The first museum dedicated to photography, Morocco’s National Photography Museum, provides a space for young artists to express themselves.
Rabat – As Fort Rottemburg withstands waves battering its coastal side, it protects the artwork that adorns its interior. The newest addition to the Moroccan Museum Foundation, the National Photography Museum opened this past Tuesday, January 14th, with the Sourtna exhibit, a curation by Yassine Alaoui Ismaili, known in the art community as “Yorias.”
Fort Rottemburg / Borj El Kebir
The museum showcases photography in a beautifully renovated 19th-century fort, complementing the artwork that hangs inside.
President of the National Museum Foundation, Mehdi Qotbi, thanked the Rabat Region Developments for the restoration as part of the project “Rabat city of light and Moroccan capital of culture.”
The fort’s first name comes from the German engineer, Walter Rottemburg, who built what was at the time the first cement building in Morocco in 1894.
In 1912, the French renamed it “Fort Hervé,” but to many Moroccans, it has always been “Borj El Kebir” or “the Big Fort.” The cannons that ornament the entrance to the fort were gifts from Germany to Sultan Moulay Hassan (1873-1869).
Role in Moroccan Culture
Qotbi, told the press that the National Photography Museum serves to enrich the array of Museums in Rabat while also giving a space for young people to express themselves.
Qotbi stressed the importance of the museum’s location in the city district L’Ocean, as a symbol that art should be accessible to all the residents of Rabat.
The new museum represents the “democratization of art” he said, and nothing speaks to this goal more than the National Museum Foundation handing Yasin Alaui Ismaili alias (Yorias) an opportunity to curate the first exhibit, Sourtna, or “our photo.”
Yorias described his choices for the exhibit as relating to how photos can capture how family, neighborhood, country, and culture all bring people together.
“I’ve brought together well known, emerging, and young artists in my selection because for me, it’s important to represent them together, to highlight their coherence, dynamism, and transmission from one generation to another, it’s a historic chance,” he said.
Yorias also thinks the museum can help Moroccan artists express themselves and share their country with the world. “Morocco is capable of tellings its own story by creating, defending, sharing, and showing these images,” he said.
On the left-hand wall just past the entrance hangs Boubelrhiti Lhoucine’s “Murmur Walls.” Lhoucine describes the collection as “we know that walls are mute, but we often say that they can see what we do and hear what we say. Walls are mute, sure, but they can express what they are, and who we are.”
Dominating the outside of the fort is Kilito M’hammed’s “Portrait of a Generation: Among You” which represents many people from different backgrounds as part of one society.
Inside the fort hang photos from several artists in symmetrically constructed rooms on each side of the hall that divides the fort in half.
The exhibit provides an opportunity for young photographers such as Mourad Fedouache (19) who began street photography by taking photos with selfie mode because the front lens was broken.
Fedoucahe told Morocco World News that, “My dream is to travel and eventually take my photography to New York.” For young artists such as Fedouache, the National Photography Museum inspires hope and offers a platform to begin the journey to reaching their dreams.
The National Photography Museum is free for the first fifteen days. Meanwhile, the Sourtna exhibit will remain open to the public until April.