Marrakech Biennale 5: My top picks

With the Marrakech Biennale just hours away from opening, I can’t help but review the schedule while looking forward to all of the vernissages and exhibits I want to be sure to fit in to my diary. This year more than ever I’m excited as the event will be transforming various spaces throughout Marrakech in to unique art installations under the theme of Where are we now?

Having reviewed the schedule, talked to organizers and also partners, my week is looking a bit like this:

Wednesday 26 February
Official opening at Badii Palace, Dar Si Said and Jeema el Fna from 15h to 17h

Having attended the last Marrakech Biennale opening, I can only expect great things as these historical sites are transformed!  Starting at Badii Palace, the event will eventually make its way to Dar Si Said before ending at the famous Jeema el Fna square.  While I previously was not a fan of the Badii Palace, I found a new love for it when the Institute Francais Marrakech transformed the ruined palace in to a cool light show last year.

During the opening week, various events will be held at these two venues.

Thursday 27 February

Voice in the Wildnerness, Vernissage in Agafay Desert 15h to 19h

A massive ship. Helicopters flying around. A venue in the middle of the Agafay Desert. At least that’s what I’ve been told. And that’s enough to make me want to attend the opening of Voice in the Wilderness by Alexander Ponamorev.  Shuttles leave from the Congress Centre/Palais de Congress on Mohamed VI Boulevard from 15h.

Testosterone by Eric Van Hove, Vernissage at Voice Gallery 18h

Having met the artist Eric Van Hove on a few occasions as well as heard him present at TEDx Marrakesh, I’ve witnessed first-hand his dedication and commitment to the project he will be unveiling at the Marrakech Biennale: a car motor made in Morocco produced by great maalems using traditional Moroccan arts and crafts.  If the photos are anything to go by, the real thing will be massively impressive.

On display until 31 March 2013

Voice Gallery
366 Zone Industrielle
Sidi Ghanem, Marrakech

Storytelling at Cafe Clock at 17h

After the success of Cafe Clock Fes, the fabulous Mike Richardson is bringing his cross-cultural cafe concept to Marrakech.  Cafe Clock will launch its weekly Al-Halqa storytelling programme featuring traditional storytellers of Jemaa elFna square and English-speaking apprentices during the Marrakech Biennale. The evening will be inaugurated by Richard Hamilton, BBC journalist and author of The Last Storytellers.

The Al-Halqa program is an on-going Thursday evening event.

Cafe Clock
224 Derb Chtouka
Kasbah, Marrakech Medina

Friday 28 February
475: Breaking the Silence by Hind Bensari at 16h30

Riad El Fenn will be screening a variety of documentary films during the opening week of the Biennale and 475: Breaking the Silence is one that’s high on my list.

After the death of Amina Filali, a 16 year old girl who killed herself after she was allegedly forced to marry the man who raped her, a young woman carries a personal investigation into the representation and perception of rape in Morocco, a country where rapists are offered to marry their victims as a means to save the “honour” of the family.

A difficult subject, but one that caught the world’s attention following the young girl’s death.

Riad El Fenn
Derb Moulay Abdellah Ben Hssaine
Lksour, Marrakech Medina

Crossings, ESAV, Vernissage at 18h

Leila Elaoui’s installation entitled Crossings tells the stories of Sub-Saharan migrants who embark on the journey to Europe and the daily struggle they face just to stay alive.  Not an easy topic to learn about, but one that needs to be told.

Various installations will be opening on this evening and are well worth a visit. I’m also intending to see If you so smart, why ain’t you rich? at the same time.

The installations will be on display until 31 March

ESAV, Amerchich (about 10 minutes in a taxi from the Marrakech medina)

Saturday 1 March
Mahi BineBine at Musee de la Palmeraie, Vernissage Saturday 1 March 11 to 13h

Award-winning Moroccan artist and writer Mahi BineBine will have an exhibit at the Musee de la Palmeraie, Marrakech’s contemporary art gallery, with the vernissage on Saturday 1 March. Though off the beaten path, I think it will be well worth a visit and a great excuse to finally visit this relatively new museum.

Musee de la Palmeraie
Dar Tounsi on the Route de Fès
Across from the supermarket Atacadao

Mint Collective opening, Saturday 1 March 18h to 

The Mint Collective is an artist collective based in the Kasbah area of Marrakech. Young European and African artists have come together with the aim of creating a platform in the city, through which individuals can communicate via the arts.  The Collective will unveil their installation in L’Blassa on 1 March.

Corner of Rue de Yugoslavie and Rue de la Liberte

Freq_Out, concert series at the Royal Theatre

While in Gueliz for the Mint Collective vernissage, I’ll probably head over to the concert by Freq_Out at the Royal Theatre. I don’t know much about the project, but concert + Royal Theatre is enough to entice me.

Nightly during opening week (25 February to 1 March) from 20h30 to 22h

Royal Theatre
Boulevard Mohamed VI
Across from the train station

Sunday 2 March

Biennale Cafe

At some point, I will certainly be hitting the Biennale Cafe, designed by Hassan Hajjaj, one of my favourite Moroccan artists. Located in L’Blassa, an art-deco building constructed during the French protectorate period, I’m excited to see how the space has been transformed.

Corner of Rue de Yugoslavie and Rue de la Liberte

Meetings in Marrakech: Paintings of Hassan El Glaoui and Sir Winston Churchill

Having attended the opening of the exhibit on the weekend, I highly recommend a stop at La Mamounia. Impressed by Glaoui’s paintings of Marrakech and also southern Morocco, I found his style to bear similarities to Picasso.  While here, it’s worth a wonder through the gardens and perhaps stop for a coffee in the garden or a drink in the Churchill Bar.

La Mamounia
Avenue Bab Jdid

Sunday concert series, Cafe Clock 2 March at 19h

Cafe Clock is the place to be during on Sunday evenings the Marrakech Biennale. Gnaoua musicians and graffiti artists will come together to create an amazingly hip ambience in this new cafe in the Kasbah district of Marrakech.

Cafe Clock will also be featuring an exhibit by the Casablanca gallery Yakin & Boaz. Having had a sneak preview, I already have my eye on one piece I’d like to own.

This is also a great place to refuel during the Marrakech Biennale as the menu features many fabulous fresh options.

This will be the kick off to the weekly Sunday concert series at Cafe Clock Marrakech

Cafe Clock
224 Derb Chtouka
Kasbah, Marrakech Medina

This list is by no means exhaustive. Every time I look at the programme or meet someone else to discuss the line-up, I  circle another event I want to see.

General information:
Day passes are available for 100 MAD.
Check out the PDF program at:

If you’re in town for the Marrakech Biennale, have fun! But before the event kicks off, and a huge thanks to the organizers working so so so hard to put this event on!

I’ll be reporting daily on events throughout the opening week so check back regularly.

11 thoughts on “Marrakech Biennale 5: My top picks

  1. I am feeling the stirrings of envy… re: the Badii Palace. I love it there. And, at the moment Marrakech is redolent with the scent of Orange Blossoms.

    Enjoy every minute!

  2. Hi Mandy! My fiancee and I are arriving in Marrakesh on the 1st of march for a week and I feel very lucky indeed to be there for the bieannale!! I am a photographer and looking forward to the events. i just hope we’ll be able to find our way somehow. Maybe we’ll bump into you along the way. let me know if you’d be free to exchange a few impressions with a couple of Marrakesh newbies. All the best from Oxford, UK (for now)!

    1. Hi Victor,
      I hope you’ve enjoyed opening weekend and managed to find your way around the various venues. I’m sure you were able to capture some fabulous images. Would love to hear your impressions. Best, Mandy

  3. Hi Mandy,

    I am sooo pleased that you will be covering such an exciting event! I will hopefully be in Marrakech for 14 nights from 22 March and will have just enough time to enjoy the biennale!

    I love your blog – very interesting
    Have fun!

    1. Hello,
      Thank you for your kind comments. Enjoy the Biennale. I’ll be posting our updates from opening weekend this week. Enjoy Marrakech and the Marrakech Biennale.

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