Abdel Karim Baz
Chefchaouen, Tangier-Tetouan, Morocco
About the Artist/Site
The mountain village of Chefchaouen in Morocco’s northernmost province is renowned for the striking blue façades of many of the houses, particularly in the older part of town around the markets. History recounts that earlier the village had been painted green, the iconic color of Islam, but in the 1930s the Jewish population – descendants of Sephardim who left Spain during the time of the Inquisition – began painting the buildings blue, and the color has now become emblematic of the entire town. A town popular with backpackers and trekkers, as it abuts the impressive Rif mountain range, it has also become known for its crafts; on market days the mountain women come down to town to sell their produce, dressed in the traditional red striped aprons and shawls that have been worn here for centuries.
With the emphasis on abstract ornamentation in the Islamic world, and with Chefchaouen’s lively color scheme, it almost seems as if it would be difficult to separate out an art environment from the vivid and intriguing details of more vernacular dwellings. Yet the home of Abdel Karim Baz and his family can, indeed, be so identified.
A solid structure of three floors and an expansive rooftop terrace, both the exterior and interior of the building are ornamented with Baz’s playful visions. Riffing off local styles and colors but taking them further, the extensive use of arches, onion-top turrets, tilework, and alcoves are found on all levels, and bas-relief paintings of local scenes and monuments complement the architectural details on both exterior and exterior walls.
Baz was from the Salamanca area of Spain, but moved to Morocco, where he and his wife are raising a family of two daughters and a son. The ornamentation of the building is still in process, and Baz and his wife are thinking of turning their home into a guest house for tourists; indeed, a sign that proclaims “Hotel Salamanca” is propped up on the interior of the house.
During my visit Baz was unfortunately back in Spain, hospitalized, but his wife and family welcomed my interest. Two sides of the exterior façade are viewable from the street – and a bird’s-eye view is available from the top of the Kasbah tower (late 15th-early 16th century) in the village’s main square. If members of the family are at home, they may permit access to the interior as well.
~Jo Farb Hernández, 2016
Map & Site Information
Chefchaouen, Tangier-Tetouan ma
Latitude/Longitude: 35.168796 / -5.2683641
Province of Ouezzane, Gharb-Chrarda-Beni Hssen
Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Andalusia