Marrakesh's green "anima"
At the gates of the lively city in Morocco, there is a place of tranquillity: "ANIMA - Return to Paradise". Volker Witting visited the imaginative garden world created by Austrian multimedia artist Andre Heller
Bustling Marrakesh: the Moroccan mega-city is above all one thing: lively, noisy, busy. The old town with its labyrinthine alleys and souks (markets) is considered one of the best-preserved and largest in Africa. There, merchants offer traditional clothing, pottery and jewellery. But if it's peace and quiet you are after, you'll have to go somewhere else
A trip to paradise: it takes only about 40 minutes from Marrakesh by shuttle bus to reach the sub-tropical garden ANIMA by Andre Heller in the Ourika Valley. The multimedia artist bought the property in 2008, and the complex opened in spring 2016
Wasteland turned tropical landscape: where all was barren up until a few years ago, Heller has created his "animated" garden – with trees and shrubs, flowering and scented plants. All you can hear is the sound of fountains playing, birds twittering and the voices of other like-minded souls who have dared to venture off the beaten tourist track
A unique masterpiece of nature and art: ceramic works by Picasso (picture), busts from the Congo, a stylised ark, and artworks by Keith Haring make the ANIMA garden a complete work of art. Everything fuses harmoniously into the plant world. An intricate network of paths leads through its labyrinthine vegetation
Setting the scene: at every turn, visitors discover something new, such as this Berber tent. The fairy tale world of 1001 Nights seems just around the corner. Bearing a deep love for Morocco, Andre Heller himself can often be found in the garden. Nor is he the first artist to have fallen for the North African country. Yves Saint Laurent also created an extraordinary garden in Marrakesh – the Jardin Majorelle
Combining ecology and economy: a lot of green and a lot of work – Heller has introduced both to this desert landscape. His garden has become the biggest employer in the village. Heller employs gardeners, security guards and cafe staff. In the cafe you can drink homemade lemonade and enjoy a view of the Atlas Mountains on the horizon
Without water there is no life: from the mouth of this huge ceramic mask, adorned with thousands of mosaic tiles, water vapour issues in a constant stream. True to the saying: without water there is no life. Where would that apply more than in the imaginative world of a botanical artistic garden situated in a barren landscape?