PROJECTS: CONFLUENCE MEET UP IN MARRAKECH
By Abi Hopkins
It was midday, the sun was shining and the heady sounds of the square mixed in with the familiar sounds of chatting tourists, motorbike engines and souk sellers touting their wares. I was stood outside the infamous Café France with my friend Sally, waiting to meet up with Sanae and Ali, two delightful friends who I had first met at my photo exhibition in the Marrakech Henna Art Café in 2017 and had kept in touch with ever since.
The first to arrive was the lovely Sanae who greeted me with her trademark smile and a big hug and we quickly exchanged news and stories about our lives since we last met. Ali soon bounded up in a bright yellow t-shirt with another huge smile and after more hugs we meandered off across Jemma El Fna to grab some lunch and have a more productive chat, still swapping stories of our lives in the year or so since we had first met.
Once food and drinks were ordered, we got down to the business of ‘Confluence Australia’. I outlined progress to date and handed over copies of the project plan for Ali (and Confluence co-founders Houssain and Mehdi, who unfortunately couldn’t join us as they were busy working) to digest in their own time but more importantly to give information about who we were looking to work with in Australia. As a fellow photographer, I was keen to get Ali’s opinions about how we could reach out and work with other Australian based photographers and artists. We all have networks of contacts, so it was useful to explore how we could tap into these to raise the profile of ‘Confluence Australia’ and the collaboration opportunities. We also discussed the aboriginal tales and the ways in which we could work with other talebearers to correctly access the many stories that exist. I talked through what has been happening in Australia with Jenny and some of the information that she has uncovered and my plans to visit her later this year.
We spoke about the forthcoming ‘Confluence Scottish Artistic Residency’ which is coming up in April 2019 in various venues in Dumfries and Galloway and the joy of our Nordic partners coming to join in the activities, which includes storytelling performances, workshops and exhibitions. All of this is heading towards the publication of the second Confluence book ‘Celtic and Nordic Visions and Stories’ which if anything like the first publication, will be a stunning collection of stories and photographs. (Note from Abi: there is a current call out for submissions so if you are based in Dumfries & Galloway and are a photographer wanting to contribute, visit our website – www.confluencetheworld.com for more information)
We chatted at length about the benefits of working with arts partners and academic institutions and the useful links that could be really beneficial (especially around accessing Australian Arts funding) before embarking on a gentle but humorous conversation/debate around the potential to attract commercial sponsors to get involved. For the photographers out there, the debate centred on which camera is best - Nikon or Canon – you decide! Project and planning notes were scribbled down and plans to move things forward were made with promises to keep everyone updated.
Once we had eaten, we decided to go for a wander over to Café Clock as I’d not had the opportunity to visit before on previous trips to Marrakech. There had been a successful Confluence photographic exhibition which ran between October and December 2018 so it was a lovely opportunity to go and visit this wonderful cross-cultural venue and see where the magic had happened and will continue to happen over time. We walked and conversation flowed as we continued to swap stories of our lives, our experiences, our ideas and dreams for the future. We shared stories of wonderful synchronicity and meaningful coincidences with mutual friends and we discussed plans for future photography projects – it’s amazing how much inspirational conversation can take place in a 20 minute walk across Marrakech!
As soon we arrived at Café Clock, I bee-lined for the bookshelf where there was a lovely display of the Confluence Book ‘Celtic and Arabian Visions and Stories’ and it felt great to see it in situ in the location that had hosted a photography exhibition of some of the beautiful images that had featured in the book. It is a great venue in a great location, full of colour and vibrancy and the buzzy vibe of the place was intoxicating – I can see why it is a popular place for storytelling!
Then the camera’s came out and we spent some time snapping photos of each other with the book, in the café, outside on the street before poring over them and laughing at some of our interesting facial expressions. Whilst Sally and Ali chatted about their shared love of photography, Sanae and I took the opportunity for an impromptu but fun photo session. Then it was time to leave as Ali had a photography client booking so we all wandered back, calling into see Confluence supporter Lori from the Marrakech Henna Art Café to say hello and to enjoy a cold drink.
The whole day (whilst it passed in a flash) was a complete delight and a wonderful way to get together, spend time talking over the Confluence Australia project whilst also getting to know each other better and strengthening our friendships. We said our goodbyes with lots of hugs and promises to keep in touch until my next visit in June.
It was a beautiful reminder of why I am involved with Confluence as it was a day of sharing stories, shared experiences, exploring and gaining further insight into our individuality and creativity, of which our different cultures play a huge part. Although we may live in very different worlds culturally, it is proof that when we come together, we harmonise and silently acknowledge and appreciate the threads that bind us together as people all living this shared experience called life.