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Jarracharra: The Winds of the Dry Season Blow Over Rabat

Abla Ababou Gallery is at the crossroads of co-operation and co-culture, this time in collaboration with the Australian Embassy in Morocco displaying the Jarracharra exhibition from September 14th to October 1st in Rabat. The result? A splendid Moroccan Caftan made with Australian Indigenous fabrics and prospects of Australian-Moroccan cooperation.

Jarracharra, the winds of the dry season exhibition, sprinkled some fairy dust on Rabat, last Wednesday. The Australian Embassy in Morocco, in partnership with Abla Ababou gallery, immersed the cultural capital of Africa momentarily into the picturesque universe of Indigenous culture. This exhibition features vibrant Indigenous fabrics hand-printed by Indigenous women from Maningrida, giving free rein to their creativity, immortalizing ancestral stories of the Maningrida people and granting them full control over their financial future. Channeling their inner artist, these Indigenous women connected at the Bábbarra Women Center in the community of Maningrida in Australia, where they apply themselves daily to design, print, and sell artwork that holds significant meaning for these Aboriginal women. As Janet Marawarr, artist at Bábbarra Women Center, stated: “My designs, they are all alive living up in my head.”

In a festive atmosphere, art lovers from all walks of life, diplomats, artists, journalists, and more, made an appearance at the entrance of Abla Ababou gallery, excited to make their first point of contact with the beauty of Indigenous textile designs. Not much time passed by until the gallery was chock-full with visitors eyes wide with admiration and wonder as they skim over the hand-printed fabrics, stopping ever so often at every detail. Mr Michael Cutts, Ambassador of Australia to Morocco, did not miss the opportunity to talk about Jarracharra’s history, purpose, and relevance to the Moroccan context, with the crowd hanging on to his every word. The Ambassador expressed his enthusiasm to be exhibiting Jarracharra in Rabat. “I am very pleased to bring this exhibition here to start the process of letting the Moroccan people know about Australian culture. Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest continuous living cultures in the world, 65 000 years old, from the African continent that they came across to the Australian continent and the Torres Strait Islands”, says Mr Michael Cutts. The Ambassador went on to add that the purpose of this exhibition was to debunk the stereotypes about Morocco and Australia. “So, there are a lot of stereotypes between these two countries. When I go around everyone knows the Sydney Opera house, Koalas, Kangaroos, and that is fine, and also on the Australian side, they think of Marrakech, tourism, and textile artisanal things.”

One cannot help but notice the striking resemblance between the Indigenous textile designs, in their originality, liveliness, and pigmentation, and the Amazigh and sub-Saharan African textile artwork. Not lost on the Australian Embassy, this observed similitude of Indigenous cultures culminated in the brilliant idea to design a Caftan, Moroccan traditional dress, using one of the Indigenous fabrics hand-printed by the Aboriginal women of Maningrida. Yasmina Dadi, Moroccan stylist, was up for the challenge and spoke enthusiastically and appreciatively of this once in a lifetime experience stating: “When I was asked to work on the Caftan, I said to myself that it would be difficult. But as it is made of  great quality of cotton fabric, I could work it very well, I had no problem neither in the cutting nor in the sewing”, adding: “ I am very pleased because I discovered a world, I discovered the Aboriginal art and I am also thrilled to be the link between Moroccan crafts and Australian Indigenous crafts.” Yasmina Dadi was proudly displaying her creation, worn by one of the Australian Embassy staff, a beautiful black, green and gold Caftan with a traditional Moroccan cut adorned with a golden belt (mdama) and embroidered with braids. The stylist was especially grateful for what she describes as an adventure.

Bringing Jarracharra to Morocco was not done arbitrarily for it bears much significance on the depth of Australian-Moroccan cultural cooperation and exchange. This exhibition, and the collaboration it resulted in that tastefully merged Moroccan and Australian cultures and traditions, are indicative of the deliberate efforts deployed to foster cultural exchange, tolerance, and understanding between the two nations, inevitably leading to stronger bilateral ties in all sectors. 

The renowned gallerist Abla Ababou expressed absolute delight at having the Jarracharra exhibition displayed at her gallery, open to all cultures of the world and through which she works dutifully to open new horizons and opportunities for artists, considering it a meeting point for artists from different backgrounds with different artistic mediums. Still, Abla Ababou disclosed that working with this artistic medium, Indigenous textile designs, was a first for her. “It was a bit of a challenge for me because I’m not used to this kind of installation, I did it myself. It was a bit startling to receive these long bands of fabric in the gallery, but in the end, I tried to make a scenography more or less adapted. But still it wasn’t easy.” The gallerist put an emphasis on her commitment to display collections from all corners of the world in Rabat, a city that she holds dear and near to her heart, stating that the capital is “a city that lends itself to cultural events due to its cleanliness, culture and rather quiet population.”

For the rest of the evening, the gallery was lively with visitors wandering around, admiring the beauty of the Indigenous textile designs, and engaging in seemingly endless conversations with fervor and vested interest. If you happen to be near the capital, make sure to drop by to witness the magic of Indigenous culture and learn all about a picturesque universe with endless stories to be told.