I took a month-long hiatus from Filali Studios as I traveled to the motherland in July. Originally I planned to maximize this trip by visiting family while also working on my art. I planned to visit museums, fill up my sketchbook, and maybe even manage to find an abandoned wall to paint a mural (which is a lot easier to do in Morocco than Florida). That didn’t work out in the end, regrettably. I did… almost nothing art-related in Morocco. Asides from the city-hopping to see different relatives, I barely touched my sketchbook or explored with my camera. Everyone advised I leave even my phone at home because of the high rate of robberies, so the few times I did go out to explore were left undocumented by everything but my memories.
I try not to beat myself up over this. I suppose a positive outcome was that I finally got to relax, and I think it’s important to have periods of time recovering from months of hustle. Doing nothing was blissful. I had time to read books and have conversations with my grandparents, something that doesn’t happen often enough. I went dress-shopping for an upcoming wedding. I got to visit a small town in the mountains and see the waterfalls for the first time. I barely even touched instagram and for once did not have to worry about posting frequently and engaging online. In theory, now that I’m back, I should be revitalized and ready to tackle on the new year under Filali Studios as a result of a prolonged break.
I did record some favorite memories. The day trip to Ouzoud, the small town in the mountains, was breathtaking. Before we visited the waterfall, we ate freshly grilled goat meat (some of the best I’ve ever had). We climbed hundreds of steps as we descended the mountain. I jumped into the cold river and swam close to the waterfall, which towered and roared above us. There were small boats for tourists gliding alongside swimmers, pulled by local men with huge arms. I watched little kids dive off cliffs into the water. I couldn’t look away, but my heart skipped several beats watching these fearless little humans take those leaps. There were sharp rocks in various parts of the bottom, and it’s not like there were lifeguards around. My own two feet were sore and cut up by the time we left (and that was just from swimming), but it was absolutely worth it. I remember standing in the river at one point and just looking around quietly, absorbing my surroundings. It was my first time seeing a natural waterfall, and I was reminded of the grander things in this world. Alongside that, watching the locals go about their business, in their slow-moving town in the mountains, reminded me of the simpler things in life.
To give myself some credit, I kept an open mind towards art whenever I spotted it in Morocco. I discovered that inspiration can hit in the softest and most subtle ways. I let myself linger when looking at certain styles of traditional dresses or architecture, and sometimes caught myself people-watching in the streets. I stopped to stare at the various items sold in marketplaces, mentally noting which items would make interesting subjects for paintings (while resisting the urge to buy everything). I even spotted a few artworks hung up or painted on giant walls, and thankfully I managed to take a picture or two. I think these kinds of methods practiced in everyday life help the artist feel inspired. My Moroccan culture is important to me, and you can bet that there will be more of it incorporated within my art in the future. The last time I visited was at the age of 16, and it was incredibly emotional and eye-opening to be back at 20, looking at the country through a different set of eyes. The land changed in some parts and stayed the same in others, like me. I was not the same person at 16, but there I was revisiting the same cities, same people, same landmarks. It was like reuniting with an old friend, invoking a sense of nostalgia and melancholy. This summer was overall about slowly reviving myself, reflecting on the important things, and counting my blessings.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from my trip: