art of resistance, Morocco

Morocco | Death Of A Fish Salesman.

fish/Naples, Fish seller, painting by Keith Vaughan/

When a fish vendor was gruesomely killed trying to stop police destroying his catch, his death sparked Morocco’s largest protests since the Arab Spring. Sam Metz (Roads & Kingdoms) went to Al Hoceima to investigate the aftermath.

Metz writes:

“Protests lit up Al Hoceima almost immediately in the following days. They quickly spread across the country to cities like Rabat, Casablanca, Nador, Tangier, and Marrakesh. In each city, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets for planned demonstrations week after week to bring attention to hogra, a term that refers to shame and anger, specifically in the context of government subjugation. Many saw themselves and their own disillusionment with the Kingdom’s politics wrapped up in the story of Mohcine Fikri being ground to death.”

He continues:

“As protests spread throughout Morocco, the vigor of protests in Al Hoceima started to garner global attention. Newspapers compared Mohcine Fikri to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor whose self-immolation lit the match that started the Arab Spring. Despite the fact that Fikri does not seem to have forfeited his life willingly, there are some clear similarities: both were North African; both sold food; many observers saw them both as having been arbitrarily targeted by police; and their deaths became symbols for broader political grievances throughout their respective countries.

But, this comparison glosses over what makes Al Hoceima, Al Hoceima. Morocco is not Tunisia. Even before Fikri’s death, the Rif region has long held a reputation for being an epicenter of resistance and anti-government protest; a lot of these protests revolved around demands for regional autonomy and cultural recognition, a context Tunisia does not share. The people here identify ethnically as Amazigh, also known as Berber.

Unlike Morocco’s Arab majority, the Amazigh speak a different language, have different cultural customs, and remember the nation’s past differently. In the 1920s, led by Abdelkrim El Khattibi, Riffians, as the people of the region are known, declared themselves independent from both Spanish colonists and Moroccan Sultans. In the 1950s, this region also protested against the newly independent kingdom and later, in the 1980s, against the harsh rule of King Hassan II.

After Morocco gained independence, many Amazigh felt that the restored monarchy exercised the same kind of illegitimate control as the European colonizers. As Morocco began creating a new national identity, Amazigh history was erased, children were forced to speak Arabic in schools, and the region remained isolated and underdeveloped. This legacy was invoked during the Fikri protests, first in Al Hoceima, where protests were most energized, and later throughout Morocco as demonstrators flew Amazigh flags.

Moroccan authorities arrested eleven of those involved in Fikri’s murder for involuntary manslaughter and forgery in November and have arrested a twelfth man this month, a strong response that many observers felt was meant to dispel political anger. Protests have now recededed throughout the country, but in Al Hoceima, the underlying issues that Fikri’s murder brought to the forefront remain unchanged; the city and surrounding area are still victims of underdevelopment and governmental neglect.

In a time when Morocco invests heavily in industry and construction in other parts of the country and plans to build a high-speed train along the Atlantic coast, Al Hoceima continues to have some of the worst roads in the country, as well as comparatively higher unemployment.”

• • •

Read the full story on Roads & Kingdoms.

Advertisements
Standard
art of resistance, Morocco

Harry Gruyaert | Morocco.

par43959//all images  © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos//

Just last year, a first English language monograph of Harry Gruyaert’s work was published. Gruyaert is a famous Magnum photographer, and for the last four decades he has managed to surprise the world of photography.

His work is never about stereotypical exoticism, and he treats all of his subjects and all of the countries he wanders around with his camera the same way.

GRH

I like all of his work, especially the photos taken in Morocco between 1976 and 1988. Throughout most of those years Gruyaert worked out of a Volkswagen Kombi van, travelling from one place to the next, his cameras and equipment thrown in the back.

MOROCCO. Marrakech. In the medina (old district). 1981.

The way Gruyaert uses light, shapes and colors, transforms ordinary moments into art. The people in his photos get to keep their mystery, and that is a rare magic.

MOROCCO. Rif. Chechaouen. 1987. Street life in the Rif mountains. Walls are often painted in blue and white.

In an interview with the British Journal of Photography, Gruyaert said that he was always “interested in all the elements: the decor and the lighting and all the cars: the details were as important as humans”.

He captures people, but he also captures time, details, surroundings, context… It’s about humans being a part of, and not a whole.

MOROCCO. Essaouira. Ramparts & fortified walls of the city. 1976.

“It’s purely intuition. There’s no concept. Things attract me and it works both ways. I’m fascinated by the miracle where things come together in a way where things make sense to me, so there’s very little thinking”, Gruyaert explains.

To me, Gruyaert’s work is a wonderful way of taking in and capturing life, the way it is. He once said he discovered how to see – that might be the best way to describe what he does.

par44624//all images  © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos//

• • •

For more on Gruyaert and his work, go to his Magnum profile.

Standard
art of resistance, Israel, Morocco

Remembering Ronit Elkabetz: A Thing Of Soul & Beauty.

ronit/From the film The Band’s Visit/

Ronit Elkabetz died. It’s hard to believe it, but it’s true – there will be no more films featuring the lovely and talented, bright and insightful, funny and beautiful beyond words – Elkabetz.

She was only 51, the cause of her death cancer. During the last twenty-five years she became a true diva of Israeli cinema, one of Israel’s most respected artists – she was an actress, director and screenwriter.

Elkabetz was born in Beersheba, to a religious Moroccan Jewish family originally from Essaouira. She became an important voice for Mizrahi women – her uncompromising and daunting work helped push Sephardi women to the cinematic forefront. The ethnic, class, and gender oppression of the Mizrahi women was an issue Elkabetz deeply explored in her work.

Michal Aviad, who cast Elkabetz as the lead in her film Invisible, said Elkabetz taught her film. Speaking to Haaretz, Aviad said:

“She had an enormous heart, she was terribly funny and she knew how to distinguish good from bad with brilliant clarity. And her heart was in the right place – politically, morally, as a feminist, as a Mizrahi, whatever it was.”

From 2012, Elkabetz served as president of Achoti (Sister), an organization set up by Mizrahi feminists. She worked as a volunteer, before the group asked her to be its president.

Gett/Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem/

In 2010, Elkabetz received a lifetime achievement award from the Israeli Film Academy for her contribution to Israeli cinema. During her career, she played the roles of single mothers, prostitutes, immigrants, hairdressers – those who are struggling, those who choose to live differently, those stuck in the middle of nowhere, those at the margins of the society.

I will never forget her as Dina in The Band’s Visit, Ruthie in Or and Viviane Amsalem in the trilogy To Take A Wife, Shiva and Gett. Her witt, smile, her broken china voice and the way I believed her from the first moment she appeared on the screen – it was magic, a thing of beauty that is joy forever.

ttaw1/To Take A Wife/

She believed that the cinema has to build a new world and bring about change. She wanted to be involved in projects that investigate the soul, to act and direct only things that can influence and change reality and society.

Alongside her dominant role in Israeli cinema, Elkabetz also starred in French films, including some directed by André Téchiné and Fanny Ardant.

She will be truly missed and remembered as one of the greats –  her soulful ways made all the difference. Elkabetz was human, and in her case – that word should be taken with all the romance and beauty that it entails.

• • •

Previous Remembering… sessions:

Remembering Leila Alaoui: The Moroccans

Remembering Mahdi ‘Amel: The Importance of Resistance

Remembering Samir Kassir: Life as Courage, Death as Silence

Remembering Hassan Fathy: To Build With The People

Standard
Algeria, art of resistance, Morocco, Tunisia

The Book To Read: The French Intifada.

Aulnay-sous-Bois-Nov-2005-Photo-by-Leopold-Lambert/Danger Effondrement (Danger Collapse) in Aulnay-sous-Bois (North-Eastern Paris banlieue), photo © Léopold Lambert, 2005/

I was really looking forward to reading Andrew Hussey’s new book The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and its Arabs, and it didn’t dissapoint me, on the contrary – it held up to my expectations.

To fully understand both the social and political pressures wracking contemporary France – and all of Europe – as well as major events from the Arab Spring in the Middle East to the tensions in Mali, Andrew Hussey argues that we have to look beyond the confines of domestic horizons.

As much as unemployment, economic stagnation, and social deprivation exacerbate the ongoing turmoil in the banlieues (the urban hotspots for tension and bouts of rioting), Hussey describes how the root of the problem lies elsewhere: in the continuing fallout from Europe’s colonial era.

In banlieues in Paris, Hussey writes, there is a lot of anger, young men willing to turn themselves into Soldiers for God. The rioters, wreckers, even the killers of the banlieues are looking primarily for justice – their (hi)story has deep wounds all over it.

the french

Hussey knows his subject well and it is evident in his writing. He identifies the current situation in France today, dissects it like a surgeon. Predominantly white, well maintained, metropolitan cities bordered by run down and poorly funded suburbs (banlieues) housing significant numbers of Arab and North African Muslim migrants.

“For all their modernity, these urban spaces are designed almost like vast prison camps. The banlieue is the most literal representation of otherness – the otherness of exclusion, of the repressed, of the fearful and despised – all kept physically and culturally away from the mainstream of French ‘civilization'”, Hussey writes.

The French Intifada is very readable, full of examples, little stories, interesting references – Hussey easily moves from Zinedine Zidane to Albert Camus and Frantz Fanon.

A large amount of anger and hatred amongst the French “immigrant” population stems from the French history in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Whilst none of the European power’s empires can claim to be truly benevolent, French conduct in all three nations was devastating, particularly in Algeria.

The great portion of the book is dedicated to Algeria and the conduct of the French colons there. That is understandable since Algeria really was (and still is) the country when it comes to French colonialism.

Hussey explains how the development of the ethnically French Pied-Noirs in Algeria over the years has also contributed much antagonism and anger, both among the French and the Algerians themselves.

Hussey does what’s necessary (and so often lacking in media representations and public dicussions) – he goes back through history, he offers context, he tries to understand why and how something happened, and not just what happened.

The French Intifada shows that the defining conflict of the twenty-first century will not be between Islam and the West (the so-called clash of the civilizations) but between two dramatically different experiences of the world – the colonizers and the colonized.

• • •

Previous The Book To Read:

The Librarian of Basra

A Hand Full Of Stars

Palestinian Walks: Notes On A Vanishing Landscape

Night Draws Near

Standard
art of resistance, Morocco

Remembering Leila Alaoui: The Moroccans.

moroccans/The Moroccans, © Leila Alaoui/

It seems way too early to pay respect to Leila Alaoui, talented French-Moroccan photographer, in MER’s Remembering sessions. After all, she entered 2016 full of power, only in her thirties.

Unfortunately, Alaoui succumbed to her injuries sustained in the Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) terrorist attacks, only couple of days ago. She was among those (at least) 56  wounded and now joined those more than 30 killed.

Alaoui was born in Paris in 1982 and studied photography at City University of New York (CUNY) before spending time in Morocco and Lebanon.

Her work had been exhibited internationally in recent years, including at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, and was featured in newspapers and magazines including The New York Times and Vogue. Last couple of years she lived between Marrakech and Beirut.

One of her most beautiful projects was The Moroccans. About it, she wrote: “Morocco has a specific position in this backstory of photographers using the culture – particularly elements from native costume and architecture – to construct their own fantasies of an exotic ‘other’ world.

Souk of Boumia, Middle Atlas, 2011

Souk of Boumia, Middle Atlas, 2011

Foreign photographers often depict Westerners in Morocco when they want convey glamour or elegance, while framing local people rustic or folkloric, reiterating the patronizing gaze of the Orientalist.

My intention was to counter this in these portraits by adopting similar studio techniques to photographers such as Richard Avedon in his series ‘In the American West’, who portrays his subjects as empowered and glamorous, drawing out the innate pride and entitlement of each individual person.”

Alaoui embarked on a road trip through rural Morocco to photograph women, men and children from diverse ethnic and tribal groups including Berbers and Arabs. This on-going project served as a visual archive of the Moroccan traditions and aesthetics now disappearing with globalization.

004-leila-alaoui-theredlist

In one interview, Alaoui discussed the relationship many photographers have with Morocco: “A lot of negative experiences have given Morocco a very specific relationship to photographers, or people taking photos.

The Moroccans have the feeling their culture is being used – particularly when it comes to native clothing and architecture – and the photographers are trying to turn them into their own fantasy of an exotic ‘other’ world.

That’s one reason. But superstition and witchcraft also play a role here. For example, the collective consciousness still contains the idea that cameras rob people of their souls.”

Alaoui did her best to portray Moroccan people in a different way, allowing them a choice and taking her time to get to know them and their approach towards life and world.

Chefchaoun, Rif Mountains, 2010

Chefchaoun, Rif Mountains, 2010

It’s extremely sad that the world has lost Alaoui. I didn’t know her, but I knew her work. And through her work, it’s easy to see how she was one of those souls who always tried to bring people together, to raise awareness – make us look at each other and understand each other.

She participated in exhibitions aimed at raising money for those suffering in Syrian war, she was involved in the work of activists, journalists and human rights organisations working to improve the situation of migrants and refugees in Morocco (and other countries).

featured_Portrait-Leila-Alaoui-2/Leila Alaoui, photo via Tamyras/

Alaoui was interested in dignity, in humanity. She gave herself to that struggle. I hope she will remembered for that – it’s the greatest legacy one can leave.

//all images © Leila Alaoui//

• • •

Previous Remembering… sessions:

Remembering Mahdi ‘Amel: The Importance of Resistance

Remembering Samir Kassir: Life as Courage, Death as Silence

Remembering Hassan Fathy: To Build With The People

Remembering Assia Djebar: I Write Against Erasure

Standard
art of resistance, Egypt, Morocco, travel

Cinemas of Morocco and Egypt.

maroc081,large.1422288691/Cinema Al Falah, Casablanca/

Stephan Zaubitzer started photographing movie theatres in 2003. Twelve years later, he has an impressive cinema collection in his portolio, from the United States and Romania, to Brazil and the Czech Republic. Among the cinemas he discovered and captured in his photos, there are many that can be found in Morocco and Egypt – from Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangier to Alexandria and Cairo.

Zaubitzer was fascinated by the dark interiors with their outlandish decorations, and by the exteriors, which always stand out from their urban surroundings. His photos allows us to take a tour around the magical world of movie theaters in Morocco and Egypt.

65,large.1422287612

96,large.1422287932

127,large.1422289066

152,large.1422288624

194,large.1422363394

egypte035,large.1422287639

egypte049,large.1422287647

egypte051,large.1422287653

egypte072,large.1422287669

egypte109,large.1422287691

maroc031,large.1422288647

maroc065,large.1422288677

maroc078,large.1422288684

maroc111,large.1422364879

maroc139,large.1422288724

maroc143,large.1422364880

maroc153,large.1422794930

maroc177,large.1422288738

maroc184,large.1422288745

maroc214,large.1422287903

SZAuberWorld06,large.1422287703

SZAuberWorld18,large.1422287604

//all photos © Stephan Zaubitzer//

• • •

For more, visit Stephan Zaubitzer’s official website.

Standard
art of resistance, Morocco

Between France and Morocco: Stateless and nostalgic.

Malik Nejmi is a French photographer of Moroccan descent. From 2001 to 2005, he collaborated with his father in “El Maghreb,” the outcome of an identity quest and a photographic narrative drawing a parallel between past and present, text and image.

Artist statement:

“…My pictures don’t fit in a human drama taken on the fly. It deals with the breakdown of the moroccan youth on one hand, and on another hand, weighs on contemporary stakes of migrations ; until underliying the tension of action, the moments when spaces cross, overlay and respond. The tragedy is somewhere else. This is the « white » Africa wounded by the protectorate fiction. The aim was to take pictures of Morocco to unframe France. Nor my identity neither History let me the choice : both stateless and nostalgic…”

mmm

mooo

mor

moro

moroc

morocc

morroco

//all photos © Malik Nejmi/Agence VU//

For more on this project, go to Agence VU.

For more on Malik Nejmi and his photography, visit his official website.

Standard