Aya Dane by Mhani Alaoui

Is art life reinvented?

Is it an escape from reality?

 Miss Mai was quiet and seemed to hesitate.

‘This is my advice to you. Work hard, keep your eyes lowered. Then leave the country. Find a way. Swim across the blue channel if you must. Go. Run as far as you can from here. Don’t ever look back. There is nothing left here. We are all just waiting for death.’

Aya nodded and noticed the teacher’s hands were still on hers, warm and comforting. (…) She knew that the country she was bor in wasn’t intended for the likes of her. That she wasn’t welcome there, that she would never be wanted there. The outside world and its constant, illogical succession of images, chopped and fragmented, would be a part of her forever. ”

From her studio in Brooklyn, Aya Dane paints the world in vivid colours. In the appealing, yet alien world of the United States, Aya’s art is both her refuge and her way of relating to the others, until a mysterious client asks her to paint a canvass that will rush the past back to the present. From a modest neighbourhood in Tangiers to international fame in the high society of Cambridge, Massachussets, her life is constantly swaying between unspoken traumas from childhood and an unbreakable sense of freedom.

Aya’s story is is a lucid and powerful narrative in which nothing is left out, although not everything is clearly unveiled. In a brilliantly refined prose that mixes powerful images vividly painted with refined poetry and infinite melancholy, Mhani Alaoui draws the destiny of a woman who, because she cannot break free from her past, chooses to live in her own world of colours. Between Frida Khalo’s paintings and what could be an anti-Dorian Grey figure, in a remarkable display the author defines as “a kind of insane chronology, one where the mind takes over time, the past, present and future”, time becomes a to-and-forth movement that makes the narrative only more insightful.

Is, then, art life reinvented? Is it an escape from reality? Both questions lead to a kaleidoscope of answers as Aya Dane weaves a kaleidoscopic vision of art, memory and longing for home that goes beyond time and space.

Aya Dane by Mhani Alaoui

978- 1623719685 / Interlink Books (2019)

Review by Ioana Danaila


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