Thursday, 20 October 2011

YSL's Marrakesh: Take Me Back To That Oasis Of Calm

Yves Saint Laurent's home in Marrakech was the setting for he and partner Pierre Bergé's most opulent art collection, a place to walk their French bulldog Moujik IVhis personal workspace, and an escape to a culture rich in colour and energy which later became his final resting place - his ashes are scattered adjacent to his home in the Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Garden). Bergé, who still resides at the house for part of the year, the rest spent in Paris, said after his partner's death: "He will stay in a country that influenced and marked him greatly".
Originally built in 1912 by French painter Jacques Majorelle, YSL once described the gardens as "his favourite place in the world". It's easy to see why. As I wandered around the curling red concrete pathways - giant cacti, pink and mauve draped bougainvilleas, banana trees, towering coconut palms, bamboo stylishly etched with the graffiti names of thousands of visitors, exotic plants imported from the Canary Islands, Central America and France - all danced alongside the stunning Moroccan architecture. Electric hues of cobalt blue grip your vision, famously known as Majorelle Blue - a colour which still spills into the art, fashions and designs of modern local artisans, who share a passion for Marrakech and the haute couture legacy of an iconic former resident. The vibrant colour is also splashed onto the many exterior buildings and ornate ceramic pots of blooms dotted around the gardens, also painted in eye-catching citrus yellow and watery aqua tones.  

Composed and coloured like a painting itself, the garden offers a haven of peace and tranquility, aided by gentle running water channels, a lily-filled pond and flowing fountains. Jacques Majorelle intended for this garden and its surroundings to reflect the tropical styles which inspired his youth on the Cote d'Azur - along with a fusion of elements from Islamic, Moorish and art-deco design, seen in the mosaics and pavilions. 
Restoring these elements, along with the original beauty of the garden, was a passion YSL and Bergé shared when they bought it in the 80s. Assisted by American landscape artist Madison Cox and Moroccan botanist Abderrazak Ben Chaabane, together they brought Majorelle's dream to create a heaven on earth back to life. An oasis of calm once again, in which to be inspired. ABergé said at the designer's funeral in 2008, “I know that one day I will join you under the Moroccan palms…” a sentimental nod to their cherished getaway. A museum also stands in the grounds, featuring a framed collection of images which pay homage to the New Year's cards designed by YSL for friends and family, over a 30 year period. Each unique card incorporated his aesthetic during that particular year, and featured the word "love". 

Images © Kate Lawson 2011
As I wandered around the Jardin Majorelle, shaded from the hot Moroccan sun under giant palm leaves, a piece of music kept playing over and over in my head - "Stillness Of The Mind" by Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski. This place will stir your emotions and awaken your senses, just as that music does every time I hear it. It's a place that will keep on calling you back because of the sheer beauty and soul within it. I can hear it calling me already....


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