Photography is the art of modern times. Moroccan professional photographer Omar Chennafi says the most powerful way to use it is “to tell a story about people.” Could art influence new social and governmental policies?
Rabat – Speaking with Morocco World News, Omar Chennafi, a passionate photographer and founder of the Fez International Artists Gathering, shared his aspirations to create a space where local people can experience all forms of art freely.
Chennafi is no stranger to artistic expression. Besides photography, he is also interested in sculpting.
Chennafi has already created a platform where international artists, musicians, painters, photographers, and authors, meet every year to discuss their art and share views on modern issues in Morocco’s “cultural capital,” Fez.
This year, too, artists, intellectuals, and academics from different countries, ages, and backgrounds, but with a deep understanding of how the cogs fit in modern society, met in Fez.
While the Fez gathering offers a ticket to the works of renowned artists and the minds of intellectuals, establishing a platform that would be a “visa or window” for normal people to explore and be in touch with art is Chenafi’s dream. And it may not be too far-fetched.
Chennafi wishes to “design a program and projections that everybody can benefit from not just the intellectuals or educated people, but also people that have a normal life,” including street art performers or street painters.
“My dream is to give them an experience and make art more accessible, open their perspective, and show that art is not just a luxury, but could also hold an educational approach,” he said.
Chennafi believes that art plays a vital role in educating people and heightening social awareness. Chennafi’s statement elicits a question: Could new forms of expression influence or lead to new social and governmental policies?
Chennafi believes that art can lead to unity and diversity as well as contribute to social change. Chennafi emphasized that art “can help us understand our problems,” whether social or political, so “we can solve them in a systematic way.” But, he said, it cannot immediately change governmental policies.
Photography is a gift to be explored
“Our generation is fortunate to experience so many different arts, and opportunities,” Chennafi mused.
The same applies for photography, as “you don’t need to be an academic to be a photographer,” said Chennafi.
Chennafi sees photography as “a gift” that people can explore. “I hope that people can take photography as a way of telling a story, as a way of helping people connect and reconnect, and as a way of appreciation and giving back to the world and expressing love.”
Chennafi is more pulled toward capturing the lives of people and showing diversity. To him, “the most interesting things in our existence are people. Us.”
All artists have moments when their muse decides to slumber. Chennafi likened the feeling of being uninspired or the tendency toward procrastination to fighting a giant wave while holding on to a wooden board.
“You are fighting a huge wave and you’re sticking to this wood which is your only hope until the wave stops. If you don’t have faith, I think your ideas will fall,” Chennafi said. He nuanced his view, saying, “It’s all about passion and having faith” in oneself and “finding the right balance in our lives.”
“It is important to be practical and realistic and to find a balance because we have responsibilities also about our lifestyle, family. It’s not just about focusing on finding ideas, because ideas are always there.”
The biggest challenge in dealing with ideas, to Chennafi, is “how to make them come to life.”
Chennafi criticized the act of sacrificing one’s health and time with loved ones to work, not excluding artwork.
“A lot of people sacrifice their bodies, sleep hours. You have to sacrifice in a way not damaging yourself. Don’t be scared of your fear. We all have fears and doubts but the question is: ‘How can I deal with it, stay focused and continue my journey?’”