Latitude 34 talk at Tedx Casablanca is now online!

Finally TEDX talk in Casablanca is finally online!

Enjoy and be gentle please, it is my first ever talk, I was a little bit nervous.

Make sure you watch the others, they were all brilliant, especially Hicham OudghiriMamoun Ghallab and Mahjouba !

Thanks again to all those who supported me, especially Fleur Eve and Andy Coley for his last minute remote NLP session!

“It was fall, the trees were yellow, I was following a double yellow line in front of me for hours,  I am wearing a yellow jacket,  I had my yellow shoes in the trunk. Suddenly I had a vision, I stopped the car, put the shoes on the road, snapped a picture and I carried on. It was the yellow trip. Yellow which became a trademark and part of the identity of this project and myself.

A spontaneous picture for an improvised voyage, dashed off, an impulse, on a whim. Like a piece of Jazz.

We can go on a journey to get lost or to find ourselves, but “no matter the road is the life” said Kerouac. For me it was definitely one that led me to a new understanding of self, and questioning the notion of home space culture and identity, place and non place.

So how did this all come about? Latitude 34?

On the 10 October 2010, while I was staying in Los Angeles, I was questioning  why everything felt familiar, a familiarity in the light and its tone.This is when I realised I was at 34.02 Latitude, which is exactly the same as my home town Rabat. I was about to turn 34 years old. This was enough for me.Within a week i was on the road. I didn’t think, I didn’t want to think, I had to go. I decided to trace as if I was a pen, the latitude 34 around the globe

This sums up pretty well my creative process and my artistic practice. The same way a chemist creates a new products via a chemical reaction, I take sterile numbers and data, objects shapes and colours that have nothing in common and with a narrative, emotion some affect and a little bit of myself I make a work of art.  As we all know: nothing get lost nothing gets create, every thing is transformed.

I also always like to bring a physical implication in my work, a ” boditude”, in a way or another, mirroring our mortal coil on our planet, at the same time physical and metaphysical, the same way the horizon is an illusion, and yet a line that links in a very “real” way the sky and the earth.

I  find myself tracing my own personal line on a map. It could only be yellow. In blue is what is left to do, which is South Africa and Middle east.

Digital Maps for Graphic Design

I have done roughly  23000 km at birds flight, which is half of the circumference of the globe at the equator. Of this 23000  I drove 18000 – I also used buses, plane train, bike and hike when I can. In those figures i do not include flight distances and small detours. In an ideal world i would have done it all in one go – but I had to do it in a broken line, in stages. Something called life and budget came in the way.

Time was very short on each stage – I  badly underestimated  the time I needed for each section, I didn’t realise all the roads are not made equal, and that the weather could also play a part in the timing of the journey. I do have mitigating circumstances:  this was my first ever road trip, I had only got my driving license for less than a year when I started and have only driven in town and in the UK. I used maps to travel, randomly choosing the roads , only sticking to 34. I had to sometimes get out of line, the roads were not built with my project in mind.

Encounters were many and brief, a car is a bubble and a capsule that removes you from the world as much as it gives you freedom to roam it at speed.They most often brought me back to Morocco. I met Charley, fellow traveller,  who let me go with my groceries even if i didn’t have enough on me to pay reminding me of Morocco hospitality towards him when he travelled in 1968.Or Thibaud, who mistook me  for a chinese lady in mount Huashsan thanks to my small size and straw hat. It is through Tibaud that I met Soraya from Tedx Casa without whom I would not be here speaking to you tonight.

I say I was alone driving but it’s not totally true. I had a companion, and it was the moon, a familiar figure, a comforting character. She was always there.

It all started with the light and it is the light that i tried to  captured on journey. A light that speaks of a universality rather than a specificity and particularity  light of space and place.  Despite its ephemeral quality, It often it spoke of stillness, of a suspended moment, like the background scene of a story or a movie.  I learnt that grey can be luminous, especially when the light turns  eucalyptus leave into silver or power cables into gold. I have to tell you that my last name Sqalli can mean  golden thread , which explains why I may be drawn to those colours.

I read recently a quote from Muriel Rukeyser: the universe is made of stories not atoms. I find this a little reductive;  for me the universe ( and us) is made of Atoms, Numbers, Ideas and Stories, for we can have plenty of ideas in our heads yet unless we react to them,  act on them, physically,  tangibly, they don’t come alive. Ideas are primers of a story ready to be lived, a white page ready to be filled,  that can become a 3 tom volume, a novel of a few pages, or a poem of a few lines. It will certainly always be an experience filled with discovery.

I looked for the unusual, the unexpected  where a  certain beauty sits, as if i was a child who marvels at everything and anythings, trying to catch the frame between the frame to paraphrase John Berger

In New Zealand, I spent some time in a Marae in Ahipara, and the maori ladies who taught me to weave were telling me: You have to find your Ara, your path in the weaving. So the ideas and stories that we live and write, its a bit like that, they define paths and patterns in the weaving of our lives.

I invite you to act on your idea for you may not know where you are headed but there are surprises of all kinds on the road. I don’t know about you but when I am at a cross road I always try to take the road less traveled. It’s easy to spot, its usually paved with yellow bricks. And if you get hit by grey skies and rain, you can always just lighten the sky with a yellow balloon!


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