“This country is unfair to artists” – A renowned Moroccan musician.
I return to Morocco every two years or so, enough time to see people evolve. Among my married friends, the recurring theme was children. Their children dictated their life and they seemed happy. Singles had only themselves to care for, some succeeded better than others. In Marrakesh, my closest single friends are Anas and Bob. And they have evolved in opposite directions.
Bob is an engineer. His work did not fulfill him but his farm did, so he built his life around it. The farm enabled him to be in nature and to spend time with his grandmother. His project was so big it would outlive him and he was pleased with it, always planning the next thing. The farm was Bob's dream, and the trees his children.
Anas is an artist. He thrives when he uses his creativity, to take pictures, to write, direct or film. He studied film making in Los Angeles and learnt from Hollywood's best-in-class. He returned to Morocco and worked for big local TV productions. He worked for two years in the Moroccan film industry and like many former expats, suffered a huge reverse cultural shock. The people he worked with disgusted him so much he stormed out. Since then, he stopped making art.
The more time I spent with Anas, the more I realized he was not okay. Subtle hints in his language and attitude gave him away. Since he left the show business, he started managing the family’s properties and was constantly putting out fires. From booking registrations to fixing water leaks, Anas did everything. He accepted with admirable stoicism whatever the day threw at him. Day after day after day.
The routine was sucking on his vitality. At the end of the day, he had time to relax, smother the pain and repeat. Consciously or not, he traded passion and creativity for moroseness and acceptance. His dreams society had crushed. He carried the look of a terminally ill patient who was okay with his fate. And using his catch phrase "it's gonna be tricky man" , Anas resigned himself to a life of quiet desperation.
Bob confirmed my assessment. Anas had become the shell of his former self. Knowing the potential and creative genius he had, it was sad to watch, like a flower withering with time. We needed to help him get back on his feet, so he could make art again.
Having failed to help Anas in the past, I asked Bob for help. He suggested to give him little tasks to build back his confidence. We asked him to come help us at the farm. We would use the time to cheer up his foggy mind and instill the next task.
The meeting was at 8 am at the farm. Anas showed up at noon. He had an emergency with a guest he said. We brushed it off and headed together for lunch. Bob’s grandmother was born in a rich and powerful family. She used her fortune and connections to improve women’s rights through education, and had many stories to tell. We thought of a documentary series on the people who impacted Morocco. Anas was interested.
The plan was to start with Bob’s grandmother. She could then introduce him to someone else and so on. I needed to shoot a commercial for my business and planned to hire him for it. First the documentary episode to get him back in shape, then the shooting gig. That would set the train in motion.
A week later, I found out that he did not show up for the interview. He had yet another emergency. His unreliability made me choose someone else for my gig. It saddened me to see that. Circumstances of the daily life had robbed him from what he was best at, art. I'm sure he had his reasons but still... such a waste.
As my boss at Shitty Sugar used to say after every failed marketing campaign:
“You can bring a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink”.
For once, she was right.