After almost 30 years of absence in galleries, following and long and successful career in cinema, Daoud Alouad-Syad returns home and to his first love, with Au pays de l’enfance (In the Land of Childhood), a beautiful exhibition of vintage photography at Galerie 127 in Marrakech. Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Franck and Richard Avedon, Marrakech-born Daoud Aoulad-Syad captures his solitary journeys across Morocco through grandly poetic imagery. Without staging, he explores the multiple facets of a changing society through black and white photographs and graphic compositions.
When Nathalie Locatelli opened Galerie 127 in February 2006 it became the very first photo gallery in the Maghreb region and only the third in all Africa. Galerie 127 is one of the more unique art galleries in Marrakech, an appealingly simple space housed in converted apartment tucked away off the sprawling Avenue Mohammed V. Climb the stairs to the second floor and you’ll enter a large open loft-style gallery showing works from Moroccan and international photographers. Founder Nathalie Locatelli has shown works by big names in contemporary photography, with a tendency towards French and France-based, such as portraits by Carole Bellaiche and Gérard Rondeau, Alejandra Figueroa’s images of ancient statues, and Bernard Faucon’s ‘staged photography’.
Born in 1953 in Marakkech, a self-taught photographer and emblematic figure of photography in Morocco, Alouad-Syad has exhibited in France, Belgium and the United States. In Paris, 1975, as he was about to join Magnum photo agency, Henri Cartier-Bresson recognized the talent of 22 year-old Alouad-Syad and advised him to go back to his native county. He followed that advice. Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Gilles Peress educated his sensibility on photography – through their vocation to depict mankind – and this becomes even more perceptible to the eye in Alouad-Syad’s works. Humankind affection is confirmed in his later works: “Marocains”, “Territoire de l’Instant”, “Boujaâd”, photography from traditional arts festivals and some of his latest works in colour.
Daoud Alouad-Syad’s imagination is based on childhood themes and main places of his childhood life in Marrakech, especially the vibrant Jemaa El Fna marketplace square in Marrakesh’s medina quarter. Offerring an explanation in regards to childhood and his desire of photography, Daoud Alouad-Syad relates a teenager: “Circus Amar once came to Jemaa El Fna. What I found was the most interesting to see was the fairground surrounding the Circus. I was hanging out with some friends to admire a dancer. Then, back home, I locked myself inside my room and began dancing and imitating him in front of a mirror. Early Sunday morning, I went there to see him again. He saw me dancing like him and invited me on stage to dance next to him. I was so happy, I stepped up and the public started clapping. Stepping down, the director gave me one Dirham and asked me to return the next Sunday. I went the next Sunday and the Circus was gone, and on that night I cried a lot.”
The Ordeal of Death
We have all experienced tears of children who believe in a world of innocence, and whilst such memories seem reckless and carefree, these feelings also remind us of bereavement, of death, fragility and fleetingness of human existence. Daoud Alouad-Syad experienced bereavement first through the death of his father. He never speaks about it, other than through his cinema production En attendant Pasolini. Significantly, it is his mother who is represented in both his photography and cinema. In his mind she is a profound yet subtle metaphor of his native Morocco, and his photography is both a tribute and a sublimated character of her.
A political consciousness is shown in his choice of themes and exclusive predilection for the boundaries of ancestral Morocco, its people, countryside and the enthralling South of this country that also appears in his movies. Underlying Aoulad-Syad’s work there is a profound pride and claim to being of tangible African origins, of the Moroccan culture which reminds him of this, and yet also an uncompromising denunciation of land abandonment.
The main theme of Daoud Alouad-Syad’s photography is his native country; everyday life, places, characters, landscapes and folklore. His images are everyday life anecdotes, hints of city streets in a child’s memory. As if this Moroccan photographer was still inhabited by his own younger-self, in amazement of a constantly renewing world that is a prerogative of childhood. Like the child’s eye that combines an instinctive brilliance, innocent happiness and constant desire for new encounter.
French philosopher and literary theorist Roland Barthes states “that to read a country is first of all to perceive it in terms of the the body’s memory”. As such the photographer is assigned this body of knowledge, more through awareness than competence. “That is why childhood is the royal road by which we know a country best”, and for Daoud Alouad-Syad too, there is no country but childhood.
Text compiled by Sylvester Splintor and with acknowledgement to Gallerie 127 and Abdelgahni Fennane. Images courtesy the artist and Gallerie 127.
Daoud Alouad-Syad: Au pays de l’enfance; 9 November 2012 – 26 January 2013. Gallerie 127, Marrakech, Morroco.
MORE TO EXPLORE
Bibliography and Suggested Reading:
Territoires de l’instant. Daoud Aoulad-Syad. 90 Pages, French. Editions De L’oeil, 1985
Marocains, Daoud Aoulad-Syad. 71 Pages, French. 1989 Belvisi 1989
Boujaad, Espace et Mémoire. Daoud Aoulad-Syad, editor Habib El Malk. Datapress, 1996