Mohamed El Bellaoui. Moroccan cartoonist: "I feel at home in Algiers, it's like I'm at home"
Invited in the framework of the 11th International Festival of Comics in Algiers, the Moroccan cartoonist, Mohamed El Bellaoui, aka Rebel Spirit, talks about his artistic career, while not failing to give his appreciation on the rise of Moroccan comics.
You who are a regular at comic book festivals around the world, could you have your appreciation on your very first participation in the 11th International Comics Festival of Algiers?
I am extremely pleased to visit for the first time your country and especially to participate in the International Festival of Comics of Algiers. I met the Fibda Commissioner, Dalila Nedjam, during the last Angoulême comic book festival.
As soon as she invited me to participate in her festival, I did not hesitate to come. As I can not stop saying it live and on social networks, I feel at home in Algiers. It's like I'm at home. I did not lose my bearings when coming to Algiers. Regarding the holding of this festival itself, I think it lives up to expectations. I am happy to discover that the youth came in force at the rendezvous.
You are a well-known character both in your country, in Morocco, and internationally. How did you switch to the world of 9th art?
I would say that I was a little kid in Morocco who loved to draw. I started, moreover, to draw before learning to write. As far back as I can remember, I have always drawn. The drawing grew with me. I discovered and read all the mangas, the comics as well as the Franco-Belgian comic strip. It should be noted that when we were young, my father offered us a lot of books to read. I was educated with this love of the book.
The day I had the choice, I did not hesitate for a moment to choose my path. After graduating from high school, I did the School of Fine Arts in Casablanca. For my project of end of study in 2013, I realized an album entitled The Guide casablancais. It was a kind of alternative guide. We find what we can live in Casablanca and nowhere else. Initially, it was just to have a diploma and have fun, but after the feedback on the internet made me believe in myself and in my product. I tried, afterwards, to do my job by associating the status of comic artist, artist and technician to have a small business and publish my books. And also make artistic promotion for other artists.
Precisely, do you think that social networks are necessary for an artist to remain visible in the circuits?
I think the Net allows today to exchange and share experiences.
It's a beautiful opening on the other. We can even do his self-promotion. Internet remains an indispensable means for an artist. You have to use this double-edged tool to get the most out of it. It's a great achievement for us, the new generation. Everyone can express and share what he wants. Now you can make a little drawing and swing it on the canvas. I make a lot of comparisons. Before, there were very small sources of information, but currently we are connected to phones and others. Social networks are important for promoting arts.
How many comics have you edited to date?
I edited two comics on my own. We have also published other comic books for a comic book Skef Kef. We are in our tenth issue. This is a magazine that brings together several artists. We have invited artists from the Arab world on each issue. We had, among others, Algerian, Tunisian, Lebanese and Syrian artists.
You have more than one string to your bow since you are at the same time cartoonist, designer, illustrator and painter watercolourist ...
What do you say about this plural job that fascinates me. I feel comfortable in what I do. Without any pretensions, I think I'm good at what I do, especially in comics, design, illustration and visual arts. All these disciplines complement each other for me.
How is the comic book in Morocco?
I would say that currently there is the propulsion of a new energy in Morocco. We hold an alternative comic book that comes in Moroccan dialect. The experiences before, it was comics in Arabic or French. Now the novelty lies in this change from the language. Currently, we write in Moroccan dialect. We speak the language that everyone understands. It has become a popular art. That's what makes it successful.
This art is very consumed by young Moroccans. Moreover, concerning us, often after each publication, we are forced to re-print as the demand of our comics is important. It must be remembered, however, that the Moroccan comic strip industry is new. In the recent past, comics was closely related to press drawing. It should be noted that after the independence of my country, some newspapers offered pages to artists to express themselves through drawings or caricatures. The 9th art is supported in Morocco through training, given at the Institute of Fine Arts of Tetouan. Better still, the 2000s saw the appearance of a multitude of interesting magazines. The National Institute of Fine Arts even devoted a section to comics.
What does the commitment mean to you?
An artist who claims to be engaged is an artist who surfs the waves. He uses themes to sell what he wants. The artist for me is someone who responds instinctively with his feelings, his senses, his world and his surroundings. Maybe people who consume his art will find that he is engaged.
Projects in perspective?
It is clear that I have plenty of plans to make. When I return to Morocco, I plan to do a "spinof" on my city of Casablanca, in which I will talk about several experiences that I lived. I would like this to be a small model example for young Moroccans who want to invest in the city. If I manage to convey this message for a dozen young people, it is a gain for me. I will talk about my travels. I, by the way, went around the world thanks to the comic strip.