Le Maroc de Daoud Aoulad-Syad

14 April 2018

In a set of three exhibitions under the title, Le Maroc de Daoud Aoulad-Syad, photographer and film maker Daoud Aoulad-Syad (1953- ) captures the heart of Morocco and its popular culture. Born in Marrakech, the city is the ideal setting to present so much of the photographer’s work and the work itself fits well into the spaces in which it is presented: Galerie 127, Banque al Maghrib on Jamaa El Fna square and Dar Moulay Ali. In all his photography work Aoulad-Syad focuses on collective memory and popular culture, in particular that of performance. 


Ethnofolk at Galerie 127 focuses on a particular series of work, black and white photographs of folk troupes across Morocco. Aoulad-Syad set up a make-shift studio at the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival in 1999 and 2001 to photograph, with permission, musicians, dancers and singers who have been performing throughout Morocco for the past 60 years. This series is distinctly different from the other two exhibitions as the photographs are more composed, with each portrait being taken in front of a white sheet. Although ethnographic in style, which is also alluded to in the title, you can sense that Aoulad-Syad has formed a connection with those in his photographs and that the photograph is secondary to the connection he forms. 


In contrast, Le Maroc, D’Ombre et de Lumière, at Dar Moulay Ali- Maison de la France à Marrakech, presents a set of unpublished colour photographs. Aoulad-Syad captures the juxtapositions of murals and imagery next to the everyday. In the first room the juxtapositions are more gentle, an exploration of people and their surroundings yet in the second room, the juxtapositions are stronger and it seems that Aoulad-Syad starts to celebrate these contrasting moments, and consequently manifests them further. As the outline of the exhibition says, Aoulad-Syad “plays with what nature offers.” The third exhibition, Maroc 1980-2000, also demonstrates Aoulad-Syad’s playfulness and humour yet this time not with juxtapositions but human character. From boys playing mischievously, a stall vendor on Jamaa Al Fna refusing to have his face photographed to simple portraits the exhibition engages the viewer throughout. This exhibition is a set of over 50 black and white photographs taken over an expanse of 20 years and all across Morocco. First shown at Biennale of Arab Photography in 2015, the photographs are now displayed in Banque Al Maghrib on Jamaa Al Fna square. The old art deco bank is an arresting setting for the photographs which span such a long period of time and several cities in Morocco. 


Ultimately, this triptych of exhibitions is a gorgeous homage to Daoud Aoulad-Syad’s work in photography and equally to Moroccan history through both the photographs and their locations. I recommend viewing the exhibitions with a few days in between each visit so that Aoulad-Syad’s differing approach to each project, and also the spaces they are displayed, can be fully appreciated.   


The exhibitions run until 28 April 2018.