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Yacoubi (El) Ahmed Ben Driss

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Ahmed Yacoubi (1931–1985) was a Moroccan painter and story-teller. He was born in Fes, Morocco in 1931.
Paul Bowles translated Ahmed Yacoubi’s stories from Maghrebi (Moroccan Arabic) into English: « The Man and The Woman » (1956), « The Man Who Dreamed of Fish Eating Fish » (1956) and « The Game » (1961), and a play « The Night Before Thinking » which was published in the Evergreen Review in 1961 and later produced at The White Barn Theater in Westport, CT.

Paul Bowles had met the young Ahmed ben Driss el-Yacoubi in the autumn of 1947 in Fez, and encouraged him to draw and paint the characters of his tales. Bowles took Ahmed to England, Spain, Italy, Turkey, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Japan.

In 1952 Bowles travelled with Yacoubi to his island, Taprobane, located off the southern coast of Ceylon where Yacoubi prepared memorable meals for their guest Peggy Guggenheim (mentioned in her book Confessions of an Art Addict) and where she purchased several of his drawings.

Bowles arranged for Yacoubi’s first exhibition at the Gallimard Agency bookshop on the Boulevard Pasteur in Tangier. His art was highly acclaimed and 28 works were sold. Further exhibitions were held at the Galerie Clan in Madrid and the Betty Parsons Gallery in New Yorkin 1952. Francis Bacon, introduced him to working in oil paint, arranged for an exhibition of Yacoubi’s art in 1957 at the Hanover Gallery in London. Other exhibitions were held throughout the 1960s,70s and 80s in Tangier, Casablanca, and all over the world, receiving serious acclaim with is paintings being collected by the world’s top collectors.

Yacoubi married an American writer in 1957 in Tangier and continued to exhibit in Tangier, London, New York, Cleveland, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Paris, and Rome. In 1965 Mr. and Mrs. Yacoubi had their daughter Karima Yacoubi who demonstrated at an early age the same highly creative talents as both her parents.

Ahmed Yacoubi continued to develop from what was originally described as a « primitive » style to a highly complex, sophisticated and secret method of layering in oil that amazed viewers and critics alike.
In 1966 Yacoubi moved to the United States, having been divorced from Ruth, and continued to work, exhibit and travel, meeting and entertaining diverse and international artists, writers, collectors, politicians and connoisseurs.

Befriending Peggy Hitch**** and her husband Walter Bowart, owner and publisher of Omen Press, Yacoubi collaborated with friends at their ranch in Tucson and eventually published his first cookbook, « The Alchemist’s Cookbook » that became something of a collector’s item. Returning and moving to New York, thanks to the support of Ellen Stewart (La Mama of the Off Off Broadway theatrical world) Yacoubi lived and painted on Great Jones Street in the East Village where he met the artist Carol Cannon in 1978. They lived and painted together for seven years, parting as friends and still collaborating on exhibits and projects such as the screenplay of his play « The Night Before Thinking ».


Three years later, Yacoubi received news of the robbery of his paintings and beautiful Moroccan antiques from his studio in Tangier simultaneous to his being diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on December 25, 1985, at the age of 57.

Since then, many of his fine paintings were stolen from a storage unit in London, his daughter Karima died suddenly of health complications in London in 2004, and his work has yet to receive the full measure of study and appreciation that many believe they deserve.


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