Maïmouna Guerresi is an Italian-Senegalese multimedia artist whose work invites viewers to transcend the physical and connect with the spiritual world.
Presented as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, two series of Guerresi’s are on display in the Aga Khan Park and the lower-level gallery (tunnel).
Inspired by the complex history of Marrakesh, this portrait series, which is located in the Aga Khan Park, was created during her 2020 artist residency at the Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakesh. The series merges French colonial architectural style with the traditions, culture, and spirituality of Marrakesh.
The Villes Nouvelles (New Towns) were built during French colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century. Located outside the historic walled city centre, the Villes Nouvelles created a cultural and physical division within the city. For this series, Guerresi uses photos of modern architectural developments inspired by the colonial-era Villes Nouvelles design and introduces shadows into the images. These shadows represent the historical and cultural realities of Marrakesh, brought into the present.
"I wanted to fill the void of these sun-drenched urban landscapes by inserting the shadows of hieratic [stylized] human figures, animals, and architectural elements of Islam, understood as spiritual entities returning to reclaim their land."
Inspired by the Seven Saints of Marrakesh, this portrait series, which is located in the lower-level gallery (tunnel), explores how spiritual growth can bring about changes in perspective, breaking down the barriers caused by extreme individualism in today’s world. For centuries, people have been visiting the graves of the Seven Saints to pray for healing and good fortune. Today, a row of seven monuments stand just outside the ancient city walls to commemorate their significance.
The arrangement and colours of the clothing in each portrait refer to the architecture of Marrakesh. This calls attention to how the rejection of individualism leads to a greater connection with one’s environment. The figures evoke a strong sense of spiritual introspection, while the plants they hold point to the wisdom of nature. In this way, the series celebrates the relationship between humanity and the universe.
Maïmouna Guerresi (b. 1951. Vicenza, Italy) works in a hybrid embrace of ancestry from African, Asian and European cultures following her conversion to Islam. Guerresi presents an intimate perspective on human spirituality in relation to mysticism, shedding a new light on community and the soul, heavily influenced by Sufi traditions in Senegal, Sudan, and Morocco. Recurrent metaphors such as milk, light, the hijab, and nature create an awareness of the vital unifying qualities of Islamic spirituality. Her images are delicate narratives with fluid sequencing, an appreciation of shared humanity beyond borders — psychological, cultural, and political.
Guest Curator: Stephanie Radchenko
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