Tbarkalik Jess on a successful opening of your art exhibition! What a great night it was. That’s Jess’ art exhibition in Fes. She’s got about 40 pieces of her work on exhibit at the Complexe Culturel Al Houriya for the next 10 days. It’s a one-woman show, filling 2 galleries. First night sales included 4 art pieces and 1 piece of jewelry. In addition, she’s had 2 offers to buy up the entire jewelry collection. T-bar-ka-lik!
I’ve been in Fes helping her get it set up since Monday night. She got access to the space early, but has to do all of her own installation. The space is really fabulous-2 exhibit rooms, open to the public, secure, and available free of charge. Remarkable.
Also remarkable is the attitude of the 5 guys working here. They’ve got this great space, yet we’ve had to scrub down all of the walls, floors, windows and bathroom, and most of the spotlights don’t work, etc. It may be free, but you must invest “sweat equity”, literally and figuratively, since the heat is back and we’re dripping as we work. And they can’t be bothered-no pride whatsoever in this space or their work-they sat on chairs at the entrance watching us working our butts off for 3 days. Our work the last several days was to clean up the space so that those who attend the show see only the artwork, not the flaws in the space. Adding insult to injury, the guys wanted Jess to give them money to serve the tea that she bought and brought in-despite the fact that the Director for the complex promised that they would do this for her. Of course he doesn't come to work all afternoon, so why should he expect them to work, yak? And who was first in line for the tea and cookies? You guessed it. The 5 guys. Hshuma likum. This is an attitude not uncommon in Morocco that really puts people off-expecting ‘payment’ to do work that is already part of their job.
Moving on...it was a terrific crowd last night for the opening, a fun group, a violinist playing thru the galleries, great to watch people stopping to really take in the body of work. I’m so happy for and proud of Jess. She has really put together a great show. Nice little celebratory group gathered around the corner for a drink-at a Pub on Hassan II-drinking a G&T on the Fes sidewalk? Really? And why did it take me 2 years to discover this was possible? Better late than never! Oh, and did I mention that I’m the proud new owner of a Jess Stephen’s work? Oh yeah. BssaH aliya.
As a side note-this space would be fabulous for a Marche Maroc event. It wouldn’t attract tourists so much, but has great foot traffic and visibility for the Ville Nouvelle crowd. The space is perfect, free and secure. Since the team who is responsible for the next Fes fair are having difficulty securing a location, I’m gonna take pictures and send them off for them to consider. I also asked Tariq (PM) if he’s heard from the Ministry of Artisana whether our funding request (which I submitted back in June) to help sponsor the next year’s Marche Marocs has been approved. He doesn’t have final word, but was told that they included it in their overall request, so it looks really good. Inshallah.
Meanwhile, I’ve used my time here in Fes to get other things done as well. Had a good meeting w/Gail and Michele on Monday to iron out details for the Ribat El Kheir Tourist Day Trip. I’ve got all the REK parties in line, but needed Gail and Michele’s input on things like what the REK folks will be paid. The REK folks of course say-‘li bgiti” or “as you like”, and in all honesty, don’t know what a fair rate would be to charge tourists. We’ve put that together and the next task is to bring the 2 of them down from Fes for a day to meet w/all the REK folks so we’re all on the same page w/respect to expectations, etc. Inshallah we’ll get that scheduled early in October.
Khalid finished the translation editing I needed to finalize the Adwal showroom book I’ve been working on. I needed the Arabic and French reviewed before taking it to the printer. The idea here is that since the women don’t speak much French, when tourists come to their new showroom, they’ll be able to look thru the book to read about the Cooperative, their work, their products and see photos for ideas on how to use the products.
Then I got an email from our Program Manager (PM) that I had to respond to asap. Next year Peace Corps will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. There will be a lot of events associated with this milestone. One of them will be a Smithsonian celebration on the mall in July. Part of this program will include HCNs (host country nationals) who PCVs worked with during their service. My PM sent me a request to submit a nomination from REK. Naturally I’m nominating Fatima, but I’m going to wait to tell her until I know if it’s gone any further. I have no idea how many nominations they’ll have to weed through, selection criteria, etc., so I don’t want to set any expectations at this point. Nevertheless, how fabulous would it be to have her go to Wash DC and share her work, demo weaving and natural dye techniques, etc.? Stay tuned.
I’d make a “note to self”, but won’t need it personally-so this is for any others who remain in Morocco. Do NOT travel on the Monday after a l-3id holiday weekend. Just like trying to travel the Sunday after Thanksgiving. You know, when everyone else and their brother MUST get home that day? What ideally takes me about 1 hour and 2 taxis (when the taxi gods are smiling down on me) to get to Fes, instead took me 4 hours and no less than 7 different transits (taxi/nuql/buses). Good thing I had a meeting to get to or I would have never left REK when I found out that there was NO transportation to Fes or Sefrou.
When I was waiting to meet w/Gail and Michele, I ran into an RPCV who was visiting Fes w/his wife and friends. He got my contact info from my blog and we’d communicated a bit-they were looking for things to do while in Fes. I must have suggested a cooking class at the Clock, and they were there on Monday. It turns out that he’s a visiting professor with the Semester at Sea program. His friend is just travelling with the group. It’s insanely affordable and they’re having a blast-highly recommend that I look into it. Hmmmm, post PC idea? Ymkn.
I also got to catch up w/Siobhan. She’s back for a short bit from Bristol UK-checking in on her house, getting a new batch of Fulbrighters to rent it for the next year, etc. Sounds like this year’s Doris Festival was another success-I’m excited to attend it next year and volunteer. Hopefully Alice and Ali (other friends from Fes) volunteer again next year-this year they went to cook the l-ftr for all who were fasting for Ramadan.
It was also great to catch up w/other Fes ex-pats who came to Jess’ opening-some I hadn’t seen in a while (Alice, Kobe), some back from travelling abroad (Raja, Yassine, Maia), some back from Ramadan travel. My time is running short with these lovely folks.
Sat down w/Alice to talk about an idea she and her husband Ali have. They’ve got a shop in the medina and are exploring the idea of making it a Free Trade space for artisans working w/PCVs to sell through. An intriguing idea that we’re gonna talk thru further. They’re really a wonderful couple, with a real passion for anything they do, and I’d love to help them make it happen-Inshallah.
I'm also in the process of planning for Samira and Rebecca’s visit. Samira is finally going to come to the countryside so I can show her “my” Morocco (ahem). Rebecca has been talking about coming, and the only time I’ll have is when Samira comes, so we’ll all travel together. Samira wants specifically to see artisan Coops-ymkn an import business in the future?-and we’ll go to Ain Leuh and REK. Then Rebecca and I will spend time in Fes so I can show her my favorite Moroccan city.
Now I’m off to Rabat for 2 days-helping w/a session with the 68 new volunteers who just arrived in Morocco yesterday to begin training. Merhaba l Maghreb.