Lugano photo exhibit displays colours of Morocco

Everything is recognisable in the photos: the huge square Jama el-Fnaa in Marrakech, the dunes of Merzouga, the fortress Oudaia in Rabat, the blue walls of Chefchauen and the white ones of Asilah. And yet everything appears different.
Friday 28/08/2020
Essaouira, 2008 (rpolillo.photoshelter.com)
Essaouira, 2008 (rpolillo.photoshelter.com)

RABAT –The Museum of Cultures in Lugano (MUSEC), southern Switzerland, gives visitors the opportunity to discover Morocco through photos taken by Italian photographer and traveler Roberto Polillo.

The photography exhibition, entitled “Marocco. Roberto Polillo Fotografie 2005-2018,” was first displayed last March and will continue until September 6. It displays 39 artworks that take the viewer into atmospheres full of magic and colour.

One of the photographs taken by Roberto Polillo and exhibited at the Museum of Cultures in Lugano (MUSEC website)
One of the photographs taken by Roberto Polillo and exhibited at the Museum of Cultures in Lugano (MUSEC website)

Italian news agency ANSAmed describes the exhibition as an occasion to “reflect on orientalism, exoticism and the role of photography,” noting that the photos, dedicated by Polillo to Morocco, bring to life images of locations which a tourist could find on the catalogue of a travel agency.

According to ANSAmed, the photos were shot with a special technique that makes it possible to create fluid images evoking impressionism. Everything is recognisable in the photos: the huge square Jama el-Fnaa in Marrakech, the dunes of Merzouga, the fortress Oudaia in Rabat, the blue walls of Chefchauen and the white ones of Asilah. And yet everything appears different.

The works on display and in the catalogue derive from photographs taken by Roberto Polillo during seven trips to Morocco, between 2005 and 2018. (MUSEC website)
The works on display and in the catalogue derive from photographs taken by Roberto Polillo during seven trips to Morocco, between 2005 and 2018. (MUSEC website)

Polillo, who is also a well-known name in the world of jazz, has developed a particular technique over the years that blurs images — as though a reflection of an altered perception — with impressionist results. He took these photos during seven trips made to Morocco between the end of 2005 and 2018.

The exhibition’s catalogue shows photos reflecting the passion of Polillo, who is always in search of a place’s spirit and to explain the meaning of that which we find exotic, explains Francesco Paolo Campione in the catalogue’s introduction.

Merzouga, 2012 (rpolillo.photoshelter.com)
Merzouga, 2012
(rpolillo.photoshelter.com)

It ”constitutes the generic and universal tendency of the soul that brings people to desire what is foreign and unknown, imagining the existence of faraway places in which more knowledge reigns, in which life is more intense and voluptuous and in which nature is better or gives better knowledge allaying the pain of existence’,” Campione wrote.

Chefchauen, 2018 (rpolillo.photoshelter.com)
Chefchauen, 2018 (rpolillo.photoshelter.com)

The Swiss museum is readying to publish its content online as part of a global network of museums. It presents the exhibition on its website, saying “it is part of the ‘Esovisioni’ cycle. It is the first event of a cultural season that MUSEC dedicates to Morocco, to the arts, to the people, to the charm that the landscape and the history of this country have given to western culture.”

Roberto Polillo is an Italian photographer and traveler and well-known name in the world of jazz. (Roberto Polillo Youtube page)
Roberto Polillo is an Italian photographer and traveler and well-known name in the world of jazz. (Roberto Polillo Youtube page)

The exhibition aims to showcase photographic works that go beyond Orientalist stereotypes to more intimately grasp values of a universal type of exoticism that explores the foreign and unknown.