Famous German street artist Hendrik Beikirch, a.k.a. ECB, started his project ‘Trades — Tracing Morocco’ back in 2014 at his residence in Jardin Rouge in Marrakech where he painted 22 dazzling portraits of ‘Maalems’.
He has since then sprayed all these portraits in massive versions on huge walls all over the world (New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Oslo, Murmansk, Toulouse, Naestved, Marrakesh, Paris, Moscow…).
While many of the subjects in ECB’s impressive collection of portraits come from his imagination, the faces depicted in Tracing Morocco belong to real Moroccan people.
The aim of Tracing Morocco, which was organised by the Montresso Art Foundation, is to introduce the world to the trades of Morocco by focusing on ‘the faces of current practitioners’ who the artist has met on his multiple trips to Morocco.
In this outstanding project on Morocco, or rather, a project on a particular and a major section of the Moroccan society, ECB told the media that he sought to capture the ‘aura’ of his subjects, with the aim of making these people ‘immortal in the process’.
Assuming auras are real and that ECB has really managed to capture them in these paintings, ask any aura reader looking at these Moroccans and they will tell you that their aura is not the brightest. They will tell you that there is a common pattern of faded and barely visible aura colours in their faces.
This type of aura depicts nothing else other than years of intense and unbearable sufferings, sorrows and unappreciated sacrifices made not only by the subjects in these portraits, but by countless generations of Moroccans. These faded auras reveal the marks of the burn out and exhaustion left on the lives of many Moroccans today by years of intolerable levels of hardship, by desperate thoughts and by the unpleasant feelings of alienation, unwantedness and abandonment.
ECB’s Moroccan faces tell stories that are hard to tell otherwise, and confess “secrets” deeply rooted in Moroccan society.
Their wrinkled faces are those of my grandfather and grandmother and that of many noble and hardworking Moroccans I know today. People whose sadness, misery and struggle in life seems to know no end.
Their piercing eyes do not require any close examination to notice that they exude great despair. You can easily see hopelessness in their eyes as clearly as if they are all speaking their thoughts and emotions aloud. And clearly they are not trying to hide these thoughts and emotions with a fake smile.
ECB says he hopes to preserve and elevate the stories of these people and pay tribute to the trades they practice and which might soon be gone.
In truth what I see captured in ECB’s Tracing Morocco are the faces of millions of invisible Moroccans and their invisible sufferings. Their trade might indeed soon disappear, and with it, I hope, their misery. Till then, let their faces display on the walls of highest buildings of the world where they shall forever be a reminder of the suffering of a people.