Illuminate the light: a deep dive into Amine El Gotaibi’s new sculptural installation

This year’s courtyeard installation at the 1-54 International Art Fair in London is by Amine El Gotaibi, a leading figure on the contemporary Moroccan art scene. The artist describes to us the inspiration behind his work.

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This article is sponsored by 1-54

1-54 London has become known for, amongst other things, its annual courtyard installation. In previous years this has been executed by internationally acclaimed artists such as Grada Kilomba, Zak Ové and Lakwena Maciver, to name a few.

This year’s installation will be created by Amine El Gotaibi, a Moroccan artist represented by MCC Gallery in Marrakech. El Gotaibi’s installation Illuminate The Light will comprise twelve individual geometric sculptures, inspired by the seeds of a pomegranate, that vary widely in shape and colour to represent the diversity and abundance of the African continent. 

Wielding light as a solid medium within the sculptures, El Gotaibi also uses light as a metaphor to foster positive stories of Africa – to counter the West’s frequent stereotypes of the “dark continent”. At dusk the sculptures transform into luminous installations, underscoring the artist’s philosophy that “out of darkness, light emerges”. 

Amine El Gotaibi’s work is characterised by the use of natural materials such as wool, earth, and metal, which he uses to represent the historical and contemporary issues facing the Maghreb, and Africa more broadly. El Gotaibi innovates and experiments with mediums to represent the need for change in what he perceives to be a stagnant society.

The artist explains: “My artistic position questions the way we perceive/interpret an artistic work, not in its generality, but rather in the forms it proposes. Motivated by the will to set things in motion, I register myself in an active and interactive practice. My work is nourished by the socio-cultural and artistic context in which it takes shape, as well as by universal existential concerns/questions. I strive to open a door to experimentation and innovation, touching on different forms of expression to share thoughts, ideas and visions. Each of my projects, in its own way, tries to change the situation in a stagnant society.

“My work also attempts, on another scale, to bring about a change in individual and collective consciousness. 

“The interest in art can then be redeployed in society and become an active means of moving things forward, freeing it from the stereotypical image it is subjected to in the vast majority of African and Arab societies: that of an elitist decorative element.”

We spoke to the artist about his forthcoming installation at 1-54 London 2023.

What was the inspiration behind Illuminate The Light

“Africa as light” was the starting point for my inspiration. How to position light at the centre of this piece, as a medium in itself. Inverting the relationship between artwork and illumination. Using light as a metaphor for the abundance, optimism and riches emitted from the continent. 

The work also considers the stereotypes and misconceptions of Africa as a dark continent by the Western media. Is the meaning of the work changed by being shown in London, UK?

The artwork is universal and the location adds to the context, enhancing the meaning. However London is also a global platform for art, giving shows wide visibility. In this instance, during 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the location is inverting the relationship between the West and Africa. The West becomes a platform to showcase Africa in a positive light.

Are there any exhibitions you’re particularly excited to see whilst in London? 

Currently I am unable to visit for the show. As Africans, we are often limited in the opportunity to travel to countries outside Africa. It exemplifies the importance of changing perceptions of the continent. This limitation also adds to the context of the work itself. 

What’s next for you?

My next big project is in Qatar, for the Qatar Museum association. It will be a project looking at the historic relationships across the Arabic world, extracting meaning from these stories to create hope for progress in the future.

Find out more about the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London.

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