Once in a while we come across a person in our lives that allows us to understand the meaning of dignity.
For me it is Mustapha El Harchi, a disabled painter by mouth from Morocco’s seaside artist colony of Essaouira, that serves as a reminder of how self-dignity and self-preservation of the soul is free.
I first met him five years-ago. I was strolling past the entrance to Essaouira’s old medina and walked right past him. I did a double-take, then circled back. It only took a glimpse of Mustapha painting by mouth for an immediate recollection of Jim Sheridan’s film “My Left Foot” staring Daniel Day-Lewis. Thus began a story of acknowledgement and friendship.
Musapha paints daily at his outdoor stall which consists of his wheel chair, a make shift easel, his paints and a carry bag of his things. He parks himself across from Taros restaurant and just around the corner from Casa Villa, a famous café known for the best espresso in town.
Each time the opportunity arose, I would visit the old medina to be withMustapha. I admired his sense of dignity, calm and organization as he painted by mouth.
I always make a point of telling Mustapha that a view of the Atlantic Ocean along with a daily routine of painting in the serene town of Essaouira is truly a good life.
Mustapha always smiles gently and agreeably while gesturing to the tourists and locals who pass by his stall. Mustpaha and his paintings qualify top rate under a list of “what to see and do in Essaouira.”. His outdoor stall is meticulously filled with new, small works of paintings ranging from seascapes to floral designs, and agricultural landscapes all available for a modest 20 Dirhams.
Over the years, I have collected many of his paintings and often give them away, sharing the story of the artist. I began collecting his pieces because I enjoyed the idea of contributing to Mustapha’s artistic expression.
For years I wanted to photograph him and I also thought about making a short film. On my last trip to Essaouira, we agreed that it would be a nice idea if I photographed him with the goal to share his story and work with others.
We decided that allowing foreigners to have a small piece of his work would be a good idea and therefore, everyone who embarks on a tour with Travel Exploration will receive as a gift, a hand-painted post card by Mustapha El Harachi, painter by mouth.
Mustapha can be reached at the address listed below. If you’re visiting Essaouira, make sure to stop by and see him. He is fond of art books and collects them as inspiration for his works. To make a donation you can send him an art book of flowers, rural landscapes or still life paintings. He would be very grateful indeed.
Mustapha El Harchi, B.P. 1370, CP: 44100 Essaouira, Morocco