The city of Casablanca is gearing up for another exciting edition of Casablanca Design Week. From September 24-30, 2019 the urban jungle will showcase the work of over sixty talented Moroccan artists, designers, and artisans from around Morocco. This year’s theme “Mn Hna Lhih” (From Here To There) revolves around experimentation and creative thinking. HNA symbolizes that the event is an heir to an ancient heritage. It focuses on questioning the world of design while preserving the richness of the past. LHIH represents moving “towards innovation by valuing heritage and recognizing the creative force that it represents.” The program’s activities will take place throughout the city’s galleries, cultural institutions, showrooms, and concept stores. It will even extend to some restaurants. Casablanca Design Week is organized by Houna, a non-profit collaborative platform striving to promote the design industry in Morocco. It is not supported by any institutions and does not receive public funding.
The Houna women set up a pop-up store for Kouzina, a Houna social project run by three members at the Atlas Music Festival which took place in mid-August 2019. The goal was to raise awareness of Casablanca Design Week and share the mission with festival-goers.
Design enthusiasts visiting Morocco at the end of September 2019 can prepare for the event with our guide.
Q&A with Casablanca Design Week Houna members : Frou Akalay – in Charge of partnership, Imane Qmichou – in Charge of communication & Safaa Boubia – Chief coordinator.
What is the aim of Casablanca Design Week?
To democratize design and make design accessible to the public. In Morocco, we have this feeling that design is just for the elite and is a luxury. We are attempting to make it more accessible and show how design is part of everyday life. For example, the cup you hold when you drink tea every morning is design and the chair you are sitting on design as well. The aim is to valorize Morocco’s heritage. Designing things with a Moroccan touch has expanded everywhere in the world. The theme of Casablanca Design Week 2019 is “From here to there. From the past to the future.” Design is not a destination but a long way to somewhere.
What does design mean through the lens of Houna?
You can like design, have a design, and can create a design; it’s for everyone. It’s similar to architecture. When you introduce people to the history of a building, they start to like it, paint it, and protect it. Once you explain that the building is very old yet built by a great architect, people have a better comprehension of it. They become attached and start to share.
What kind of designers can we expect to see?
The show incorporates primarily Moroccan designers and some Moroccan designers who live abroad. It will also introduce some designers who are not of Moroccan descent yet have been inspired by the Moroccan touch.
How was the first edition and what are you looking forward to in 2019?
We are very proud of the first edition which took place in October 2017 because we were excited to see all the different people and parts of Morocco that decided to engage and support the event. Many new opportunities came about and doors opened for designers. Many designers traveled to Casablanca and participated in the exhibition in addition to talks, conferences, and I-Story panel. For 2019, the discussions will be more focused on our Moroccan heritage. Morocco is now inspiring designers worldwide. We want to valorize this. Casablanca Design week is part of an international network so we will also speak about design on an international level. We are excited to reflect on the future too.
How often will Casablanca Design Week take place?
It’s biennale. We need two years to plan it. It’s a lot of work, research, and this is the minimum time we need to build a great design week. During the year Houna runs design related talks and workshops. These will all be present during Casablanca Design Week.
Who are some designers that will appear this time?
We still haven’t released our final list. Some featured names will be Mohamed Khattou, the founder and product designer of UpcycleMo. He uses tires to create indoor and outdoor furniture that combines comfort and design. Another designer is Ghizlane Agzenai. She is from Tangier and lives in Casablanca. She has an artistic style that uses geometric shapes and colors that carry the eye in a metaphysical dimension where everyone can give free rein to the expression of his emotions. Her work is available on walls, wood, cardboard, paper, canvas, electricity, and metal. Karim Tassi is a young designer from Casablanca. He trained in Paris at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture and makes Haute couture, Ready-to-wear, and Jeans for private clients. Another designer is Kenza Bennani. She is the owner of New Tangier. Her brand makes and sells items that are modern yet rooted in tradition. Her products reflect Tangier’s unique history as a bridge between the Arab and European cultures.
How did Houna start?
Houna was initiated in 2014 by Soukeina Hachem and formally started to operate it’s activities in 2016 when a Moroccan group of men and women from various backgrounds and competencies decided to join the innovative project. Everyone is really good friends now, but no one knew each other prior to Houna. The platform has grown a lot. People who want to help and are excited about the project come in an out all the time. No one is less or more. Someone who joined us two months ago can have the same responsibilities and power of action as anyone. What unites us all is a love for design and social impact. This is the core of Houna.
How does Houna work?
We are a non profit collaborative platform that works to promote Casablanca Design Week and the overall design and creative industry in Morocco. Every active member participates because they believe in the project and the concept, yet we own our businesses or work for a company.
There is no official space and Houna can happen anywhere anytime. Houna is in each one of us. We gather and Houna emerges. Luckily, most of us have our own job or even own a company, and that means everyone has their own office. Houna usually takes place at each member’s workspace.
Were there any obstacles in launching Casablanca Design Week?
On the surface, the event seems like it is running smoothly without obstacles, however, the reality is there are many challenges. It is difficult to build an event without funds, its a fact. Casablanca Design Week became what is it because of a team that is passionate about design and has a helpful background.