My name is Zahara Ahnach, a housewife and mother of three.
“I am a painter”
The main picture is my mom, If you look deeply at her eyes, you observe profound sadness.
My story starts when I was a student in grade 6. Like most girls of my age, I was forced to leave school because there was no school nearby for the next levels and no female boarding schools. When I left school, I continued to paint because I couldn’t accept the fact that I had to stop because school had stopped. So, I kept painting by using watery painting, however, I didn’t find anyone who could encourage me or stand by me to continue doing this kind of painting.
For almost two years I was painting without any support, but I became acutely depressed by this situation and eventually, I stopped painting for 13 years or even more.
This is a view of my village.
Finally, I got married and I had children. Then last year I went blind. I completely lost my sight and could not see anything anymore. At that moment I was thinking that Allah granted me good health and good sight which I should have used to express my talent all that long time, and I should have had faith that painting was the right road for me.
Then, suddenly I got my sight back! So, I restarted painting from the very beginning. There were no painting facilities or tools available to me. I had used only a blue biro pen, but I was encouraged by my friends to keep going because of having this unique talent.
This woman from a rural village in northern Morocco is grinding grain with a traditional manual millstone.
I painted in secret
To be frank, most of the people here in the countryside don’t care at all about the painting, they are not interested in art and they look at it as waste of time. Nevertheless, I did not care what they said and I continued painting in secret. I hid my paintings without showing my art to anyone.
Paint made with olives
But lacking any painting materials, I was inspired to find a solution. I had to find a way to make a special painting with colours available in the region at no cost. I came up with an idea to try the olive water which gives a good colour on my paintings. Especially when it dries it looks like a wooden carving on paper. Once I was brave enough to show my art again, I started to receive a lot of encouragement and was asked to make videos about my new painting style and use of olive water, so that I could make my talent known to people.
This old couple are in deep conversation about the differences between life past and present. While his wife recounts an old time event, the man is staring at his stick, thinking back in time and picturing the event.
I pick the olive directly from the tree to use its water in painting. I use olive water not olive oil. From olives, I can make different colours. The freshly harvested olive fruit gives me a particular colour and when I crush it, a different colour. I keep the water in the fridge for a week and this gives me yet a different colour. So from the same olive fruit I can get different degrees of colour contrast. I normally mix it with water to mitigate colour intensity. During painting, I am careful not to let a drop fall on the painting because it’s kind of hard to clean that.
Brushes made with Feathers
This express both a young and an old woman shaking milk to get butter milk in the gourd. Usually both a wife and her mother in law help each other to do this job.
Woman are my Inspiration
Most of my works reflects the reality of life in my region. Especially, expressing women’s life in the countryside because the women here are deprived of schooling and have less rights than men. They work at home and even outside home doing the men’s duties.
This old woman carries her big shopper and umbrella as she heads to the weekly souk.
There are women around who have a lot of talent, they are eager to learn and if they receive some training and literacy programmes, they can become very productive and promote their own products. Through painting, I try to advance the women’s cause. I want convey the message that women here need more attention.
I participated in many contests in Facebook groups, and I was always ranked the first among professional painters and many painters encouraged me to keep painting. I also took part in a contest in YouTube, and it was through this platform that I got wider exposure. Here in Morocco, I wasn’t known as a painter. but after my participation with a video on oil-water painting I gained some popularity.
This is my Auntie. She always places her mouth on her palm expressing her sadness and being lost in thought.
It’s difficult for someone who lives in the countryside to take part in a contest or a fair; I don’t have the means to travel and make my paintings available to people. I have an ambition to organize fairs for my paintings if I can get support from people who take an interest in art. I want to be an example for the countryside woman. A women in the countryside can be creative with very modest means.
My message to women: never give up your talents. Even if you find no support in people, find it in yourself.
As we travel around the country identifying eco experiences and accommodation for our tours, we meet so many fascinating people. Zahra’s story was so mind blowingly inspirational, we had to write it.
If you would like to support Zahra and own a piece of her beautiful art, please email us direct and we will facilitate. We take no commission and your transaction will be with Zahra direct.
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