Kunstmuseum aan zee Collecties van
de Vlaamse Gemeenschap
Stad Oostende


Tiwtmin timazighin

‘If you stand in front of the Atlas Mountains – what lies behind them?, they say. Once on the other side of the Atlas Mountains, we see the grey and ochre-coloured landscape bathed in the soothing rays of the sun under a restless sky. A ravine. Another mountain that sends us into a reverie – what lies behind? We start to approach. The same grey landscape with the same sky. The mystery doesn’t lie in the Imazighen, but in the Berber, who has travelled a long and difficult route under the cedar trees. Nevertheless, we continue to hope for an (unknown) mysterious landscape. We are never disappointed because it is banal, but we want to see the landscape that lies behind.’ 
Jean Genet, Lettres à Ibis (Letters to Ibis, Early Correspondence, 1933-1948).

The exhibition comprises a selection of historic Berber carpets from a private collection in Ostend. Within a museum context, it was decided to allow the carpets to resonate with a correspondence containing texts and images, in the form of cadavres exquis. The cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse) is a collaborative writing game that was much loved by the Surrealists. Inextricably linked to one of the last avant-garde movements of the interwar years, it opens different doors to the world of dreams and the imagination. The movement became popular after the second Industrial Revolution. The Surrealists would distribute leaflets with the slogan ‘Surrealism is within reach of all who are unconscious’, by which they meant that an artistic gesture could be the driving force of social change.

Coincidence and the hand are the connecting threads that guide us to the Imazighen carpets(2).  The collection presented in Mu.ZEE, most of which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, reflects the imagination and weaving skills of women in the context of artisanal production. This particular period of Moroccan history is characterised by French colonisation. People tried to make contact with the Berbers and influence the social, economic, political and spiritual realities of the tribes, in all their different aspects and forms. Over the course of the 20th century, a number of socio-economic and technological changes, and those related to rural-urban interrelationships, have influenced the richness of the patterns, colours, symbols and different weaving techniques used, depending on the circumstances and region. In the exhibition, the carpets retain their ambiguous status between traditional product and work of art. They are the result of the manual and spiritual thinking that takes place in the rural Berber heartlands of Morocco. Between the lines of these historical fabrics we find, in addition to technical and aesthetic aspects, an intimate link with female craftsmanship. The realisation of the works is related to countless coincidences and the dynamics linked to a specific economic, social and spiritual context. Within the broader scope of the exhibition, the Imazighen carpets reveal the spontaneous and immediate character with which these women could develop their creativity and means of expression. They were able to transcend the deterministic forces associated with their lives while also acquiring social status as producers. 

Through a multitude of aesthetic and ‘objective coincidences’, the exhibition indirectly reflects the affinity between the Berber carpets and Surrealism, the latter of which differed from other avant-garde movements in that it never adopted the paradigm of progress and technology as a doctrine. The cadavres exquis are the result of a lengthy correspondence between the two exhibitors. Like the carpets and the wider Imazighen culture, the written exchange is a loose collection of notes that tells several stories. The exhibition Tiwtmin timazighin brings together two simultaneous historical events from different perspectives: the interwar years in Europe and the colonisation of Morocco. The dialogue between a historical Berber collection and the cadavres exquis is an attempt to find the initial spark of creation within the unconscious.

Karima Boudou & Phillip Van den Bossche

(1) Tiwtmin timazighin’ means ‘Berber women’ in the Berber language.
(2) The term ‘Imazighen’ means ‘Berber’. It refers to the indigenous peoples of North Africa, whose presence in the region dates back to 5,000 BCE.





Overview past exhibitions »

16/06/2018 - 04/11/2018