• Zoltan Alexander

nº52 / 1:54 MARRAKESH 2020 / PART-III

What is inside La Mamounia? Interviews, reviews and the most prominent artists, art galleries of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakesh 2020. The third and last part of our journey.

Review by Zoltan Alexander



Interviews and featured galleries, artists by Zoltan Alexander

Interview with Xander Pratt (Marrakesh/Accra) at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Marrakesh, filmed at The Source Marrakesh

Followed by Jean-David Nkot (Douala) and Florian Azzopardi at Afikaris (Paris), Yagor Yahaut at LouiSimone Guirandou Gallery (Abidjan), Mounir Fatmi at Goodman Gallery (London, Johannesburg, Cape Town), Fabrice Monteiro (Dakar), Malick Sidibé (Paris) and Omar Victor Diop (Dakar) at Galerie Magnin-A (Paris), Lakin Ogunbanwo at Whatiftheworld Gallery (Cape Town, Johannesburg), Youssef Nabil at Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, Bruxelles), Quattara Watts at Galerie Cecile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Dakar, Paris), Prince Gyasi (Accra) at Galerie Nil (Paris) and Artsi Ifrach of ARTSIMOUS at Maison ARTC (Marrakesh)

Other artists and galleries are featured in PART I. and PART II.

1:54 Marrakesh 2020 / © video by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA


The biggest fear is to be who you are” as Artsi Ifrach of Maison ARTC once put it during our many telephone conversations. His words are still echoing as I am entering the third month lockdown in London. In this slow-mo procedure I just realised that I keep coming back to my long-finished article changing words and images, probably trying not to finish it, not wanting to let it go, just treasuring my last virus-free journey for another day.


Who thought that it would have such an impact and inspiration? Who could have imagined in February that the entire world would shut down, that the New York edition of 1:54 would be cancelled or the London edition in October would still remain in question? Whatever happens next, one thing is certain, Marrakesh remains a wildly respected international art hub, thanks to founder Touria El Glaoui of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. The annual event is unquestionably a diverse and vibrant international art fair portraying the multitude of contemporary art and artists of Africa and its diaspora.

In PART I. and PART II. I visited many satellite exhibitions throughout Marrakesh, in PART III. I will be focusing on artists and galleries exhibited at La Mamounia with two exceptions; the inspirational Artsi Ifrach of Maison ARTC and musician Xander Pratt from Accra, who invited me for private walk in his heavenly garden in Marrakesh.

La Mamounia - Courtyard / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
La Mamounia / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

1:54 is traditionally held at La Mamounia palace, a jewel of Arab-Andalusian architecture, renovated by Jacques Garcia, and widely spread via satellite exhibitions throughout the city.

In 2020, the third edition of the Art Fair started days before its public opening with preview days and private dinners allowing art collectors, curators and journalists to meet and engage in a conversation with exhibiting artists and galleries. Unlike other art fairs - maybe due to its size - in Marrakesh everyone talks to the other, the interaction is extraordinary and the mood is very relaxed. Marrakesh offers a full scene mixing a strong spirit of celebration and elegance, very different from London or New York.

Nathalie Yacob / La Mamounia

Jack Lang / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

For the opening ceremony, friends and professionals flew in from the four corners of the world, many from Africa, London, Paris and New York including:

Gallery director Jay Joplin, White Cube (London), collector/entrepreneur Vanessa Branson (London), former French Cultural Minister Jack Lang (Paris), actress Nathalie Yacob (Vienna), designer Fadila el Gadi (Marrakesh), musician Xander Pratt (Accra), writer Talima Taha (New York) and director of Musée YSL Madison Cox (Tangier, New York).

Marrakesh is a gem and many Europeans have already moved here to enjoy its rich culture and beautiful people, among them photographer Serge Lutens, Paloma Picasso, politician Jack Lang and Stanley Kubrick's beloved actress Marisa Berenson who just a few days back celebrated her birthday in her recently finished sumptuous villa of a Thousand and One Nights at La Palmeraie.

Marisa Berenson

At La Palmeraie, there is also a hidden palace, the Hotel Mandarin Oriental, where musician Xander Pratt exhibited his photographic series the “Essence of Africa”.

Xander Pratt


A solo exhibition presenting the works of Xander Pratt.

Just like artist, photographer Prince Gyasi, Pratt comes from Accra, Ghana, he grew up in Zimbabwe and he is currently living and working in Marrakesh.

Pratt explored and evolved his artistic career in Australia and subsequently moved to Morocco to further progress his artistic ideas and inspire the youth through captivating visual projects. Pratt is a brand himself combining music, fashion and art. The philosophy behind his style and expression is based on creating a bond between imagination and reality, showing that it's not our bodies and skin that make us different from each other, it's our mind that sets us apart.

His spirit gave birth to the idea of “Essence of Africa”, a photographic series of portraying himself in perfect harmony and synchronicity with nature. The Hotel Mandarin Oriental ensured full access to Pratt for the project, he formed a creative collaboration with photographer Youness Hamiddine and fused his ideas into the architecture and the hotel’s magic garden.

“Essence of Africa” is the essence of being; the divine truth that connects all that is: a true journey through introspection. We are separated by light, colour and perception. It is a calling: a calling back to self, back to the source. Within this source, we harness the ability to control circumstance. There can be no power without humility, as there can be no humility without understanding.”

Multicolor” - one of his photographic images - for me represents the fusion of Human Essence, the harmony and synchronicity of a unified purpose. Accepting cultures, religions, race, and all tools that have previously been used to mute the symphony of humanity. The deeper we go, the higher we rise.”

Xander Pratt / Photo © Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
Xander Pratt / Photo © Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

“Gold” - another exhibited work - represents Strength and Perseverance, the ability to wear resilience as an armour, paving a path forward even within the darkest places. Remembering not to forget the light that enables us to break free from a keyless lock and all the invisible chains that attempt to hold us back from our inherent desire to progress.”

“Each image represents alternate parts within sacred states in us all: an energy that lays dormant, waiting to erupt into its true nature. The essence cannot be touched or heard, but felt through the valleys that unify the energy of these twelve images. In essence, connection to the roots is vital to keep the tree growing.”


Zoltan Alexander talks to musician Xander Pratt in Marrakesh about his latest photographic installation of the “Essence of Africa”, exhibited at the Hotel Mandarin Oriental.

They spent an afternoon together, wondering around the magic garden of The Source Marrakesh, talking about life, art, supporting mothers and the unpredictable future. As a surprise, Xander Pratt performed a song from his upcoming album before Cecila Bartoli took over. The Faun was awakened in Marrakesh.

Duration: 20min40"

Director: Zoltan Alexander

Featured Artist: Xander Pratt / Marrakesh

Language: English

· 1st UNIT / interview

Location: The Source, Marrakesh

Camera: Tarik Mounim

Camera: Xander Pratt

· 2nd UNIT / music video

Location: The Medina, Marrakesh

Camera: Badr Dean

Music: Xander Pratt

· 3rd UNIT / still photography

Location: Hotel Mandarin Oriental Marrakesh

Photographer: Youness Hamiddine

Art Director: Xander Pratt

Assistant Lighting: Yuru Light of Tar Tar Colors

Designers: Jamila Diani, The Moroccans

Photographic Archives: Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group


Post-production & Video Editor: Mr Skok of George Smoog

Sound Editor: Mr Skok of George Smoog

Music (intro casino-mix): Zoltan Alexander

Music (live performance) & (music video): Xander Pratt

Music (Mozart / Laudate Dominum): Cecilia Bartoli

Music Arrangement: ZOLTAN+MEDIA London

Resolution: HD full screen

Production: © ZOLTAN+MEDIA London


I started the following day with a breakfast meeting, organised by 1:54 for the press and VIP, in the sumptuous garden of La Mamounia under the shades of palm trees. It is always a great place to meet artists and friends. When my guest arrived we entered the dedicated wing to visit the Art Fair and this is what we found.

Jean-David Nkot / Photo © Courtesy of Galerie AFIKARIS


A solo exhibition presenting the works of Jean-David Nkot.

Our first-choice was AFIKARIS, a Paris-based gallery under the direction of Florian Azzopardi, a new name to remember on the map of contemporary art. Son of an antique seller, Azzopardi grew up in the art world and started working as a consultant for an African e-commerce company. He travelled around to discover emerging artists mostly in Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Morocco and ended up collecting their works. In 2018, he decided to conciliate his passion for art and Africa and launched AFIKARIS.

His vision to become a reference gallery for contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora came true. AFIKARIS focuses on supporting artists who live on the continent both well-established and not yet discovered. The gallery, which operates online and from its private gallery space in Paris (by appointment only), is active all around the world due to international art fairs and travelling exhibitions. Later this year, Jean David Nkot's work will be presented at 1:54 New York and 1:54 London in October.

Jean David Nkot is a promising new artist from Douala, Cameroon. He has already shown his work at 1:54 London, at AKAA in Paris but in Marrakesh, it is his first time. The "Moving Frontiers" program has been an important evolution of his work opening the doors to one of the most important residences of his career at La Cité Internationale des Arts. It gave birth to his project "The undesirables" followed by a new series "The Shadows of Space" is currently showing in Marrakech asking the question of the identity of the person in exile.

Jean-David Nkot / Photo © Courtesy of Galerie AFIKARIS

Knot paints from photographs of people in his neighbourhood. "For me, working from a photo gives me the possibility of continuing to observe my subjects, long after their departure because it is the only way I could still have a connection with them. The photo sessions result from long discussions in groups or in private. It is in these moments of intimacy and sharing when everyone talks about their dreams, their projects, what they want to do or how much they would like to travel to Europe although these trips have not always turned up as they have imagined."

In his pictures, Knot employs two very different styles. In his figurative paintings, he portrays young workers on a cartographic background wearing a construction helmet, a safety vest on the background map. His large figurative paintings are linked to the smaller format paintings, bordering on an abstraction of an imaginary city covering portraits of young workers attempting trans-African migration.