[When I was designing the slippers and learning about the history of the babouche, I wanted to find out what was going on in modern-day Morocco. It turns out, a lot. It's become an incredibly creative place with artists, designers, musicians and chefs taking the best of Moroccan traditions and spinning them into things entirely new. I reached out to some of the women that are part of the creative community to learn more. Here are their interviews.]
Laila Hida is closely tied to a dynamic creative community. The photographer and artist lived in Paris before founding LE 18, an artists' space in Marrakesh. Whether it's exhibiting a cutting edge multimedia display or hosting a panel of contemporary artists, Laila uses the venue and organization to engage deeply with cultural and social issues in Morocco.
Where are you originally from, and where do you live now?
I’m originally from Casablanca and now based in Marrakech.
Tell us about the neighborhood in Marrakech you live in. What do you love most about it?
I’m new in my neighborhood. I moved from the very center of the city to a lovely Berber village in the country. I love it. I’ve been dreaming about this moment for years, it’s like a fantasy for someone who grew up in a big city and lived in apartments most of her life.
At the house, we have olive trees, vegetable garden, dogs, chicken, flowers… I walk barefoot most of the time. Sometimes I meet a chameleon hidden among the tree leaves. I wouldn’t change anything in this place. I am the guest in the village, so I have to adapt and learn from the people.
How does your view of the world differ from that of your parents?
I was lucky that my path crossed [with] people who opened me to the world: to self-awareness, to diversity, curiosity, caring and sharing with people, [who] taught me that wealth is not only material. The [biggest] difference between my vision and my parents' has to do with the idea of success. For me, success is not a goal — it’s how you deal with the whole process and how you make it rich, interesting and valuable for yourself and the others. Whereas the past generation had only one idea of success that was closely linked to economy.
What is your favorite vacation spot in Morocco?
My own place. :)
I love the Atlantic coast, from Taghazout to Sidi Ifni, and further. Although I spent my childhood in the north of Morocco on the Mediterranean coast, from Tetouan to Al Hosseima, there are plenty of dreamy beaches.
Why did you feel compelled to start a cultural space? Is it hard for artists and creatives to interact otherwise?
There is a beautiful dynamic in the artistic scene in Morocco. Artists, spaces, collectives are all connected. It’s quite generous, warm, creative and bubbling. However to have a space brings a dimension of physicality, of materiality - there is the idea of heritage besides through the traditional house. I think the space stores history and the energy of the people, and you can see it growing.
What are some of the exciting personal creative collaborations you've been able to make happen living in Morocco?
Before LE 18, I initiated the Souk with a group of friends. It was one of the first if not the first event of this kind dedicated to young designers. We organized several two-day gatherings of about 30 Moroccan designers. There were textiles, furnitures, accessories, illustrations, jewelry, bakeries etc. in a very cool atmosphere and we had the chance to be in one of the best spots of Marrakech — Le Jardin in the medina. For me that was already a first step to built a structure that aims to bring people together and rethink, think, discuss through the lens of art our society(ies).
A beautiful project we did in 2016 called KawKaw co-curated with Younes Baba Ali, and Team LE 18 was questioning the status and relations of Maghrebian neighbor countries by inviting five artists each from every country. This program has changed something in the way we think and work at LE 18. More awareness of the territory, of our history, our culture and what to do with it.
Is it particularly challenging navigating between traditional and modern cultural forces in present day Marrakech?
Yes and no. It’s actually an opportunity. We are a generation that questions everything, from our roots, culture, religion and traditions. It is for us a wide experimental field were everything is subject to work, rethink and interpret. I don’t think there is incompatibility between tradition and what we call modernity. It’s a matter of point of view. I think most of African cultures has for decades due to slavery, colonization and western oppression undertook the path of westernization.
Today we talk about decolonizing the minds which mean to me how modernity can exist from the perspective of our own cultures and traditions.
Do you have any special memories of babouches? Do you wear them now?
Almost every Moroccan owns or once had a pair of babouche, if not more. It [doesn't exist only as] folklore, it’s a real useful shoe that you can wear either as sleepers at home, outside or for a special event. Of course there are qualities and designs for each purpose. My favorite are the classic shape [made] from suede. Now you can find anything: with heels, pearls, prints, embroidery! There is no limit to creation.