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Sacred Skin (2023) is an installation in collaboration with close friend and writer Rashid Novaire. In this work, kaersenhout and Novaire probe the ongoing racist and anti-Black interpretations of the biblical story of Ham and its relationship to Black people in the Maghreb countries, who are sometimes referred to as ‘Haratin’ (a contested term for Black people in this region). In this installation, kaersenhout delves into the history of Black people in the Maghreb, and the ways in which they have been ostracized and isolated. kaersenhout and Novaire use the story of Ham to address histories of slavery, race, and Islam in Morocco. In this biblical story, also known as the curse of Ham, the son of Ham and his descendants are destined to perpetual servitude. kaersenhout and Novaire interrogate the ways in which the curse of Ham has been used to justify slavery and the subjugation of Black people in the Maghreb region and the Transatlantic slavetrade. Novaire’s family descendants of  ‘Haratin ‘and they still work for the King of Morocco to this day. Some ‘Haratin’ people from the Draa Valley in the South of Morocco see themselves as descendants of Ham and draw on a different interpretation of this story. One day, Ham, who was still white, used a Koran to protect his head from a heavy rainstorm. It rained so hard that the writing and black ink spilled from the Koran onto Ham’s body turning his skin Black. For the ‘Haratin’ this is a story of empowerment and proof that their skin is sacred. 

The installation comprises of a slow ink drip on top of a
bible opened on the pages which tell the story of Ham. The black ink dripping on the story stands symbol for connecting two religions who have been in constructed opposition for thousands of years. Novaire’s specially created poem fills the room., kaersenhout and Novaire contemplate the importance of storytelling, religion, communion, and a shared sacred space. 


All at once I know the rain again
An image in black and white and grey

You, who in that light looked at the fluttering of a restless sigh

in the palm of your hand All at once I know the rain again

In which you found, your black skin, a sanctuary 'Haratin', they call you, a word,
which I may sometimes look beyond
And where, in recurrent language

I met a shadow for which I long

You told me – we are sons of Cham,

and were white until

rain made the inky typeface run and we preserved the holy book

on our skin
At once I know the rain again The trusted unknown
where you and I
fused into an entity indivisible Your black skin
Your sacred skin
'Haratin', they call you

My longing for silence evokes
With amper-imagined insistence
A dumb language, beyond sound
That must keep its distance
A distance from the time when your skin your black skin
your sacred skin
is like a blind spot
a sanctuary trampled underfoot
Mirror with distorted image
A shadow of my features
My skin
My sacred skin
A role-play
game where time remained
Like the route of a gourd
Transported to a coast untamed
'Haratin', I tread the backroads of language Past places
where light still burns
I am your story
Even before I come ashore
But last night, once more at the coast older than the waiting
A surge to which I resign myself
drift away in contemplating
'Haratin', they call you,
a word,
I tread those tracks

it is as if the earth has saved the scars of our skin

Rashid Novaire

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