Ahmed Cherkaoui was born in Boujad, Morocco, in 1934. After studying calligraphy in Qur’anic school and an early apprenticeship with a calligrapher in Casablanca, he travelled to Paris to pursue his studies at the École des Métiers d’Art and then in Aujame’s class at the École des Beaux Arts, where he became affiliated with the Paris School. He received a grant to study at the Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw in 1961 within the framework of Moroccan-Polish exchanges, and was deeply influenced by Polish avant-garde art, working increasingly with burlap and mixed media.
Within Morocco, he was loosely affiliated with a small group of painters in Casablanca
including Houssein Tallal and Andre Elbaz,10 although he was never part of the Casablanca School. He was briefly professor of drawing at the technical college in Beaumont-sur-Oise. In the summer of 1967, he returned to Morocco, hoping to teach. As he said, ‘I was looking for fame in Paris, I’m giving up on that and going back to Morocco. I want to train the children back home; if we want to get out of underdevelopment we have to set our hands to it.’11 He died at the age of thirty-two in August 1967 in Casablanca of complications from appendicitis.
Cherkaoui participated in numerous group shows and biennales worldwide, most notably the 2e Biennale des Jeunes (with Mohamed Melehi), Paris, 1961; Peintres de l’École de Paris et peintres Marocains, organized by Gaston Diehl, Rabat, 1962; and Recontre International, Rabat, 1963. Since his death there have been many retrospective exhibitions of his work including Cherkaoui: La Passion du Signe, Institut du Monde Arabe, 1996, and Hommage à Cherkaoui, Salon de Mai, Paris and Bab Rouah Gallery, Rabat, 1968. His work is held in international private and public collections including Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Institut du Monde Arabe and Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, and Attijariwafa Bank, Casablanca.