A year after the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art opened in Cape Town, South Africa—becoming the first major museum of its kind on the continent—a smaller, private art institution, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), opened last week in Marrakech, Morocco. (Though they’d had a softer launch in late 2016, the institution billed this as its more prominent introduction to “international audiences.”) MACAAL adds to the growing ambition to create modern museums that focus on exhibiting and contextualizing the art of Africa’s own artists. It also dovetails with other initiatives, like the 1-54 art fair—which just had its Moroccan debut—in helping to promote and bolster the Marrakech art scene.

“This museum is a gift to the city,” said Othman Lazraq, MACAAL’s president and the director of Fondation Alliances. (A private Moroccan art collection, amassed over the last 40 years by Lazraq’s family, forms the museum’s permanent collection of some 2,000 contemporary works.) “We want to give a voice to a younger generation of Moroccan and African artists to express themselves in their country and on their continent, and not leave and go be promoted in the U.S. or Europe.” He added, “This is a platform for African artists and our way of trying to democratize access to their art. African art has to be African. It has to be shown in Africa.”

In an additional attempt for the museum to be “accessible to everyone,” Lazraq said it will offer free admission and transportation; host biweekly couscous dinners for the families of the city’s gardeners and cab drivers; and present educational programs for school children. Read more