Mohammed Mrabet Biography

Mohammed Mrabet (real name mohammed ben Chaib el Hajjem) (8 March 1936 - ) is a Moroccan author artist and storyteller of the Ait Ouriaghel tribe in the Rif region. Mrabet is mostly known in the West through his association with Paul Bowles, William Burroughs and Tennessee Williams. Mrabet is an artist of intricate, yet colorful, felt tip and ink drawings in the style of Paul Masson or a more depressive, horror-show Jean Miro, which have been shown at various galleries in Europe and America. Mrabet's art work is his own: very loud and intricate, yet comparable with that of his contemporary, Jillali Gharbaoui (1930-1971.) Mrabet is increasingly being recognized as an important member of a small group of Moroccan Master Painters who emerged in the immediate post Colonial period and his works have become highly sought after, mostly by European collectors.

Mohammed Mrabet, born in Tangier, 1936, his father enrolled him in Koranic school at the age of four, then in 1943 at the L'ecole public de Boukhachkhach. From 1946 to 1950, Mrabet worked as a caddy at the Royal Tangier Golf Club and thereafter as a fisherman, until 1956, when he met an American couple, Russ and Anne-Marie Reeves, at the Café Central in Tangier's Petit Socco, and remained friends with them for several years. They leased the Hotel Muneria (Tangier Inn) in Tangier and Mrabet worked there as a barman from 1956 to 1959, when he accompanied them to New York, where he stayed with them for several months. His account of his relationship with this couple is semi-fictionalised in his autobiography Look and Move On. Upon his return to Tangier in 1960, he resumed his life as a fisherman and began to paint, (his earliest drawing known to originate in 1959) and met and became friends with Jane Bowles and Paul Bowles, the latter, who, being impressed by his storytelling skills, became the translator of his many prodigious oral tales, which were orated from a distinctive "kiffed" and utterly non-anglicized perspective and published into fourteen different books. Throughout the 1960s until 1992, Mrabet dictated his oral stories, (which Bowles translated into English) and continued work with his paintings. His books have been translated into many languages and in 1991, Philip Taaffe collaborated with Mrabet for the illustrations of his book "Chocolate Creams and Dollars." Mrabet continues to paint and holds periodic art exhibitions, mostly in Spain and Tangier. He lives in the Souani area of Tangier, with his wife, children and grandchildren.