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Essaouira's Art Scene

Written on : 15 June 2023
By : Laura Wendy Harders López
Essaouira's Art Scene

Essaouira is known as a city of art and artists. It has attracted artists from various backgrounds from far and wide, inspired by the town's light, colours and relaxed atmosphere. 

In recent years it has become somewhat of an artistic mecca, whose popularity has been consolidated since Frederic Damgaard, a Danish Islamic art enthusiast, took great interest in Essaouira's local farmers' and fishermen's artworks. He encouraged them to continue their artistic endeavours and launched the town's first art gallery in 1988 to bring these artists to international attention. 

Essaouira is reminiscent of an open air museum boasting art boutiques and galleries dotted throughout the medina, while many local artisans and artists displaying their works along the pavements. Souvenir shops also sell many artists' pieces, and various workshops are open to the public. 

The Naive Style and Calligraphy are the most prominent artistic styles of Essaouira's artists. 

Naïve Style

Naïve Style

Essaouira is known as the spiritual home of the Gnaoua Sufis, a group of Muslim-animistic mystics with sub-Saharan roots, who use chanting, dances and rituals to reach trance-like states. The Naïve Style is characterised by its broad brush strokes and rich colours, with a heavy accent on Gnaoua Sufi imagery. This style is also evocative of other cultures' aboriginal art. Many local artists display their work in two or three dimensions using recycled objects from the nearby fleamarkets before exhibiting them throughout the medina.
 
Naïve Style paintings are known for their storytelling tradition, depicting the daily life of the Gnauas, festival scenes and ritual nights with all its richness and diversity. Many artists such as Ali Maimoun and Mohammed Tabal saturate their paintings with bright colours and draw intricate designs and shapes, infused with African mythology and figures.  Artist Fatima Ettalbi interweaves colourful and harmonious scenes exalting the feminine. Others like Abdelaziz Baki create coloured sculptures of fantastical beasts-- half bird, half fish, or decorate small pieces of flea-market furniture with eye symbols. 
 
You can discover many of Essaouira's artists locally, from Ali Maimoune, Asmah Ennaji, or Mohammed Tabal, at the Frederic Damgaard Gallery, the Artisanal Centre or workshops near the "joutiya" -- Essaouira's fleamarket.

Calligraphy

Calligraphy

Calligraphy is another popular artistic style in Essaouira, inspired by Arabic and Berber scripts on canvas. Examples are commonly found in the wealthy riads of Essaouira

Mohammed Zouzaf is one of the most notable calligraphers-- a Berber artist who employs elaborate black Berber signs and symbols on lambskin. Another famous calligrapher, Mohammed Tifardine, creates elegant, coloured pieces highlighting Arabic script that are noteworthy for their calming yet majestic effect. You can discover both of these artists' creations at Espace Othello Gallery.

Now that you are better acquainted with Essaouira's flourishing art scene and style-- read on and discover the fascinating art galleries in Essaouira to visit during your holiday, where you'll also gain insights into the region's rich culture and influences.

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Essaouira's Art Scene

ART GALLERIES IN ESSAOUIRA

Espace Othello

Opened in 1993, Espace Othello exhibits works of up-and-coming artists. It's also one of the most prominent and eclectic galleries in Essaouira, displaying pieces with diverse artistic styles and interpretations. If you're looking for unique art infused with mutliple meanings that reflects Essaouira's artistic legacy, Espace Othello is a must-visit.

Address: 9 rue Mohammed Layachi 
Telephone: +212 05 24 47 50 95

Frédéric Damgaard Art Gallery

Frédéric Damgaard is a bright and colourful gallery exhibiting pieces by Essaouira's local painters' and sculptors', where you can peruse these beautiful works and purchase them on the spot. The gallery itself is well worth the visit, decorated in a way that will transport you to a world inspired by Essaouira's souks and cafes.

Gallery: Avenue Oqba ibn Nafiaâ. Workshop: under the arches opposite Place Chefchaouen.
Telephone: +212 (0)5 24 78 44 46

Le Real Mogador

Le Real Mogador

Once the former Italian Consulate, Le Real Mogador is an art centre and artists' residence offering a number of exhibitions by Moroccan, European, and Latin American painters and sculptors. Located in one of the medina's most beautiful riads with distinctive architectural details, the place alone is a majestic gallery well-worth visiting and a true haven for art lovers. They also hold Gnaoui performances, theatre, dance and poetry.

Address: 2, Rue Mehdi Ben Toumert 
Telephone: + 212 627 229 115 (only open by appointment)

Kasbah Gallery

The Kasbah Gallery is a magnificent riad from the 18th century, housing surprising historical artefacts, unusual objects, and paintings of different schools of art-- from the naïve style, to calligraphy, realism, abstract, symbolism, impressionism and surrealism. Spread over a 400m2 area on the ground floor and composed of 11 rooms, it honours the Souiris artists with their naïve art style. For art craft lovers, the first and second floors exhibit beautiful furniture, sculptures, pottery, bronzes and carpets that narrate the rich history of Essaouira.

Address: 4 rue de Tetouan
Telephone: +212 (0)5 24 47 56 05

Artisanal Centre of Essaouira

Artisanal Centre of Essaouira

The Artisanal centre of Essaouira is an open-air art crafts gallery where you can see the craftsmen at work and discover their traditional know-how, tools, materials and production processes of their unique objects and sculptures. Their most characteristic materials are wood, gold, and silver-- Berber artisans usually prefer making silver objects, whereas Arab artisans prefer using gold. You can also place orders or purchase their beautiful creations on the spot.

Address118 Mohammed ben Abdallah Street
Telephone: +212 (0)5 24 47 40 82

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