Rachid Koraïchi, who works in France and Tunisia, has spent five decades tackling weighty topics in his work: from faith and family, to history and remembrance. These notions have inspired his prolific output of ceramics, etchings, textiles, sculptures and installations, collected by institutions across the world, including the British Museum in London and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The artist’s symbol-laden pieces draw on his fascination with signs and glyphs from a variety of cultures, while notions of memory and mourning also thread through his output. In a year scarred by the losses of the pandemic – and with the refugee crisis still ongoing in the Mediterranean – his work is more resonant than ever.
This June, Koraïchi inaugurated the Jardin d'Afrique (Garden of Africa) in Zarzis, Tunisia: a non-denominational graveyard he has created for the migrants who have lost their lives on the way to Europe. He tells us more about his work and how the cemetery took shape.
‘My work is rooted in the Islamic artistic tradition, but I studied art in the western mode and was trained in pottery, metalwork, sculpture and easel painting. When I was born, Algeria was a department of France. My country has been colonised by different peoples over thousands of years – the Romans, the Babylonians, the Syrians, the Phoenicians – then, in the 19th century, the French. Going further back, there are ancient rock paintings in the Sahara Desert region of Tassili n’Ajjer that date from 5000 bce. This complex web of civilisations forms my ancestral roots.