4 April 2013

Atelier Aicha

We use the word atelier all the time here.  Properly, atelier means "workshop", but on our campus, we misuse the term, labeling anything and everyone associated with mechanics, carpentry, gardening, plumbing, cleaning, or welding "the atelier."  My French-speaking friends think this is a gross, albeit typically American, thing to do.  It kind of is.

In the English-speaking world, atelier is sort of a fantastic term - making people think of that perfect intersection of craft and fine art.  For example, Birchbox gave me this really great perfume sample called, romantically, Atelier Cologne.  If you Google the word, all sorts of rustic restaurants, simple-chic clothing lines, live music dens, and existential creative spaces pop up.  I find myself trying to casually drop the word into conversation, so that I appear to be a great mix of awesome and cultured.

Image from Wikipedia.

Yesterday, we went to visit an actual, no frills, atelier.  A tiny space in the middle of this gigantic, crumbing city just for art - Atelier Aicha.

Aicha teaches after school art in Johan's classroom.  He's been asking us to come visit for ages.  But we had trouble scheduling a time.  He said that the weekdays were off-limits because "that's when I am working and...it get's crazy."  However, we have gotten adept at haggling and agreed on a Tuesday during Spring Break.  Elias came along.  So did Matt.  It was a party.  An atelier party.


The cement walls of this space - probably about 6 feet by 4 feet - were covered in calculations and words and faces. Plus a little Bob Marley.  Canvases lined the floors.  A small television was covered in books.  A fresh poster of Pope Francis hung next to a glow-in-the-dark crucifix.

You can see the Pope peeking through.

I asked Aicha what his neighbors thought about him.  While we were there, a mom chased her baby who chased a rooster through the dirt, all three narrowly avoiding the paintings Aicha had put out for us to see.

Canvas-filled alley.

They didn't seem to be perturbed by the huge, somewhat ominous faces gazing out at us, or the many nipples carved into his wood figures.

Don't touch the....!

Aicha said that they think he is an artist, sometimes a magician.  Maybe he is.

The painting above is called "The Prayer of the Child" and Aicha describes a sort of Peter Pan concept behind the piece.  He said his painting illustrates a hope for children to stay creative and unmarred by society.  The bright, child-proportioned face still manages to block the ominous dark shadow looming behind.  It now hangs in our house.  Johan and I fought over which painting to choose.  He won.


  1. Aicha can be reached at aichamuteba@yahoo.fr or 08 19 44 67 93 if anyone is interested in talking art, hosting an exhibition, or owning your own orginal Aicha.

  2. Haha...I always wondered why we called the Atelier "workshop." To further add to the definition, search Reggio Atelier--and you will uncover a whole new world of art and project based Ateliers for young children...people who create, manage and document the ateliers are "atelieristas." Try to say that quickly.... :)

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