Charity Ben Ali exhibitions in aid of Project 91

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Travelling to the seaside town of Essaouira, Morocco between 15th July to 4th September 2016? Be sure to check out two art exhibitions by Souiri artist Ben Ali, in aid of registered charity Project 91.

Popular upmarket restaurant Elizir and art gallery Mashi Mushki will curate the two exhibitions in association with Sofitel Essaouira Mogador and Association Essaouira Mogador. Curators have promised to donate 20% of their fees (20% of the sale price) to Project 91, which will go towards establishing a fund to help the widows of fisherman lost at sea.

Dubbed a genius by well-respected Italian art critic Corrado Levi – a longtime resident in Morocco – artist Ben Ali, born 1966, has himself spent many years working as a fisherman and experienced the loss of his brother and friend to the sea. Since then, he has begun to paint on a variety of commonplace objects – including a dry pumpkin, a washboard and television – with an array of materials/formats in a small studio in the Joteya, a junk market in Essaouira’s industrial market.

Son of major figure in the Essaouira art scene, Ben Ali chose his name in memory of his father. Ali senior presented challenging works of graphic depictions of human sexuality, and Ali wishes to continue the work of his late father with art of a very different form.

“For me, fishing and painting are the same. In my paintings there are all the ghosts, that little by little appear on the canvas like the memories of a childhood dream,” he said.

The exhibitions will feature two separate sets of work: ‘A Retrospective’ – work that spans ten years of Ali’s career from 2006-2016, comprised of 30 paintings and sculptures; and ‘At Sea’ – a selection of 20 recent works. ‘A Retrospective’ will open on Friday 15th July at Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa, Domaine Mogador, Essaouira at 6.30pm, and ‘At Sea’ will take place at Association Essaouira Mogador, Dar Souiri, 10 Avenue Du Caire, Essaouira from Friday 26th August from 6pm.

Corrado Levi, one of Italy’s most prominent art critics, paints Ben Ali and his father with the same brush of genius, despite being two very different artists. He said, “Geniuses are rare: to find two in one family is even rarer, but not impossible. It has happened in Morocco, in Essaouira.”

While father Ali “paints with repeated brush strokes, creating a delicacy and vibrancy that contrasts with the violence of his representation” with bodies that “push themselves into bold, distorted shapes,” son Ali “uses dense and glossy paint, so his ghostly subjects seem to wander in an unlimited space,” with bodies that “have threadlike legs, accentuating their formlessness.” 

Expert in contemporary art for the Court of Appeal of Versailles and former director of the Maeght Gallery in Paris and Barcelona, Michel Bohbot describes Ben Ali’s world as a “human comedy…joyful, alive, sensual…anchored in the real.”

In January, Dial2Donate visited the Project 91 charity shop – first of its kind in Morocco – and were delighted with the great work of its volunteers. You can read more about the vital ongoing work of Project 91 here.

Should you require more information about the events, you can contact Paolo Barbieri at paoloba9191@gmail.com.


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