It was a cloudy Friday afternoon when I met with the amazing Elise from Montresso* Art Foundation (a dear friend and PR colleague) along with members of the media, officials and street-artist Jace himself for a guided walk in the medina. Or tmecha fel medina as the locals would say.
Back in July 2017, Jace returned to Morocco to create 15 installations throughout the Marrakech medina from the Mellah to Sidi Yacoub with the support from the city of Marrakech, and the crew at Montresso* Art Foundation in collaboration with Awaln’Art and the Institut Francais.
But it didn’t start there. A well-known street artist, Jace began his work back in the late 1980s on the island of Reunion, where the artist still resides, at a time when “street art wasn’t so common,” he says.
And when it took off he realized that his paintings were just like everyone else’s and he wanted “something individual, fun, something that when people drive by they could immediately recognize it,” he tells me as we wandered through the Mellah toward the synagogue, the muezzin calling the prayer in the background.
And so colourful, adaptable, cartoon-like Gouzou was born.
As we arrived at our first stop, the synagogue, we met fictional Gouzou for the first time. Here a Muslim and Jewish Gouzou are sharing a tea, inspired by images inside the synagogue of Moroccans of both faiths drinking tea together, the team explained.
We continued our walk and spotted Gouzou riding a camel in a tajine pot. A colourful addition to an otherwise ruined building where local residents pass by while doing their shopping at the local hanouts and vegetable shops.
Gouzou-style Romeo and Juliet, Gouzou soaking up the sun in the Sahara Desert, Gouzou awaiting his turn at a traffic light in the Sahara Desert are just a few of the scenes dotting the route in the lesser-known areas of the Marrakech medina.
His inspiration for this project?
During a consultation with local authorative figures and associations, he heard tales and legends, learned about the neighbourhoods, and stories of the locals before getting down to work.
And in true street-artist style, Jace told me that some paintings were done in as little as 20 minutes and larger installations forty minutes approximately. In fact, the 15 installations were completed in just two days, with local residents looking on with curiosity and admiration.
To talk a walk in the medina and explore Gouzou in his various surroundings, check out the map below, plug the GPS coordinates in to your phone, and have fun. I attempted to do the walk without the map one day on my own and was horribly lost. As most street art is found in lesser-visited areas, expect to truly go off the tourist path for the majority of the tour. But friendly locals along the way will guide you back to Jemaa el Fna, never too far away.
Don’t forget to tag your photos #tmechafelmedina.
Photos: Montresso* Art Foundation