Cultural forays and Yves St Laurent

I revelled in the Smoking tuxedos that Yves Saint Laurent designed, but wondered what, if anything, the great master thought of the French-Algerian war that raged as he made it to the big stage.

This will be a quick blog-post, but I want to jot a few things down from the past week.

Moroccan arch

One has scant excuse or reason to get bored in Morocco. It is a cultural haven. So, pity the fool who thinks of it as a place to simply drink tea (or get a suntan)!

Homoeroticism in the hammams

It was a great weekend. Together with my friend from London, I went to see the new exhibition on Jacques Azéma, a French artist who taught in Morocco. He wanted to transpose the best of surrealism to a Moroccan pastoral context.

Some of his works simply passed me by, but there were others, of young men in Moroccan hammams, which were astounding for how explicit they were.

I know very little about the man, other than that he taught at the Fine Arts school in Casablanca. But he brought a profound sensibility to these works, of men complicit not just in tea-drinking, but something altogether more furtive.

Deneuve, but no time for Algerian politics?

Next door, in the main galleries of the Yves Saint Laurent museum, I revelled again in his ‘Smoking’ tuxedos and the beautiful designs that adorned 1960s, 70s and 80s stars such as Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Adjani. I was struck that YSL, the great master, was born in Oran in Algeria, a city I have this week learnt was the site where many “pied-noirs” faced violent reprisals after the end of the French-Algerian war.

Seeing Yves Saint Laurent surrounded with his models and showcasing his haute couture at his January 1962 show, I did wonder whether the events back in his (original) home troubled him. In October 1961, it saw many (possibly 300) Algerians shot down and even thrown in the River Seine, on the instruction of former Vichy collaborationist, Maurice Papon, the head of the Parisian police.

Lovely Morocco
Beautiful, bewitching Morocco

This was all of course during the period Yves Saint Laurent was very much maturing and coming of age – but also, I understand, having a breakdown, getting fired from Christian Dior and working hard to set up on his own.

It would be fascinating to learn more about whether, if indeed at all, his aesthetic drive ever moved him to promote – if not Algerian independence – then French patrimony. Something I need to read up on.

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