“I see murals as a way to break the ‘monopole’ of art by the elite, and sort of democratizing it to be seen and consumed by everyday people.”
Among the incredible art forms that adorn the cities of Morocco is mural art, made by many skilled visual artists such as Annassi Mehdi, “MACHIMA.”
People around the world know the North African kingdom for its beautiful architecture that mixes the Moorish, Islamic, and European styles. It is also famous for its artisanal handcrafts, from woodworking to leather products, to enchanted lanterns, to embroidery, to traditional clothes.
Mural art is one of the most ancient arts in history. Historians have found engravings that date back to thousands of years, showcasing the art of people of the past in different parts of the world.
Originating from urban cultures in Morocco such as pop art, hip hop, fashion, and punk, the country’s visual and contemporary art has definitely developed through the years.
That is visible in Morocco’s two international street art festivals, the Jidar Art Festival in Rabat and the Sbagha Bagha Casablanca Street Art Festival, both organized by EAC-L’Boulvart as part of L’Boulevard Music Festival.
Founded in 1999, EAC-L’Boulvart is a non-profit artistic and cultural education association that works to promote and develop Morocco’s contemporary music and urban culture. The association allows young artists to gain exposure at a larger level through organized activities such as concerts, training, workshops, meetings, and festivals.
Some of the numerous places that have the best mural art in Morocco are the cities of Rabat, Casablanca, Essaouira, Marrakech, Tangier, Chefchaouen, and Asilah.
Annassi Mehdi, known as MACHIMA, is one of several visual artists that contribute to Morocco’s mural art festivals and leave an artistic touch on the walls of Morocco’s cities.
Born and raised in Casablanca, MACHIMA started drawing as a hobby when he was a kid. It remained a hobby for a long time until he decided to make it a career with his family and friends’ unwavering support.
MACHIMA tends to try many different art styles either to feed his artistic curiosity or because it is necessary. However, fans definitely recognize the visual artist most for a unique signature style.
“If I’m relying on words to describe my visual style, I would say it has the aesthetics of comics the feeling of Miyazaki’s universe with Moroccan elements as the main ingredient,” MACHIMA told Morocco World News in an interview.
When making visual art, MACHIMA lets his senses and impulses at the moment lead his creativity with a drawing or a painting.
“For murals, I tend to create something that fits where it’s going to be, so it can be welcomed easily by whoever sees it daily.”
Sometimes the artist will use his platform and art to talk about and express a social phenomenon.
He feels very grateful for his family and friends’ support that they have provided for him since he was young.
“[My family] enabled me and provided material and moral support for my skills to grow, none thought it might become my job description in the future, but I’m glad it paid off.”
Experience and art journey
MACHIMA constantly keeps an eye on the work of a few artists who inspire him and his art, such as mural artists Zoer, Sainer, Normal Ayoub, and Aryz. However, the Moroccan artist is also open to the influence of other new creators.
“Every now and then, I find myself, either consciously or not, influenced by a new artist’s shapes, colors or compositions, and as soon as I get a good grasp of what I want from them, I move on to a different influence again.”
MACHIMA considers digital art to be the easiest—but not too easy. When painting digitally, the artist has an unlimited amount of colors as well as the possibility to undo mistakes, unlike traditional drawing on paper. However, both forms require the same skill set and techniques to achieve the piece of art he wants.
“I enjoy every format I work on, but I tend to like painting murals, as it’s as close to a public performance as I can get, granted, it’s a bit stressful and very physical, but somehow it became what I enjoy doing the most.”
MACHIMA first started his artistic journey by collaborating on exciting video game projects such as Rabbids Go Home and Disco Elysium, among others, a style that is evident in his early artwork. With time, his painting departed from that style towards a graphic aesthetic.
“My work at first was leaning towards exploring designs, characters, and concepts, but as years went by, I found myself focusing more on feelings and moods of my characters and artworks,” said MACHIMA.
MACHIMA’s biggest fear is finding a cozy comfort zone and becoming fully satisfied with his finished works because curiosity and the need to evolve and expand are what drives the artist.
“As long as I still see mistakes in my work, I’m safe.”
Mural art in Morocco
Morocco’s street art festivals bring together multiple local, national, and international artists who paint their creative visions on the walls of Morocco’s cities, creating amazing art pieces and giving the urban centers an artistic and fun environment for residents and visitors.
“I believe it’s a great artistic addition to the cultural movement, we as Moroccans, do not visit galleries very often, and our interactions with paintings are very limited, I see murals as a way to break the ‘monopole’ of art by the elite, and sort of democratizing it to be seen and consumed by everyday people.”
Having already contributed to video games with his art, MACHIMA also participated in Morocco’s street art festivals as well as international festivals and exhibitions abroad.
Despite the fact none of his mural art has been removed or erased from Morocco’s walls, the artist believes that it is something inevitable, that if you are a mural artist, having your painting erased either by someone’s decision or with time is part of the deal.
“So, I imagine that I’ll be okay with it, but it’s easier said than done.”
MACHIMA concluded by advising young artists to have great motivation, patience, and curiosity.
“Make sure that you are armed with passion as you step into this exciting field because that’s what will fuel you to keep pushing through.”