Photograph of terracotta coloured room in Arabic fortress with stone floor and wooden ceiling. Two small abstract black and white paintings hang on the wall, and there are two sheets of paper held in place by two stones on the window sill.

Essence existence

In Essence, existence, I combine the Aristotelian division of the world into essence (form or idea) and existence (matter) with the cultural exchange that took place between the 8th and 15th centuries between the Arab world and Europe through al-Andalus.

It is ironic that the work of Aristotle, one of the pillars of Western thought, would not have been known in Europe if it had not been translated into Arabic and reintroduced to Europe through al-Andalus.

The HTML code, which is used to display pages on the Internet, is a reminder of a technology that would not have existed without the Arab cultural legacy. Without 0, or al-Khwarizmi’s algorithms, the computer language we have today would not exist.

Essence contains the theories and Existence the objects brought to Europe by the Arabs or developed in al-Andalus.


In addition to the work of Aristotle, there is that of Averroes (Ibn-Rushd), born in Córdoba and known as the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe.

Ibn-Arabi, philosopher and Sufi mystic born in Murcia.

Ibn al-Baitar, botanist and oncologist born in Malaga, creator of a scientific method of pharmacological classification used in his influential encyclopaedia.

Disciplines and concepts such as algebra, arithmetic, astronomy, logarithms and algorithms (al-Kwarizmi), decimal numeration and 0 also came to Europe from the Arab world through al-Andalus.


Astrolabes, water wheels, irrigation channels, reservoirs, cisterns, paper, cotton, soap, musk.

Oil, jasmine, meatballs, artichokes, aubergines, endives, asparagus, pomegranates, melons, apricots, wallflowers, roses, honeysuckle, sugar, rice, citrus fruits, bananas, dates.


The second part of Essence Existence was carried out on-site, collaborating with the festival audience.

In collaboration with Ahmed Ben Abdellah

In collaboration with Zineb Makdad, and Miranda Sharp

The context of the project

When I was invited to participate in the Chefchaouen Art Festival with the London-based group Pangaea Arts, the idea was to create a piece that reflected the relationship with the place before arriving and during the stay.

In 2004, the media was filled with anti-Arab propaganda. Being Andalusian and aware of the relevance of Arab culture to Europe (and vice versa), I was bothered by the blatant attempts to polarise public opinion.

I also worked designing web pages, with codes that would not have existed without the Arab legacy.

Upon arriving in Chefchaouen for the festival, one of the first questions my Moroccan colleagues asked me, before starting to set up anything, was: “Do you really see us like that?”.

Direct/Indirect at the Chefchauen Arts Festival.