Awakening - My Journey to Marrakech


In her own words - My journey by Sade English


The journey to Marrakech in January 2018 was my first experience of stepping on to African soil. I went to meet an artist I respected and discovered last summer at the Serpentine Gallery, Bouchra Ouizgen.

Her stirring performance piece, ‘Corbeaux’, sees a group of Moroccan and British women silently emerge and come to a halt. Forming geometric, alchemical arrangements they move up and down, heads nodding sternly as they exude extraordinary cries and piercing sounds. This was my introduction to Marrakech, and as the cries of the women pierced my heart, I froze on the spot, intensely alert. In that moment, my appreciation of dance & performances soared. I connected deeply to each and every sound. Art elevated me once more.


As I listened, I connected with pain, strength, suffering, loss, yet love, too. Above all, the rhythm of the increasing movement and the rising sound signified change for me. This was something I longed for and could relate to, as at this precise time, I was undergoing hardships I couldn't control, or so I thought. I was unapologetically able to express my hardships with loved ones, yet I still kept some pain in. I was struggling with accepting the truth. I felt utmost respect for the dancers; their ability to, with no words, display, what looked like to me, life experiences, pain, perhaps struggle was amazing. That they could display it with no fear or boundaries touched me so much that I  struggled to control my emotions. Tears clung to my eyelashes there in the darkness amidst strangers and I knew there was something within me I needed to face and accept.



The morning after, I expressed my appreciation for Bouchra’s work via email and received a reply less than 24 hours later stating her appreciation for my concept Anticlone & my designs. She wanted to collaborate and invited me to come to Marrakech. I booked a flight and went, no questions asked. This thing I thought I needed to face revealed itself the moment I arrived. I knew I went not only to explore and escape my reality but also to face it head on. I've never been comfortable with the unknown. I needed to explore my history, identity and heritage in order to grow and develop as a human being before I could develop further as an artist. I strongly believe you cannot know where you're going if you don’t know where you come from. Embodying my truth is critical to me and looking into my historic roots and bloodline inspired my collection 'Embodied'. British born, but of mixed heritage - Latin American (Peru and Columbia) and Jamaican part Chinese - means I posses a rich background but I was lacking knowledge and understanding of my roots/my beginnings.


The more I explored Marrakech day after day,  the deeper in love I fell and my appreciation for North Africa as a whole, the history, the culture and the people grew. The traditional dress of the Berber people was a new form of inspiration. The Museum of Photography showcased the history of some of the most beautiful women and men; draped in loose cotton  shapes, a body is not sexualised out of respect for Islam. Oversized, drape, lightweight fabric that still creates form, structure and shape spoke true to my own aesthetic and views on design and though I am not religious myself, I myself was mistaken for Muslim, for I, too dressed naturally fully covered, layers upon layers. I thought my collection Embodied II was complete, however it wasn’t. The design ideas evolved just as I was unconsciously doing so,(DOING WHAT?) The trip was more than a meeting or an inspirational research trip but in fact became a life-changing experience.


Embodied Collection, is my third collection. Whilst shooting it, though I was extremely content and happy, there were demons and negative experiences I had managed to pause or almost forget about whilst there. My creative mindset was expanding and regenerating various design ideas, so finalising my collection wasn’t to be. I had newness to add and so it has naturally taken me more time to complete.  However, what is time? Time is just an illusion after all yet we are forever chasing it, keeping up with it, seeking more of it, time to navigate and work on goals and plans calmly and effectively.

It is not uncommon for speaking on life's hardships to be seen as a waste of time within the Jamaican and African cultures. My generation is potentially the first  which finds it more acceptable. Often the conclusion is simply to act, make change, no time to talk. Hardships are a natural part of life. What were my hardships? I was facing the big C word, Cancer. My Mother was dealt the unfortunate card of a viciously progressive cancer. I was also dealing with accepting that a long-term relationship had failed, attempting to figure out if I could honestly forgive the betrayal to be civil. Mentally I wasn’t in a great place, yet I was content in Marrakech for a moment. How was this possible? Naturally I wanted to express my emotions through creating. Create and create some more. Yet that desire was triggered in Marrakech, I was extremely happy and content, but why did I need to be 1,864.9 miles away from home to feel this way? The reasons were few, yet stronger than anyone had known. I was dealing with open wounds that were healing and being away paused it, yet it wasn’t forgotten. In 2017 I had suffered deeply with depression and wasn’t ashamed to admit that. I was and am now in a position to know I survived it with self-belief and confidence in my truth and art , guidance, friendship and love. Those pains, those noises of Bocuhra Ouizgen’s dancers, brought this all back. I was and still am on my journey of healing, growing and being careful to whom I give my energy for I have too much self worth and love to share it with the undeserving. Embodied Collection dignified this, and so naturally the shoot in Marrakech evolved.



Change came! Marrakech was my eye opener to what beautiful change and risk can bring. People say I’ve changed; I hope so. Change is necessary. I am alive, living not existing. If I hadn't  changed, I'd be inanimate, and this means I may as well be dead. Marrakech enabled me to explain my Expand Consciousness. I’ve learnt to forgive, for myself and my own sanity. I simply do my best to learn from everything good and bad. Nobody and nothing in life will ever be perfect. We all have our survival mechanisms and perhaps this is why people treat others the way they do. It’s the only way they know. For this reason alone it's hard not take things personally but you need to at least understand why it’s happened, just for peace of mind. Marrakech enable me to have this peace, to create the new chapter, my art became alive again, I became alive again. I accepted my past or what it was, my current reality for what it is and due to not knowing how the future would turn out, I am doing my art and living for myself, and if the universe seeks my mother to join it, I will be living for the both of us. Time goes by so quickly when you are happy and yet I feel like we are constantly chasing time. It is known time itself is just an illusion. If so, it doesn't matter. With life experiences and challenges I am careful where and how I spend my time. Truth and knowledge is key. Whilst I have evolved as an individual first, as an artist I had a true desire to capture and embody myself in Marrakech. It wasn’t another editorial; it was a moment of clarity and evolution.



I chose to write this for myself; to be honest, to be raw. I believe that we are forever rising. Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou are poems that have forever inspired and followed me since my childhood. It was the first poem my mother read to me, and the first thing I tattooed permanently on my body, in combination with my own poem (I'm not sure exactly what the previous sentence means). It reads,


            “With the certainty of tides just like hope springing rise I,

            I am not built to suit society I’m in the front seat of my own destiny,

            I am a woman phenomenal woman that’s me”.

I dealt with and accepted from an early age that life happens, and we never can predict how it will start, lead nor finish. My history is deplete with struggle and pain; what my Native American and African ancestors had to experience was far greater in comparison to the difficult situations I face, however that doesn't then mean that the pain or suffering we experience means little or nothing. We must rise and rise again. Marrakech enabled me to remember the strength that my ancestors gave me, as well as the self-determination and belief I have to continue on with my venture with Anticlone. With this strength and determination to continue to pursue my goals, I have been offered an Artist Residency In Marrakech at Art Slimane. I am truly humbled and appreciative to have visited Marrakech and be pulled in with open arms by every individual I have met.


Who I am as an individual, my personal story and my ideologies have all enabled me to have this opportunity and it has shown me with strength and determination we can always achieve regardless of our past story, good or bad. There have been great things that have risen. For I am rising even though I have fallen. It the process, it's a cycle that I always will overcome. I have taught myself to never fear failure, only to fear being in the same place I was a year ago. Regardless of what happens to my mother, regardless of whether or not I wish to love again, I am staying focused on being a realist, protecting my energy and being careful about with whom I wish to vibrate, lifting myself and my chosen family to their highest potential and being unapologetically me.  Marrakech captured this evolution, and I will do my best to capture this visually and share it with the world.


Words by Sade English for VMM Volume 5 (Modern Muse)

Photography by Ashley Cumston

Edited by Sade English