Culture Fest: Marrakech Biennale

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Words Jez Smadja Pictured Curators of the exhibition Higher Atlas, Nadim Samman and Carson Chan. By Item Idem

The fourth edition of the Marrakech Biennale kicks off on February 29, cementing the reputation of “the ochre city” as a focal point for a creative renaissance in north Africa.

In recent years Marrakech has quietly been transformed into a creative powerhouse. With TEDxMarrakech, the Marrakech Art Fair, the Marrakech International Film Festival, not to mention the Dar Al-Ma’mûn Institute, Morocco’s fourth-largest city is about much more than luxury breaks in boutique hotels and the nightly bazaar in Jemaa el-Fnaa square.

The Marrakech Biennale brings its own, understated agenda to the global festival calendar. This year as well as visual art, film, literature and talks, there’s an as-yet unveiled musical programme. 

Highlights of the five-day event include director Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland) presenting his hotly tipped Bob Marley biopic before it heads to SXSW. There’ll be a showcase for the luminaries of Moroccan cinema’s New Wave, who are tearing up the rule book to show the country in a new light. Award-winning actress Lubna Azabal (Paradise Now) will be recapping her career to date, and The Wire’s Dominic West will be speaking at the ESAV Film School.

Events will unravel at spots all over the city, including the palatial Riad El Fenn hotel, the tunnels of the Koutoubia Mosque and the Theatre Royal, where an exhibition of visual art entitled Higher Atlas will be on display until June. The show is curated by hip, super-connectors Nadim Samman and Carson Chan and includes work from not just artists but architects, writers and musicians such as Jon Nash, Aleksandra Domanovic, Karthik Pandian, CocoRosie and Younes Baba-Ali, who ARISE caught up with for a quick interview.

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