Diaspo #134 : Bouchaib Maoual, a life shaped by art

A scholarship from Morocco to study abroad changed his life for the better. A few years later, this French-Moroccan became a reference for the art of engraving. Although he had his work exhibited in Morocco during the 2000s, Bouchaib Maoual believes that it was a fair try.

Bouchaib Maoual, a Moroccan artist based in France. / DR
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He first left his small village near Essaouira to settle in Casablanca where he did his primary and secondary studies, before packing up for Tetouan, then Marseille.

Born on February 26, 1959, the adventure of Maoual Bouchaib, also known as Maoual, began at an early age. And like many great artists, his talent was discovered at school. «I used to draw a lot when I was little. At school, I took care of caricature, drawing and illustration works», he told Yabiladi.

During middle school his life took a different turn when a French teacher discovered his talent and directed him towards the Fine Arts. «It was something new to me because at my place there were no paintings or art», he recalls.

Thus after high school, he joined the prestigious school of Fine Arts in Tetouan, where he learned to «paint well and draw well». In the 1980s, while Morocco offered its talented students the opportunity to pursue their higher education abroad, Maoual Bouchaib won a scholarship to travel to Europe. «I had taken a month-long ticket for students under the age of 23 and we could go around Europe. I had three registrations: In Marseille, Paris and Amsterdam», he recalls.

A Marseille lover who lives off his art

But once he reached his first destination, he immediately fell in love with the city where he settled down for the rest of his life. «I applied for the entry exam and I passed it. And instead of going to Paris, I stayed in Marseille because the city showed me love», he said.

Arriving at the Beaux-Arts, Maoual was already «privileged, because it was a cocoon where the teachers were artists and where students were all planning to become artists». Marseille has greatly contributed to his integration. «I had no integration problems, I felt like a local after only a few months», he recalled. Once he graduated, however, he had to «go out to face life».

«I did odd jobs, I was also a teacher for several years in a vocational high school. Then it started to work for me. I didn't get rich, but I could make a living from my art».

Maoual Bouchaib

Upon his arrival at the School of Fine Arts in Marseille, the «thirst for learning new techniques» prompted the Essaouira-native to attend workshops specializing in engraving, lithography and even cirography. «I attended workshops on these techniques because I found that painting and drawing did not speak to me that much», he explained.

A «medium» like no other

Today, he is one of the rare Moroccan artists to express himself through the engraving technique known as «Intaglio print» (hollow engraving processes on a metal plate, editor's note), not on ordinary materials, but on… industrial plates.

«We, artists from the Muslim world, do not have canvas painting stretched on a frame in our collective memory. We are iconoclasts», he said. And although geometric art exists in the Muslim world, Maoual chose engraving on special things. «I do engraving, not on copper because it is too inscribed in the history of engraving and Moroccan craftsmanship, but on recovered industrial plates», the artist explained. A «medium» and «means of expression» which corresponds to his way of seeing art.

«I appeal to this cultural memory that we have in printmaking. I do not draw men, but silhouettes of men. This is how I stand out».


However, it was not until the 2000s, when Morocco began to open up a little more to art, to see this artist, who made a name for himself in several European cities and capitals, to exhibit in his country of origin. «At my first exhibition in Morocco, in 2011, I was already old», he joked.

«It is not vanity but it was still necessary to show my work in Morocco where I started my journey. We still had to show this result because the state, the family and everyone else invested somewhere in this product called Maoual», he explained.

The artist’s work is now part of the permanent collections of the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rabat, the National Library of France in Paris, the Municipal Contemporary Art Fund of Marseille and the Institute of the Arab World in Paris.

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