Les poètes de la terre brings together soil (agriculture), metallurgy (craft), and poetry (protest, worldmaking). It relies on a crude, primitive-looking aesthetics that keeps it close to the earth. Bouhchichi’s work stages an interplay between the physical and the intangible.
The very word “terre”, referring both to material soil and emotional land, refuses the neat division between materiality and affect. It is through this subtle wavering that Bouhchichi is able to open up the question of representation. The objects he makes aim less at explicit social commentary than at being implicit portraits of a people.
Out of a context of injustice and looming death, Bouhchichi’s project produces an array of visual affirmations, a becoming-visible of minoritized existences. One such existence is that of M’barek Ben Zida (1925-1973), a black peasant poet from Tata, who occupies a remarkable position within the field of Ahwach—a form of oral poetry that is accompanied by music and often practiced in poetic battles. By insisting on exposing social and ethnic inequities, Ben Zida created a poetic dissonance within the ahwach tradition, which usually steers clear of explicit politics. By putting silenced realities into carefully crafted words, he uncovered a rich field of socio-aesthetic possibility.
By shedding new light on activities and patterns traditionally associated with blacks in the Moroccan south, M’barek Bouhchichi symbolically unsettles the existing divisions of space and labor. He samples social observations and converts them into physical forms. This could be called a conceptual materialism. Bouhchichi’s work displays a belief in matter—earth, soil, wood, metal—, a belief that matter, in its quality of presence and its shape-shiftiness, holds a potential for redemption.
There is an air of modernist seriality to this show, which comes just as surely from Bouhchichi’s interest in traditional craft and its appreciation of subtle variation within repetition. Of this, traditional Berber poetry offers another illustration. Its very name, tandamt, carries the notion of order and pattern, which regular prosody embodies. The greatest poets, however, are those who consistently surprise their listeners from within the established system. Ben Zida was one such wordsmith. He exemplifies the possibility of singularity emerging from an overdetermined social space. He has known famine and exile, as well as humiliation on the part of white men. He offers a model of liberation, albeit in a tragic key. For M’barek Bouhchichi, Ben Zida is a predecessor, but also a companion, an ally in the struggle for self-affirmation: a witness to Bouhchichi’s witnessing of a people and a culture.
366, Zone industriel sidi ghanem،
Marrakech 40000, Marokko