Moroccan artist ‘empowering’ rural communities awarded African art prize


The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize, designed to elevate the work of contemporary African artists, has found its latest artist to thrust into the spotlight.

Inspired by Moroccan architecture and created using local textile workshops, “Portal #1” by Amina Agueznay was chosen as the winner for this year’s edition of the art prize, from a total of 27 nominees.

“I am over the moon and honoured more than anything else,” Agueznay told CNN, who put a modern spin on traditional Moroccan patterns in her artwork.

The work drew inspiration from patterns etched into doors found in southern Morocco, explained the artist.

These designs were spotted by Agueznay when she visited the ksar, a fortified village, in the town of Tissekmoudine.

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South African judge, Ashraf Jamal, said in a press release: “After hours of deep reflection the jury stayed true to the greater goal of the prize – the choice of an artist with an enduring vision of the lives and triumphs of women of the African desert.”

The Moroccan artist was invited to the ksar as architect Salima Naji was renovating its structure.

It was here that she was introduced to local berber women who would go on to weave Agueznay’s design with wool and palm tree husks from nearby oases.

“Working with these women, this human dimension is super important for me. I basically wanted to bring the architecture inside my project, as I used to be an architect,” Agueznay said.

The context of how it was created was crucial for the artist.

“The work you see is very graphic, there’s a jagged edge motif that you generally find in rugs in Morocco. But for me, what’s more important is the process, the stories behind (how) this work is made,” she said.

Agueznay, who is represented by the Loft Art Gallery in Casablanca, also said that her own modifications of the weaving were part of what made this work contemporary.

The Moroccan felt that the prize not only helped her, but the community she has worked with and others that she plans to in the future.

“This prize is going to enable me to continue my work. Beyond the recognition it will enable me to continue to empower other communities,” she said.

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