Les Femmes du Maroc #16
By Lalla Essaydi
Work- Photographs, C-Print, Contemporary, Moroccan: 2006.
Art that is redefining, and challenging the idea of women in Islam today. Essaydi, a Moroccan who grew up in Saudi Arabia and later moved to Boston uses photographs to showcase the idea of Muslim women- a way of looking at their lives and identities.She takes a portrait and fuses Islamic, Arabic calligraphy in a unique style. As for composition, she uses structures common to orientalist paintings from the 19th Century.
I was in Morocco for a month through a wintersession program at Wellesley College with about sixteen other students, and it was one of the most eye opening trips I had ever taken. Here are photos from my trip to Morocco in January, 2008, specifically Marrakesh where we spent two nights.
Marrakesh is one of the more modern cities in the country, and one whose battle with globalization can be felt right on the streets. Women in motorcycles dressed in tight jeans and leather jackets or shops selling posters of American rap artists next to hand woven rugs in one of the largest and oldest markets of the world is a sight. Foreigners flock this city, with French vacationers being the largest customers of new condos and flats in the red city. It is definitely catered for tourists, and prices to match. A taxi ride of 3 miles that would cost me five dirham in Rabat (less than one dollar) was charged at fifty which would lead to frustrated haggling whether at noon or four in the morning.
Bars and lounges were beautiful- they were comfortable, smoky, and had incredible interior design specifically done by European designers brought for the purposes. And they would be filled with tourists and Spanish or French businessmen, and high end prostitutes to go with it. These prostitutes would look like any young New Yorker at night – beautiful highlighted hair and tight fitted short dresses and strappy heels were not the common staples of a Moroccan woman on Friday night. And the European men usually dressed in suits would almost always be with one or two in these scenes.
Marrakesh is a city that somehow blended the country’s rich Berber culture with its equally rich French colonial history. It had an adventure-like feel throughout the day and night when the main souq (market) would be filled with customers, magicians, snake charmers, and tourists. You were guaranteed to get lost. And then be harassed by the many young boys (usually sons of craftsman and carpenters) willing to help you find the right alley or nook to get out but for a hefty tip. We had to run away from them, but eventually give in when it became impossible to locate a way out.
The noise in the place was charming- everyone seemed to shout, whether to bargain, call you into their shops, in watching the Africa cup soccer matches in their little televisions, flirt, whistle, even sing or to say hello (the odds of running into people you had met the previous night? Oh, it happens). The noise, the smell of spices, the people, the red color that defined its looks- a return trip in my lifetime is set in the agenda.