Morocco grows into an international cultural magnet

February 12, 2017
A 2016 photo shows US singer Christina Aguilera performing during the music festival Mawazine in Rabat. (AFP)

Casablanca - Morocco is witnessing a cultural boom thanks to its renowned in­ternational festivals and large projects launched by Moroccan King Mo­hammed VI to make the North Afri­can kingdom an important artistic destination.

Morocco gained international at­tention by attracting world famous acts to its numerous festivals, such as Mawazine and Jazzablanca.

Rabat opened the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Con­temporary Art in October 2014 in line with the king’s desire to make culture a catalyst for human, social and economic development and to provide Morocco with top-notch cultural facilities that foster crea­tivity and cultural democratisa­tion.

The $20 million Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contem­porary Art is the first in Morocco entirely dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The museum seeks to create bridges with vari­ous international institutions and foundations to serve a wider audi­ence.

Also in October 2014, the king launched the construction of grand theatres in Casablanca and Rabat.

Located at the Bouregreg Val­ley, near Hassan Tower and Mo­hammed V Mausoleum, the $167 million Rabat Grand Theatre is a symbol of Morocco’s cultural and artistic renewal.

The $150 million Grand Theatre of Casablanca — Casarts — is part of the 2015-20 Greater Casablanca Re­gion Integrated Development Plan.

Casarts, which is to be complet­ed by October, is a major cultural project that will help revive Casa­blanca’s cultural life by improving access to cultural and artistic fa­cilities with the aim of developing intellectual potential, talents and creativity.

“Morocco has become a regional cultural hub thanks to King Mo­hammed VI’s efforts to put culture at the forefront of his aspirations,” said Mehdi Qotbi, president of the National Museums Foundation (FNM).

Qotbi praised the king for making culture one of his priorities since ascending the throne in 1999.

Morocco has set up a programme to restore its museums to strength­en their identity and revive activi­ties.

The Kasbah Museum in Tangier, which was renamed the Kasbah Museum of Mediterranean Cul­tures, opened its doors last July after several months of renovation.

“More than 20,000 people vis­ited the Kasbah Museum of Medi­terranean Cultures in the first three months of its reopening to the pub­lic,” said Qotbi. “This means that Moroccans are culture thirsty.”

Qotbi pointed out that the cultur­al sector has become an important contributor to Morocco’s economy in terms of job creation and attract­ing foreign tourists.

“A few months ago, we had an exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s works that drew visitors and media coverage from all over the world,” he said.

The Mohammed VI Museum in Rabat had a retrospective exhibi­tion of Giacometti’s sculptures, paintings and drawings, the first of its kind in Africa. Giacometti is

considered one of the greatest art­ists of the 20th century.

Qotbi said FNM is in talks with the Moroccan flag carrier Royal Air Maroc to tailor special packages for visitors of the exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s artworks, which is sched­uled for April.

“Culture is a means of communi­cation and builds bridges between peoples. As a person responsible for museums, I saw how the monarch set out an Africa-oriented political and economic policy and accompa­nied it culturally,” he said.

King Mohammed VI tasked Qotbi with organising an exhibition in which Rabat would be Africa’s cul­tural capital.

“Rabat will wear the colours of Africa next April,” Qotbi said, add­ing that the exhibition will be ti­tled L’Afrique en Capital — Africa in Capital.

“We will be the first country in the world to pay homage to Senega­lese sculptor Ousmane Sow, who died recently.”