Topic: symbolism

Moorish revival

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I never heard of Moorish revival architecture until I saw the Bloomingdale’s home store in Chicago. It is housed in a restored Masonic temple built by architects Huehl and Schmidt in 1912 for the Shriners. More


Everything is Three

I’ve been thinking about the number three lately. Not unusual if you consider how much three pops-up in our collective psyche: three cheers; red, yellow, green; the Holy Trinity; birth, life, death; three primary colors. Three expresses the tripartite wholeness of our universe. We instinctively recognize it. Three is a group. Less is nothing much really and more than three is excessive or redundant. More


The Spider

fes-231-spider

“This pattern is called ‘The Spider’” our guide said excitedly while gesturing towards a zillige-covered wall. “The Prophet Mohammad was hiding in a cave from his enemies when a spider came and built a web over the entrance. His enemies believed he couldn’t be in the cave because the web was unbroken. This is why it is haram (forbidden) to kill spiders and why this pattern is called named after the spider.”

The Story of the Spider


Holes in the Walls

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I found myself in a SUV driven by an American who was touring Morocco with his girlfriend from Chezh Republic. I assumed they were married and asked how long. “They aren’t married” my tour guide whispered “that’s why he laughed when you asked the question.”

We talked as we drove towards the Merinid tombs. “Moroccans sure like their walls, don’t they?” the man asked rhetorically. “They have walls around nothing. He told me” the American said in reference to our guide “that the holes in the walls are for birds.”

Holes in the Walls


Phoenician Sailors

Restinga Beach

Sitting on the beach in Restinga looking at the Mediterranean I imagine Phoenicians sailing their galley ships across from Lebanon to Morocco. The oarsmen could rest on a windy day like today as they sailed their ship westward towards Tingis, modern day Tangiers.

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Fantasia

fantasia 063

On our way to a friend’s house in Ain Atiq, we happened upon a fantasia. It was a competitive tournament, not a regular tourist attraction, so I felt lucky that we were able to witness it.

More from the fantasia


The Door-knocker Tour

Hamsa door-knockerHand of the Virgin

The guide, a man of about 20, at the entrance to kasbah was lying. He told me the café didn’t open until 6pm. It is in fact open from sunrise to sunset. But, I had a few hours to kill while waiting to meet with some friends and little else to do for a distraction as most shops were closed for lunch. I decided to follow him, interested in what he would show, tell, and expect from us at the end. He showed me his national identity card in lieu of a guide license. It showed was that he was a resident of Oudaya.

Guided Tour of Oudaya


Moroccan Mosaics: The Art of Zillij

fountain in fes

Once you see a Moroccan zillij masterpiece, you can spot the style anywhere. It is an art form that has been practiced for a thousand years. It is a unique specialization of Morocco and continues to thrive in Moroccan society within a contemporary creative framework.

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Walls That Don’t Surround: The Story of Two

archway at intersection

In Hay Riad, Rabat, there is a street that has new government buildings, including the wedge-shaped Institute for Amizigh Culture. At the end of this street is a gateway, an arched transition. I cannot read the Arabic mixed with the geometric ornament on the gate’s façade. But I know what the doorway represents. It calls attention to the action of coming and going, one and two, moving between the square (worldly) and circular (perfect).

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The Color of Fes

plaster work in the Fes Medina

My guide tells me that the color of Fes is blue, but I say its grey. The color of Fes is grey like the clay used to make Fasi pottery and tiles; the grey of pollution and plaster work; it is the grey of the crumbling medina walls. It is a particular shade of grey that is more a complex taupe than a simple mixture of black and white. The color of Fes is the color of creative inspiration. With 50,000 artisans and 15% of the population working in the craft trade, Fes is a specialized source of human creative energy. It is amazing what can be made with Fasi grey.

The color of Fes


Amazigh (Berber) Textiles

berber women in Rif

Driving from Fes to Ifrane, I spotted patches of red amongst a green patch of land. On closer inspection, I realized there were Berber women gathered dying wool in the shallow river-bed. As we drove, I saw some women running towards buses. They carried buckets overflowing with red, freshly-died yarn. I wanted to take their picture, but felt unsure about invading the moment with a camera. To be a good photographer, I suppose you must be invasive. The sight of the women and the red yarn in the green riverbed is a picture I continue to wish I had taken.

Berbers in Morocco


Easter, Equinox, and Archetypes

storm drain

The sign on the door of Chipotle read “Easter or Equinox, either way we’re closed.” It seemed a good summary of the day. On Easter morning my two year old daughter found her basket, decorated with flowers and filled with chocolate eggs and marshmallow chicks. Once she was high on a sugar buzz, I had to take her out of the house. We went to the national zoo in Washington, DC. I found myself surrounding by archetypal shapes. She played with park benches, birds, berries, and rocks. I snapped photos of hexagon tile pavers, storm drains, and sewers. Neither one of us gave much attention to the animals and we both had fun.

Photos from the National Zoo


Resources: Roots Moroccan of Geometric Art

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“Homage to Pythagoras” by Marion Drennen www.quantumconnectionsart.blogspot.com

I have found myself neck deep in Pythagorean theory, which is interesting since Pythagoras didn’t write anything. I got here by researching the origins of zillij. I’m researching connections between astronomy, Pythagoras, Sufism, and Islamic ornamentation.

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Origins and Meanings of the Eight-Point Star

khatim

The shape that most clearly represents Morocco in my mind’s eye is the eight-point star. It is a simple shape made by overlapping two squares. The hard-edged lines make it indicative of Moroccan patterns, which are known for their use of straight lines in contrast to the curvilinear arabesque of the Middle East. It has a feel that is both modern and ancient. What is the meaning behind this particular shape and what does it represent? (Note: this article was revised on March 24, 2008)

Read more about the eight-point star


Do and Support the Work You Love: Reflections on an Interview with a Morocan Artisan

What can an American web designer learn from a Moroccan pottery-maker? To do and support the work you love.

Read: Reflections on an Interview with a Moroccan Artisan


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