On November 15, Malika Sqalli, the Austrian Moroccan photographer behind Latitude 34 currently on exhibit in whitespec, returned to Atlanta for her artist’s talk. She spoke about how growing up in Rabat, Morocco near the ocean, she would always fantasize about the cities and people facing her on the other side of the Atlantic. At age 34, she found herself in a café in Santa Monica, California on the other side of that ocean curious about where she was in relation to her hometown. She was surprised to find that both cities fell on the same 34.02 line of latitude. She had just turned 34, so, taking this as a sign, quickly decided to embark on an ambitious photo project documenting her travels from California, across the US, and through Morocco. She only had her driver’s license 9 months, but before she could change her mind, rented a car and started on her road trip east. She showed the works from this trip in Cube Gallery in Rabat, and the response was so strong that she felt compelled to complete the journey around the globe. She has driven the length of China and Japan and, after expanding the journey to the southern latitude as well, has added New Zealand and Australia. Her project has shown her the ways in which people display an inherent need to find a connection or common ground with others despite great distances and cultural barriers separating them. She has also been intrigued by the concept of home, something she has almost given up completely with her nomadic lifestyle.
This isn’t the end of the road for Malika who is already planning the next leg of her project and looking to explore the use of installation and video to further develop some of the themes of inter-personal and cultural connections, personal identity, and the meaning of home that she has come across in her work. She is also in the midst of planning a solo exhibition in March 2013 at the CDG, the principal institutional investor in the Kingdom of Morocco and leader in the national economy. If you have not already seen her work, Latitude 34 is up in whitespec at whitespace gallery through Saturday, November 24th.
Click here to read Jerry Cullum’s review of Latitude 34 for ArtsATL.