I will very soon be making my third trip down to the Moroccan Sahara in pursuit of big skies, shifting sands and inspiration for my first self generated book illustration project…I fell in love with the desert a year and a half ago and wanted to find a way to share this feeling with others through my work. It is such a very special place with breathtaking landscape and wonderful people…
So the two stories I am working with for my book are from this beautiful, eternal, wild place and another much closer to home and about which I will be writing soon, from my own heritage. But…they are essentially the same story.
Separated by thousands of miles and passed down the generations in two widely differing cultures, a shared story, alive in the traditional storytelling of both Scots and Moroccans. It is a story of love, betrayal, murder, transformation, and retribution that also appears in other forms across Europe, most notably as the Juniper tree
The particular version I am working with lives not only in the Scottish regions of Dumfries and Galloway, one of my most recent folktales covers, and Aberdeenshire, where I chose it to be the cover image a couple of years ago, but also in the Moroccan desert. When a Berber friend from M’hamid, on the edge of the Sahara, who knows I am interested in stories sent me their version of it I was so struck with it’s similarity to the Scottish tales I already knew I felt I had to explore the link between them somehow. It has always seemed to me that stories connect us in ways that transcend distance and differences in culture and tap into those feelings that we all share as human beings clinging to this tiny globe. It may also be that there is some direct link between the people of both these places and that is a possibility I am going to explore too.
I work with images, a language that to me also feels universal and can be shared without the need for translation. This is only the start of my journey with these stories, I hope very much that you will share it with me.
As I am an illustrator and artist rather than a storyteller it feels the most appropriate and exciting way for me to explore the stories is through drawing and painting as well as through hands on art workshops with people of both countries. To this end I will be running my first workshop session this November with a women’s group at the Auberge of Dar sidi Bounou on the edge of the desert as well as making sketches and notes to work from on my return.
Next year I hope to run workshops in schools in both Morrocco and Scotland, and in them produce images that will also be a part of my upcoming book.
I will share the stories themselves with you soon…
Dar Sidi Bounou – my workshop hosts in November
Dar Sidi Bounou is a small Auberge on the edge of the Sahara Dunes which was developed by Nancy Patterson, a Canadian/British artist, and Daoud Leghlid, whose Berber family come from the local Bounou area. We like to encourage adventurous individual travellers, creative people and families with children of all ages to come and experience the special atmosphere of this remote region that was once a stopping place on the legendary caravan route to Timbuktu. Relax in the sun, in the shade under the palms, on the dunes in the garden or on the roof terraces. Learn the desert drumming techniques, make music with the locals and find out about the ancient culture and fascinating history of the area. Enjoy the traditional beldi cooking, including vegetarian, special food for kids, feasts, birthday parties and celebrations to order.
We are in Lonely Planet: Top Choice “a desert dream with dunes in the backyard”… and Rough Guide: Editor’s recommendation “a real find”.