Edition 2006

MALIK NEJMI

el Maghreb

“Malik Nejmi is a miracle among photographers: his approach, framing, technique, distance - everything’s faultless. A great subject, the right spirit, competence, talent, a clear gift for empathy and a concern with good groundwork. And he brings all that to something that’s really a core issue in our shared culture. It’s great news that he got the Kodak Prize and I’m just delighted.”
Raymond Depardon
 
El Maghreb
One day, I showed my father some of my photographs: his mother’s grave and a portrait of his sisters, in Rabat. He simply said: “I’ve understood”. And I took that as a token of love. The pictures took him back home. My work on Morocco has been done in a transitory space, stretching both ways, over three return trips: Images d’un retour au pays (2001), Ramadans (2004), Bâ oua sâlam (2005). It is a sort of declaration of love to the country, as if it were a fraternal figure, where only the necessity of leaving to squeeze this body to my chest can still give me the desire to make pictures. This project is firstly a look at my own family, who are now the protagonists of a photographic story. I searched for the final shot, even cutting myself off from time, being outside of time, even leaving my body. The final shot which on one hand contained the family secret and which on the other would be wrenched from the voices of Moroccans who seemed to have departed their bodies, or from the words of Hocine, who bore the marks of his underground experience, when he told me about “being lucky…”. All I saw was a black hole, reality’s affront to the imaginative realm. I walked around, looking for the final shot, as if to create a link with the reason for my visits. And I learnt to make images… Migration made it necessary to continue social relationships with the place of origin and beyond it. My father refused to return to Morocco, but the family history was drawing his son back. So it was up to me to recreate the link. At that point I realized that my work would question memory, places, feelings, complexity of being separated from his country, and each person’s experience of the affective link with our family. I realized I would have to go further than simply stating the “official” story of immigration and talk about the ghorba, the isolation and loneliness of a country that has split from its social imaginative realm, and recontextualise the unchanging image of “the Arab” who dreams of going away. My pictures are not part of a terrible human drama “shot on the hoof”. They bespeak the depression which is clouding Moroccan youth and also impacting on contemporary migration issues - and they even emphasize the tension of action, the moment where spaces cross over, lay over one another and react. The tragedy is elsewhere: it is the “white” Africa, wounded by the fiction of the Protectorate.1 My purpose, in essence, was to photograph Morocco in order to unframe France. Because neither my identity nor my story gives me any choice: I am at once stateless and nostalgic. Rereading my family album, then experiencing documents, the notes stuck on the back of pictures, and discovering my father’s first passport, enabled me to collate the timecharacter of different events in our life. My photographs follow on from representations of our life experience, they show the reforming of a spiritual story, a story whose hero - my father - reappears at the surface of the image in his duration. When my father writes el Maghreb, to him it means “back home”. The term Al Maghrib al-Aqsâ means “the distant West”, i.e., today, the suburbs of Europe.
Malik Nejmi

Exhibition produced by The Rencontres d’Arles and supported by laboratoire Dupon. 1. Expressions by Vincent Monteil in Maroc, Seuil, Petite Planète Collection, 1984.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture