Following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco last Friday, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair has launched a project aiming to raise funds and support on-the-ground disaster relief in the region.
The earthquake has reportedly killed around 3,000 people and injured more than 5,000. The disaster has also severely damaged several key heritage sites including the medieval Marrakech medina.
"We're thankful to be able to say that, having spoken to our galleries, artists and partners across the cultural scene and hospitality sector, everyone is safe," Touria El Glaoui, the founding director of the fair, tells The Art Newspaper. "Sadly, the earthquake has most directly affected more remote communities in the Atlas Mountains."
1-54's partners on the ground include the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, the Montresso* Art Foundation, the exhibition space Dada Marrakech, Musée Yves Saint Laurent and the artist residency space Al Maqam. The fair plans to work with the organisations "to support longer term reconstruction".
For now, however, the fair is planning to raise money for disaster relief funds. "We are in conversation with several Moroccan artists with whom we’d like to produce a series of limited-edition prints," El Glaoui says. "We’ll be donating proceeds to organisations working to support those most affected in the immediate aftermath, and to efforts to rebuild Marrakech in the coming months."
Indeed, this year's courtyard commission at the fair's London edition will be especially pertinent, coming from the Marrakech-based artist Amine El Gotaibi. "El Gotaibi’s installation, Illuminate The Light, explores the concept of light in relation to the African continent. It is befitting that this bright and hopeful installation will sit at the heart of our London 2023 fair," El Glaoui says.
The installation consists of 12 geometric sculptures made out of corten steel. "At dusk, the sculptures transform into luminous installations," El Gotaibi tells The Art Newspaper. Indeed, "Wielding light as a solid", the artists say he is using the medium "as a metaphor to reverse the relationship between source and destination", encouraging the viewer to question hierarchies as part of the artist's wider exploration of the African continent.
El Gotabi tells The Art Newspaper, "The production of the piece was in its final stage, when the earthquake hit." He adds, "The human damage creates a conflict for me and my team, between grief and the momentum to continue the piece".
"We urge tourists to not be deterred from visiting Morocco and experiencing its vibrant and diverse cultural scene as this will be crucial to the country’s economic recovery," said 1-54 in a statement. "Although the impact of the earthquake has been devastating, relief and reconstruction efforts are under way and much of Marrakech is thankfully still standing."