Moroccan entrepreneur and artist Aissa Joud has created a first-of-its-kind creative hub in the region he grew up in.
Aissa Joud has spent his life surrounded by art. His father was a sculptor, carving the intricate landscapes of the Ouarzazate province, where he was raised, out of rocks and stone. Now, the artist pays homage to his creative upbringing, founding Taman’Art Space for the next generation of north African creatives to unite.
A few kilometres from the fortified village of Ait Benhaddou in southern Morocco, Aissa’s three-storey guesthouse-slash-gallery welcomes fine artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians and more. Taman’Art Space fulfils Aissa’s ambition of breathing more life into the vibrant Moroccan art scene, offering artist residencies, accommodation, live music and exhibitions.
‘It’s a place to forge relationships,’ he says. ‘I like having a community where we can work together and create together. I don’t just want to be an artist, I want to live with my art as well. We help each other and provide opportunities to show what we’re working on and what we want to do in the future. Everyone has different skills they bring here.’
Giving back to the creative community that supported Aissa’s passion was the driving force for setting up the venue. ‘This is my area. My village. I’d prefer to have my gallery and space here than in big cities.’
Aissa’s artwork transforms what started as an empty house that he bought almost four years ago into a bold communal oasis, featuring painted outdoor murals and several pieces from his repertoire on the walls. After growing up with limited access to conventional art materials, the 31-year-old became resourceful, building a table out of a wheelbarrow found in the Bou-Azzer mining area of Ouarzazate and a lampshade made from a sieve.
‘For me, it’s very important to save our planet and give things people don’t want another life. People are wowed by what you can do with their old items. I love to reuse things rather than buy online or in big stores. In our space, we design with vintage and I use a lot of vintage items in my work as well.’
Travellers on Premium Morocco in Depth can see this for themselves when visiting Taman’Art Space, discovering the backstories behind Aissa’s artwork, including how his childhood has been a point of inspiration and how he’s developed the locale. The afternoon finishes with guests sipping a cup of tea on the terrace overlooking the rocky desert.
Designing a one-of-a-kind location was empowering for Aissa. ‘You can’t find a community like ours anywhere else. This is the first place with this design and concept. Other places may be inspired by here, but it’s not the same vibe, it’s not the same energy. And that’s the most unique thing about Taman’Art Space: how it feels.’
The cultural centre is built against the backdrop of Ait Benhaddou – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 – along the former caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara. It’s also a popular filming location for Hollywood blockbusters and television series including Gladiator, Game of Thrones and The Jewel of the Nile.
Aissa was eager to contribute to the area’s artistic legacy. ‘I’m in the roots of a very famous, touristic place. I went to the Institute of Traditional Arts in Casablanca. When I returned, I thought, why don’t I do something special for my region to show people who come here that there is lots of local and young talent in Ait Benhaddou. The concept and vision for this space is to project another side of Morocco, one that isn’t only traditional. Plus, have more international guests and friends visit us, sharing further opportunities for us to exhibit in Europe and the US.’
Aissa hopes Taman’Art Space will remain a firm fixture in the community and become an enduring cornerstone for local ingenuity to thrive. ‘I want to be an example to the next generation to show them you can do what you love and give them the freedom to create here. There are a lot of us, not just in this region; we have big communities and friends on social media and in person also. I love that people want to come here and produce something special in this space.’
While the hub is one of the latest additions to the landscape of Ait Benhaddou, it’s already attracting a community of regulars, tourists and newcomers with big aspirations, as well as opening its doors to diplomats and acclaimed artists.
‘This is just the beginning,’ says Aissa. ‘We are a team of five right now and the community has eleven people so far. In the future, we hope to have a music festival and more artists and gallery space. A lot of things started here, and I think there will be big changes to the area in the next few years.’