China / People

Ambassador's wife shows true colors in China

By Qin Zhongwei (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-23 09:03

Ambassadors and diplomats are often invited to attend exhibitions, but in very rare cases they go to exhibitions with their own works.

Nouria El Alami, wife of the Moroccan ambassador to China, was in the spotlight recently, not because she is the spouse of a senior diplomat, but for her artistic talent.

El Alami held her first solo exhibition in China at the Beijing Imperial City Art Museum from June 1 to 3.

The 40 or so artworks - comprising oil paintings and brush paintings - in the well-known gallery in downtown Beijing were all painted after her husband was appointed to his current position and the family moved to Beijing in early 2009.

Even though she was born in Casablanca - the well-known city that means "white house" in Spanish - the way she sees the world is very colorful.

El Alami expresses her inner thoughts and subtle observations through bold mixtures of vibrant colors. The artworks she created in the past three years also reflect her close observation of Chinese society and its diverse culture.

Chinese visitors to her exhibition were surprised, after reading her biography posted at the entrance, by the big contrast between her background and her artistic achievements: she has a doctorate degree in biology and clinical chemistry.

"I learnt painting by myself," she said.

She began to show a huge interest in painting when she was 4. She then participated in a talent TV show at a very young age and won a prize - one of her fondest childhood memories.

Her passion for color and canvas moved on to a higher level after she married Jaafar Alj Hakim. They moved to different parts of the world, and the cultural differences she saw and experienced made her eager to pick up the brush again, not only as a way to tell what the world is like, but also as a tool to express herself.

"You know what was the first thing that Nouria did after she arrived in Beijing? She went to 798 and bought the stuff she needs for painting," her Chinese friend Nina Wang, a TV host in Beijing said.

Besides going to the 798 Art Zone quite often as a source of inspiration, she is also a frequent visitor to museums and galleries elsewhere in Beijing and other Chinese cities. At the same time, she is an enthusiastic theater spectator - sometimes she just can't forget particular moments on the stage, so she revives them on the canvas.

That's why in her artworks Peking opera performers and Chinese modern dancers are her favorite models. The melody or the dance moves echo her inner passion for music, which is in the genes of Moroccan people.

At the very beginning, some of her paintings were hanged on the walls of the Moroccan embassy in Beijing, and they were highly appreciated by her friends from Morocco and China. With the support and encouragement of her husband, El Alami decided to share her art with a more Chinese audience.

As a unique form of art, paintings usually speak more than words do, she said. Most Chinese people don't know much about Moroccan culture but they are very interested in the country located on the northwestern tip of Africa.

"The two countries share quite a few common characteristics and historic connections despite the long distance between them," she said.

Nowadays when Chinese people talk about Morocco, they still recall the famous Hollywood movie Casablanca. But Moroccan people began to know China a long time ago, she said.

A Moroccan Marco Polo - Ibn Battuta - made an extensive journey in the early 14th century around the world. Battuta traveled to China and took stories back to his country about the mysterious nation in the east.

"Morocco probably was the first importer of tea from China many centuries ago, and now we still have a similar tea culture, which in fact was inspired by China," she said. A Moroccan family usually drinks tea five times a day. The idea of opening a Chinese tea museum in the Moroccan city of Essauira is being considered by the two countries, she said.

El Alami is planning a new journey now, but she will take her paintings along. Shanghai is expected to be the second stop of her exhibition, the beginning of a new round to find inspiration.

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