Monthly Archives: November 2017

In Barbary III

Barbary because of Berbers which derives from Barbarians which the Romans got from the Greeks who used it generically as it meant something like blah-blah-blah, designating people who didn’t speak Greek. The Berber population, naturally, wasn’t very pleased with this.
Can’t you name us something different?
No, we shall call you Barbarians.
But we’ll be the laughing stock of your empire. Can’t we be Vandals or something?
I am afraid not. I am really sorry.
Oh, bugger..
St. Augustine was Berber but nobody here knows him.


Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor


Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

Lately I am enjoying making sketches of famous paintings. The first of the above is a detail from a portrait of Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent. It’s not finished yet, but I am afraid I am going to bungle it, so I have uploaded an as of yet unfinished version of it. The second is the famous Wanker above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich. It is ubiquitously used now on the internet by creators of YouTube content who want to convey some concept of existential dread. I know because I watch tons of videos on existential dread.
Caspar David Friedrich was a German painter of a particularly depressive disposition, though his work was of an ethereal if haunting beauty and he is now regarded as the most important German artist of his time. Unfortunately, he didn’t end very well and he was described as ‘half mad’ when he died. A portrait of him by Gerhard von Kügelgen (see Wikipedia) seems to intimate this characteristic accurately, I mean, you don’t want to give this man an axe.

The hotel where I stay has a café on the ground floor with a television in the corner. When it is on it forever shows football matches to an exclusively male audience who are smoking acrid smelling cigarettes. It is very depressing and I never sit inside. And I don’t know why they never show anything else but football. No films, no nature documentaries. Just football. I suspect they are bewildered by the green grass…


In Barbary II

According to a BBC article, king Mohammed VI has urged all mosques in the country to pray for rain, as he said it: to implore the Almighty to spread his benevolent rains on the earth. There’s been a bit of a drought here and it’s affecting agriculture in a bad way. About 40 percent of Moroccans still work in agriculture and many of them have become unemployed. When I heard about the problem I thought the government should encourage more Aldi and Lidl supermarkets to open shop because they sell bread for a very low price. All those people that still work in agriculture then have to think of something else. Maybe they could make YouTube videos about em… goats…. or cauliflowers?


My new masterwork featuring Adele, by Gustav Klimt.

This time I made a thin sketch with pencil before I applied the watercolours and I only painted roughly one twelfth of the original work because the rest I found rather boring. Besides, I don’t have that much yellow for the gold that Klimt used for the grandiose background  The original painting has a long history before it was finally sold in 2006 for 135 million dollar. You can read all about it on the internet. As you might have imagined.

Klimt was an interesting character. He wrote: I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am  in other people, above all women… There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night…

Nothing special except maybe that when at home he normally wore sandals and voluminous caftans with nothing underneath. He was a womanizer and even though he never married, fourteen potential heirs showed up after his death, which was hastened by, not surprisingly, syphilis. He was only 55 years old.

In the picture of him that illustrates the Wikipedia article he shows an uncanny resemblance with the grocer here in Azrou who supplies me with eggs and cheese.

Well, off to do some praying…. fancy some nice sunshine….

In Barbary

Still somewhere in the Middle Atlas.

Some time ago I visited nearby Ifrane National Park which is known for its Barbary macaques and cedar trees. I had joined a Dutch couple and their guide. We passed several picnic areas that were, as is common in developing countries, badly polluted. Reading about the National Park I learned that one of the goals of the park was creating awareness. It is badly needed.
Some of the cedars were huge. At a car park an enormous dead tree was still standing and there were many monkeys begging for food. Later, when we walked through the forest, we spotted another group of macaques but the animals scattered upon our approach. Clearly a group that was less used to people.

Every evening I buy fruit at a small stand not far from my hotel. One evening when I had bought more than usual, the boy got his calculator out and started a summation that resulted in an unexpected number. Then he looked at me and said: seize dirham. When I asked him about the calculation he explained that many people still use rials instead of dirhams. There are twenty rials in one dirham. He works out the calculation in  rials and then converts it to dirhams.

On the way back I passed the square and one of the dishevelled homeless people  was giving directions to a landing spacecraft that was invisible to anyone else. It is one of the regulars who is easily identifiable by the smell of glue.

On Independence day there was another little ceremony with exercising military and the raising of flags. Very endearing. After that the officers came to the café to drink coffee and smoke.

I decided to start painting again:


Berber woman pouring milk

Not my best painting ever, but it was nice to practice with the watercolours that I had bought in Fez. It was a small set for children that had only cost me 10 dirham which amounted to less than one euro. The original of the above picture is called The Milkmaid and was painted by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer in 17th century Delft. It works miracles with the incoming light but his paint was quite a lot more expensive than  mine. For this painting he used ultramarine (made from lapis lazuli, a semi precious stone) which, at the time, cost a fortune and even though the resulting work was beautiful, he left his family in debt when he died. Not only were his pigments very expensive, he was a slow worker and did  only about three paintings a year. It probably didn’t help much either that he had fathered not fewer than 15 children during his short life…

On the terrace of the hotel I drink coffee. Not far from me sits a man alone at a table who talks very expressively, as if to convince somebody, only there is nobody there. He doesn’t drink anything but he is tolerated. The glue sniffer staggers by, he is dazed, he stinks and the waiters make him go away. Not much later a vagabond with a sad smile greets me in French. I always give him a few coins. He has an open, smiling face. Then the call for prayer and I order an other coffee.