Kunstmuseum aan zee Collecties van
de Vlaamse Gemeenschap
Stad Oostende


M’barek Bouhchichi - FIELD SONG/AMARG N IGRAN

It is not the end of poetry on this earth. Poetry will continue because the earth, which we share and which shares us, is continuing its story.

M’barek Bouhchichi


The solo exhibition of M’barek Bouhchichi at Mu.ZEE fits in the context of the work conducted by the artist on the poet and musician M’barek Ben Zida. In FIELD SONG/AMARG N IGRAN, Bouhchichi displays a writing that impresses. The exhibition brings together a selection of new works that refer to autonomous stories through a musical and improvised narration. Presented in the context of the museum, they suggest a play on distance and proximity between the artist and Ben Zida related to his thought and his poetry, their dialogue being accompanied by a conceptual game of correspondences between their personal trajectories. The works on show are therefore linked to observations, to the transcription of thoughts, to poetry and music in a non-linear bias.


Imdyazen #2 are Imdyazen #3 (2018) are two sets whose titles evoke the Imdyazen, ‘a corporation of itinerant poets and actors … established exclusively in the rural environment where Shilha is spoken, one of the three Berber languages in use in Morocco’. Imdyazen #2 consists of seven sticks that invoke artisanal materials such as wood, tin and copper. Parts of the work feature fragments of poetry engraved on their surface using the Tifinagh script – oscillating between technique and materiality, between words and forms. The lines suggested by the artist are more irregular and escape a certain form of verticality. The second work, titled Imdyazen #3, consists of 13 sticks whose upper part is covered in yellow copper and whose lower part is covered in red copper. Laid out vertically in the exhibition space, they bring to mind the posture of musicians. The artist thereby displays two rhythmic narrative frameworks. Some suggested lines are straight while others intertwine with one another and it becomes impossible to locate a rational vanishing point. The exhibition is a way of inhabiting the space without inhabiting it, this postulate alluding to speech, to the expression as an individual from the interior towards the exterior. This momentum also unfolds inversely as an individual who receives a wealth of information. In that, Bouhchichi indirectly invokes the position adopted by David Hammons and clarified during an exhibition in Bern in 1993, with his wish to frustrate the ideology of the museum as a receptacle of information of a certain cultural specificity (African-American, Berber). The underlying weight of words in the work of these two artists induces a chameleon-like conceptual game with signs pointing to easily identifiable cultural referents, but which nevertheless deliver a literal, ramified, even scathing message. In Imdyazen #2 and Imdyazen #3, the artist alludes to the weight of words in Berber culture as they literally become engraved in the work. In line with these questions, these works refer to the importance of aural memory, to poetry as a space of hope, of speech and protest (M’barek Ben Zida, Audre Lorde).


Dating from 2018, Joute poétique #1 and Joute poétique #2 (Poetic joust) are each composed of a light, detachable wooden structure covered with several pieces of copper in which fragments of poetry have been engraved using the Tifinagh script. The lines were inspired by Berber carpets, the work thereby becoming a representation of ‘a flexible visual musicality’, according to the artist. The improvisation they induce displays dualities and an encounter between different lines. The message hidden between the lines bears on poetry as an art and as a free form of culture. Thus, as in the exhibition, it is an improvised music score with a musical movement that Bouhchichi has arranged at Mu.ZEE by means of free, adjustable forms.

Igr / le champ (Igr / The field) is a work composed of two structures in assembled wood that each represent a dual sequence of lines made up of irregular horizontal sticks, whose process and technique echo the works Imdyazen #2 and Imdyazen #3. The work carried out by M’barek Bouhchichi resonates with the approach adopted by the linguist and anthropologist Hassan Jouad. He has sought to analyse and record the corpuses of oral traditions in Morocco, having carried out sound recordings since 1969. In Les Imdyazen, une voix de l'intellectualité rurale (The Imdyazen, a voice of the rural intellectuality), Jouad asserts that ‘there is no tradition of teaching, in any form whatsoever, no organized transmission’ among the Imdyazen. He continues: ‘When a man feels that he has a certain gift for poetic speech, he goes in search of a patron saint. He sets out on the pilgrimage to the tombs of the saints renowned for revealing vocations. There are some for poetry just as there are some for any trade containing a certain mystery: clairvoyant, healer, master of savant animals or snake charmer.’ Bouhchichi and Jouad remind us that the materialization of the voice and of the discourse, their transmission and permanence in time and space refer to a space that is both real but also symbolic and dream-like.


The fourth thread of the exhibition narrative gravitates around Je suis une langue et pour l’éternité gravée sur une pierre, nul vent n’a pu m’effacer (I am a language and engraved forever on a stone, no wind has been able to erase me). Dating from 2018, it is a work that is based on a quote from the Amazigh activist Ouzzin Aherdan. It takes the shape of stones, some of which are black and come from different places of the region of Tata: Agoujgal (the place of birth of the poet), Ighrem (the place where Ben Zida had his poetic revelation), Akka and other villages in this region. This area is home to the largest site of rock engravings of the region and its connections with prehistoric times are still visible. The stones presented in the exhibition have been divided into two parts, their respective sides being covered in fine strips of copper. In the context of the exhibition, they have been juxtaposed and rearranged with copper wires that reconnect the two parts of the stones, thereby bringing about a mirror-like game and a conceptual correspondence that has been rethought and reconnected. Thus, just like poetry, the elements of Je suis une langue et pour l’éternité gravée sur une pierre, nul vent n’a pu m’effacer are agents that express a form of persistence and literality.


Lastly, the 2018 work Ilssawen wchemnin / langues tatouées (Ilssawen wchemnin / Tattooed languages) consists of two elements that refer to language and to the work tool that is the shovel. Two texts are engraved on each of these ‘tattooed languages’. They come from a dialogue and confrontation between Lhaj Abed O’Hammou and M’barek O’Messaoud. Ben Zida changed his name by taking his mother’s family name (Zida) in order to evade the lineage and discrimination linked to his family history and to his father’s skin colour. O'Hammou is one of Ben Zida’s detractors, who believes that the latter cannot legitimately claim the status of poet and that he should return to manual labour and to the corporations linked to his condition. Ben Zida responds virulently. The story of Ben Zida is that of a poet, a musician, a bricklayer and tenant farmer. He exemplifies the subjectivity of a free electron within a social system in which the practice of poetry is codified and governed by systems of thought and procedure. Some works in the exhibition thus refer indirectly to the labourers from the south of Morocco who work on materials such as copper and metal, an activity that evokes a corporation associated with the Haratin, Moroccan Berbers and descendants of black slaves. The works are annotations that refer to the question of the social status of the poet and musician: an attempt was made to strip Ben Zida of this status but he regained it with his art and his music. During the different representations of the Imdyazen in the villages, there is a reference to a passage from poetry to music, these elements themselves being linked to the earth (igran/the fields). Indeed, these are seasonal poets who work from the spring until harvest time. The element of the poetic text in Tamazight is incorporated and circulates freely in the works presented in the exhibition FIELD SONG/AMARG N IGRAN.


The artist explores this conceptual game attached to a form of cultural specificity that is itself linked to the racial question, in particular through the connection between the form, the title of the works and the more general context in which Bouhchichi wishes to inscribe and display his work and his thoughts. Thus, symbols are also used directly in this, and the material support of the meaning collides with the meaning itself. Hammons speaks of ‘signifyin’ instead of ‘signifying’, adding to this equation the weight of words in African American culture with slang used by this community in this specific context. Double meanings, words and poetry are inscribed in several free and transitory reading frames, similar to the repetitive songs and movements of the Imdyazen. Through historical and contemporary allusions, the work of M’barek Bouhchichi on show at Mu.ZEE approaches the figure of the poet as a legacy but also as a transhistorical discussion guided by artistic, political, personal, cultural and poetic affinities.


Phillip Van den Bossche, Karima Boudou



M’barek Bouhchichi (b. 1975, Akka) is an artist who lives and works in Tahanaout in Morocco. He has taught art since the mid 1990s, first in Tiznit and today in Tahanaout. From the transcription of research into hollow and full spaces, from the colour to the gesture that composes, his beginnings as an abstract painter anticipate his current work. His works propose a dual reading that rests on that of the artist which is personal and a reading that is guided by thoughts that are open to being shared and interpreted. Through installations, paintings, drawings and videos, M’barek Bouhchichi gives shape to modes of expression that move from the individual discourse towards broader social, poetic and historic systems. The red thread of his works is an individual voice that enables a re-writing of the self. It is a thought process unfolding in acts that the artist signifies with comings and goings between the idea and the experience of the work. His recent work on the poet and musician Amazigh M’barek Ben Zida is in line with these questions. Through different free systems of correspondences, Bouhchichi maintains a dialogue that is both intimate and distant with Ben Zida, between form and language, poetry and history. Music, poetry and art act like catalysts that make it possible to avoid or to go beyond social and racial determinisms. Ben Zida and Bouhchichi leave open the question as to whether the musician, the poet and the artist can go beyond the cultural specificity to turn it into a conceptual game and a tool for speaking out in this world.


M’barek Bouhchichi has taken part in exhibitions, biennials and conferences in Morocco and abroad. His recent exhibitions include: Dak’art, 13th edition of the Biennial of Contemporary African Art (Dakar, 2018); Documents bilingues (MUCEM, Marseille, 2017); Between Walls (Le 18, Marrakech, 2017); Les mains noires (Kulte, Rabat, 2016).

Overview past exhibitions »

16/06/2018 - 04/11/2018