and Morocco-based ICHTAH set off the evening. Fashion designer and DJ Amine Bendriouich carried the party into late night. Custom cocktails served in rose gold goblets were an added touch of glamour.

Other artists in Material Insanity include Nari Ward, Moffat Takadiwa (who created a very impressive work with toothbrushes specifically for the show), Cyrus Kabiru, Owanto, and Hassan Hajjaj.

 Material Insanity is on view until September 22, 2019.

Nicholas Hlobo,  Tyaphaka  (2012), rubber tire, hosepipe, ribbon.

Nicholas Hlobo, Tyaphaka (2012), rubber tire, hosepipe, ribbon.

Nadia Sesay