“Rocks Stars : Berber country, an open-air museum”
7 original photographs by Ludovic Antoine.
Considered magic by the Amazighe people who assign them multiple functions and many powers, the cairns that pepper the Moroccan countryside with their placid figures can be magic in the eye of the photographer too.
While these clusters of rocks known here as “Akerkour” are generally erected without particular aesthetic concern, sometimes a small miracle happens. The stones suddenly seem to come to life. A form appears, a character is revealed: a man, an animal, a more or less evocative sculpture. The mineral world suddenly acquires a poetic dimension until now unsuspected. Nature takes on the look of an open air museum that would be dedicated to primitive arts, and one cannot help but ask, along with Lamartine: « Inanimate objects, do you have a soul? ».
These remarkable cairns – my « Rocks Stars » as I like to call them – are the subject of this exhibition and of a book I am currently working on. They belong mainly to the foothills of the High Atlas located between Tahannaout North, Tnine Ourika East, Oukaïmeden South and Lake Takerkoust West. The clusters are of modest size – 60 to 80 cm on average – and therefore cannot compete with the acme of the great Neolithic stone architecture and the megalithic works that characterized it. Though there’s no Stonehenge or Carnac-like sites in Amazighe country, the fact remains that these small stone knolls have something extraordinarily poignant in that they, too, link us to the origins of humanity.
From immemorial time men have indeed raised and assembled stones, mainly for practical purposes: to mark a location, to signal danger, but also sometimes for ritual reasons. And it is therefore very likely that the Berber farmers who still keep piling rocks taken from their soil today unknowingly reproduce gestures that existed thousands of years ago. It seems that this is a good enough reason to focus on their creations – however modest they may be – with a humble and admiring look. By raising stones don’t men raise themselves?
Like evil, beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. So let’s learn to look at this beautiful country that is Morocco. It still has many treasures to be discovered and cairns of the Berber countryside are certainly not the slightest of them.