In a way, entering the Medina Art Gallery in Tangier felt almost like stepping back to the United States because the air in the gallery was just as stale and filtered as the air pumped into art galleries across the world. There were also some subtle differences between this art gallery and art galleries back in the States. The first thing I noticed was the juxtaposition between the noisy, bustling streets just outside the gallery and the quiet environment inside. The major difference, though, was the way the paintings were hung on the walls, and how the colors of one painting complemented the painting next to it made the entire art gallery seem more put together.
We arrived before the artist, Pascual De Cabo, and he seemed a little shocked that we were there once he walked in, almost as if he had forgotten we were going to be there. He quickly recovered, though, and I was struck by how much he resembled my grandfather. Both hold themselves with a quiet confidence. Pascual De Cabo and my grandfather seem uncomfortable with being the center of attention, and yet when they start talking no one dares interrupt them. Of course, my grandfather and Pascual De Cabo have lead completely different lives which was why I was so shocked that they were so similar.
Before we headed out to the Medina Art Gallery, we had read something about both the owner of the art gallery, Omar Salhi, and Pascual De Cabo. I learned that De Cabo was somewhat solitary, preferring his own company than going out and being surrounded by others. This is another thing he has in common with my grandfather, a man who spends most of his days either working or watching the news, and going out once a day to eat lunch at the restaurant where my grandmother works.
Among us students, everyone was a little timid at first, and slowly people started asking De Cabo questions. With Mourad Benkirane, our campus manager, translating our questions into Spanish and De Cabo’s answering into English, we started to warm up to each other. Out of everything the artist said, the sentence that struck me the hardest was “Sometimes you have to be egotistical in order to achieve something great.” This stayed with me for several reasons, the first being that I’m trying to work on my own self-confidence.
I’ve always struggled with being confident in myself and my own capabilities. I often doubt my self-worth and feel as if I’m tricking people into liking me. I have also let this lack of self-esteem keep me from doing things I would enjoy. I want to accomplish great things in life, and if I don’t believe in myself and my abilities, I never will. That’s why what De Cabo said resonated so much: it’s exactly what I want to achieve for myself.
This phrase about believing in yourself also stuck with me because it’s what my grandfather always told my cousins, sisters and me, “If you don’t believe you can do something, you can’t.” My grandfather grew up as one of eleven children; he was born an uncle, and when he was very young, one of his sisters died. He has had to work hard every day of his life; everything that I have now is because of his hard work. I would not be able to attend college if my grandfather hadn’t put in so much work for years before I was even born.
The biggest difference between Pascual De Cabo and my grandfather is that De Cabo lives for his work; as he put it, “he would not understand life without paper and pencil and painting.” He has let his work ruin relationships and sees his paintings as his children. My grandfather is the opposite: although he is extremely dedicated to his work and works incredibly hard, he works hard for his family. He frequently tells me that family is the most important thing in his life. Although I want to have De Cabo’s self-confidence, I value my grandfather’s dedication to his family more.