Waking up in Marrakech means being lucky enough to hear the sand-colored Koutoubia mosque’s call for prayer on a daily basis all while taking in the tantalizing scent of the red city’s succulent street food. It also means bumping into some of the internet’s favorite faces and some of the industry’s best creatives— something to expect when walking around one of the region’s cultural capitals. And that’s exactly what happened when around town for Hassan Hajjaj and Marjana Jaidi’s collaborative debut event held in the Moroccan South last month.
It’s a scorching Friday afternoon and stomachs are full of couscous, a traditional maghrebi dish, at the recently inaugurated Jajjah space in the industrial area of Sidi Ghanem (a neighbourhood located 10 minutes away from the city center). Creatives, artists, and journalists, are all collectively sat around a very Hajjaj-like decorated table enjoying their hearty meal while mingling with one another. That is the, quite convivial we must say, setting in which we meet Sam Lambert, one half of the duo that makes up the Art Comes First collective (ACF) alongside his partner Shaka Maido.
The talented young man was present to introduce his latest sartorial design in partnership with his more than just colleague. Blending ACF’s ethos with Hajjaj’s usual hyper-pop iconography, the two cultural engines stitched a line that wants to create a bridge for the worldwide youth to walk on.
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The long arm of coincidence equated to both Mille and Lambert, at the same time and place, to meet, enjoy a digestive drink, and take the time to dig in deeper into Art Comes First’s wholesome story.
Let’s take it back to the beginning: How did you and Shaka Maido meet?
We used to hang out in the same circles in West London. The idea (of Art Comes First) came about when hanging around friends in a basement making music. Basically, us trying to express all the frustration we didn’t say. People here weren’t that free although they claimed that London was the most stylish city and whoever was a tiny bit different would be copied over and over again. So we thought, like create our looks, ways of expression, and so on. That’s how the collective was eventually born— something just between people that had similar ideas, without any commercial approach, just for the passion and culture.
Blending cultures is clearly important for you, why is that?
I believe that once you know what the other person, or culture, is about you immediately become richer. Culture is everything. You learn so much. Through culture I learned my spiritualism, through culture I learned my skills, and through culture, I met some amazing people around the world. Without it, I wouldn’t be me. If I don’t approach things from a cultural perspective, I usually don’t get the right angle on them.
How important is culture in bringing people together?
Because of media, people will feel some sort of way about another group of people; maybe because of their religion, beliefs, or whatever, but through culture, you’ll be able to find the similarities between you and whatever you consider as “them.” We’re all close to cultures we don’t think we’re close to. It helps me understand and respect the next man and, above everything, it helps me grow.
Is that the message you’re trying to send with your collective?
Our collective tries to make sure people understand how our knowledge comes from different sub-cultures like punk subculture or hip hop. It was more about live and let live. It’s important for us to give people the space to flourish and be themselves. That message can resonate with anyone. Because who doesn’t wanna live or someone else to live. We wanna make sure people can be free.
What interests you the most?
My main focus is the narrative of culture although fashion does hold a bit more importance for me. If it wasn’t for fashion, I would’ve found another outlet to express different cultures. But for now it’s that as with fashion I can show you a bracelet I just discovered they make in Dakar that I could take to Mexico and make a silver version of that people will like. Through fashion we can all understand each-other.
Do you and Shaka share the same emphasis about fashion? Do you always manage to see eye to eye?
We’re very different on many different things, but we created this collective based on our hunger for knowledge. If he learns one bit I learn the other bit. It’s like reading a book, I’ll read the first half and he’ll read the second so that we bring both of our knowledge to one another. It’s a strength to be quite the opposite of the other but if we were the same we wouldn’t have gone this far. We’ve got the same middle part, just different beginnings and different ends.
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You have a strong emphasis on making the old blend into the new and make it cool again. Why is that?
It’s true, we do get inspiration from the past and bring it to the present so that it can last for the future. And that’s the only way, in our eyes, that you can be innovative. Culture is only there because someone else did it in the past, it’s a constant cycle of renewal. And we hope, in the long run, to be considered as part of it.
Last question: Why should art come first in your eyes?
Art has to come first because it teaches you how to love yourself first because that’s how you create you own universe and become unstoppable. From that moment, you can do whatever you want and achieve much more than you ever expected.
Pictures courtesy from The M’bari House